How to Build a Career Helping Victims of Abuse
From April 2021 to March 2022, more than 2.4 million adults in England and Wales experienced domestic abuse, and it’s not just adults who suffer. Half a million children need protection from abuse each year. These numbers are both unacceptable and heartbreaking.
So it makes sense if you want to get involved. And what’s more, you can build a meaningful, long-term career helping to protect the most vulnerable people in our society.
But what skills do you need, what positions are open to you and how do you get started in the first place? Let’s explore how helping victims of abuse can be turned into a career.
Building the right skills to help victims of abuse
Certain innate qualities make you a good fit for this type of work. But it’s not a job for everybody. First and foremost, you need to be able to communicate well. You’ll also need to be patient; some individuals don’t want your help right away. They may be scared to speak out.
It’s also important to be non-judgmental, sympathetic and sensitive. You need to realise that each survivor has his or her own circumstances and be perceptive of their difficulties.
If you’re planning on working with domestic violence victims directly you also need to educate yourself beforehand. You may not be a legal expert, but when asked a question about restraining orders, how the orders can be violated and what the penalty is for doing so, you need to be able to give a comprehensive answer that will benefit the survivor.
It will also be valuable to know the various therapeutic interventions that are provided to child victims of abuse. Every age group needs a certain type of intervention after the abuse has taken place and knowing which actions have been proven to work for each one can go a long way to helping you make a lasting difference.
What professions are available in this field?
Now that you know the attributes needed when working with domestic violence victims, it’s time to explore career possibilities. The most direct way is to work for an organisation that helps abuse survivors. You can either work on the ‘front line’ with survivors and witnesses one-on-one, or you can fill a supporting role.
Without these supporting roles, the organisation wouldn’t be able to do its job. Supporting roles include positions in fundraising, bid writing, human resources and communications, just to name a few.
You can also consider professions that are not directly focused on abuse but are faced with it, nonetheless. Victims need advocates, and that could not be truer than in education.
If you become a teacher, for example, you’ll help children with both emotional and social concerns, and according to UK law, if a child is known or suspected of being abused or neglected, it is a teacher’s duty ‘to take reasonable steps to prevent harm to those to whom they owe a duty of care’.
When looking into career options, take the time to examine the profession’s code of ethics and how that code helps or harms victims of abuse. For example, codes of ethics for certified nursing assistants (CNAs) and other healthcare assistants say that their number one focus is ‘to preserve life and ease patient suffering’ regardless of race, religion and ethnicity, and to always consider each patient’s individual needs.
Does this reflect what you hope to do in your quest to help victims of abuse? If so, this may be the career for you.
Volunteering to find your perfect match
One way to determine which path is right for you is to volunteer before you choose a career. Volunteering will teach you the ins-and-outs of the organisation you’re considering, teach you new skills and give you something worthwhile to put on your CV. In some cases, you may even have the opportunity to turn a volunteer position into a paying job.
One place worth volunteering is a children’s charity. Not only will it let you test the waters to see if the organisation is right for you, but you’ll also feel good knowing that you’re serving a vulnerable population. Children are already the most defenceless members of our society, and those who are serviced by children’s charities are at the top of the list.
You can also volunteer to answer phones at a domestic violence helpline such as the National Domestic Violence Helpline, which was launched in 2003. Doing so would help you hone your listening skills and teach you about the practical side of the charity sector, such as housing law.
Shifts are generally quite flexible, usually in four-hour blocks. During a shift, you may answer live calls or return the calls of domestic violence victims who preferred leaving a voicemail.
Too many men, women, and children in the UK face abuse every day. With your passion to help and by following the right steps, you can make a difference and find a satisfying career. Find out what jobs are available helping victims of abuse today.
Not quite ready for a new career path? Why not gain some experience first through volunteering? There are plenty of charities helping victims of abuse that could use your skills right now.
This post was originally published in 2020. We’ve updated it to ensure relevance and to reflect the current job seeker experience.