• Services need to be secure with sufficient resources so that they can meet the current and increasing demand for service in ways which meet victim/survivor needs
  • Income sources need to be adequate, long-term and negotiated in a timely fashion, to enable services to avoid the constant distraction of endeavouring to ensure sufficient resources for continuing service delivery.
  • The nature of the work can have a high cost on those doing it if staff support systems are not in place.

Most New Zealand services are operating on insufficient income to provide full services and/or to pay the staff for all they do. This leads to victims/survivors having insufficient access to service, and to staff recruitment and retention difficulties, which can lead to compromises in service quality.

A stocktake of NZ crisis support services in 2009 found that services believe that they are under-resourced, and that they manage this by reducing hours of service, not paying staff for some or all of their work, or paying staff low wages.[1]

The need for services is increasing, as sexual violence increasingly “comes out”, both through intentional efforts to reach victims/survivors and changes in society in general, more survivors are seeking services.

This work impacts workers in multiple ways. Working so closely with traumatized people in their hours of need (and at all hours of the day and night) can lead to vicarious traumatisation and emotional fatigue. In addition, the work brings people face to face with the realities of both the perpetration of sexual violence in our society and our society’s response to it – somewhat lonely things to know given general levels of denial and victim-blaming in society.

Research has found that there are a number of variables which are protective in terms of the development of vicarious traumatisation and/or secondary traumatisation, including level of education.[2]

Organisations can also become overwhelmed by the nature of crisis work –  this has been called  “organisational trauma”[3].   In response to this, the ‘Organisational Resiliency Model’ focusses on developing both individual and organisational characteristics of resiliency. The model suggests identifying symptoms (such as a lack of recognition that the very nature of the work affects the culture of the organization), and signs of what to watch out for (such as detachment from meetings and learning opportunities, personality conflicts, and feelings of resentment).  Strategies for building strong and healthy organisations include regularly revisiting the service’s mission, vision and core values, and considering the ways that everyday stressors can be made more challenging by trauma exposure and finding ways to mitigate this to increase resiliency.[4]

  1.  Te Ohaaki a Hine: National Network Ending Sexual Violence Together – Tauiwi Caucus. (2009). Tauiwi Response to Sexual Violence: Mainstream Crisis Support and Recovery and Support Services and Pacific Services. NZ: Report to Ministry of Social Development.
  2.  Baird, S. & Jenkins, S. R. (2003). Vicarious traumatization, secondary traumatic stress, and burnout in sexual assault and domestic violence agency staff. Violence and Victims, 18, 71-86.
  3.  Vivian, O., & Hormann, S. (2013). Organisational trauma and healing. North Charleston, S. C, Create Space.
  4.  Lord, J. H., & O’Brien, K. (2007). Developing resilience. National victim Assistance Academy, Track 1: Participants Text (Chapter 10, 1-40). Retrieved from the Vermont Centre for Crime Victim Services:


  1. Services attempt to provide appropriate levels of training, supervision and support to staff to enable their work to be sustainable.  One service encapsulates this with a “building resilience” policy.
  2. Developing guidelines to assist staff in the work – from Mel recently ex Wellington HELP:

When I started at HELP again in 2008, there was nothing at all in writing to assist me support a woman at court. I felt strongly about that being detrimental to the agency and in particular people we were supporting. So, I set up a meeting with Louise Nicholas and other service agencies in the area, consulted with someone with considerable experience in the work (Jennifer Annan), and from there guidelines were developed which assist people new to the supporting work as well as the survivor giving evidence.