The writing and publishing of this briefing paper is timely and poignant. At WGN we are acutely aware that as professionals working within the fields of gendered violence and wider in health and social care we are facing extraordinary challenges. Years of austerity have stretched the fabric of our society, where those most vulnerable are most negatively impacted without access to the effective resources and interventions required to recover from the effects of VAWG on their lives. As an organisation this means that we are dealing with a higher volume and complexity of cases without any additional resource allocation. The result of this for those on the front-line is that professionals are working in conditions that test their own internal resources. Very little statistical evidence exists to show the rates of burnout and vicarious trauma for those working in the gendered violence sector or the short/longterm impacts. However, according to the Health and Safety Executive (2018) the two industries with higher than average rates of stress, depression and anxiety is in education and health and social care fields, under which those working in the VAWG sector would sit.

As an organisation we are humbled and privileged to witness the dedication, resilience and compassion that our staff at WGN bring within these challenging times. For many years we have understood the necessity to support those who are supporting others. We have recognised the strength and resilience in the women and girls we serve and the workers who empower their recovery. It has been a continuous question for us as to how we maintain and develop resilience on both sides of this exchange. The need and practice of professional resilience is covered in all our wider trainings and we consider it a key practice for any professional working in the VAWG sector, specifically in these unprecedented times, in order to reduce the potential for developing vicarious trauma also known as compassion fatigue and burnout. We consider it our duty of care to both those accessing support services and those providing them, to keep them well in the long run. Our core value of ‘total and sustainable recovery’ would be defunct if we were unable to understand and balance the needs of both, in this exchange. We are acutely aware however that our ideal working conditions are often rarely dictated by us but are at the directive of funders and a wider political agenda that is more often driven based on cost and efficiency, rather than quality and compassion. It is within this context we develop our professional resilience through resourcing and empowering ourselves with the knowledge and skills to maintain self-care as a necessity and an act of rebellion, as in the words of Audre Lorde “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self preservation, and that is an act of political warfare”.

This briefing paper is based on our training programme for professionals on the importance of self-care and professional resilience. The paper aims to offer both a definition and exploration of self-care, professional resilience, vicarious trauma as well as offering practice strategies to mitigate and reduce the potential of vicarious trauma, compassion fatigue and burnout.


This briefing is created by Women and Girls Network.

It is produced by funding from London Councils for the Ascent Support Services to Organisations project. 

About Ascent

Ascent is a partnership project undertaken by the London Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) Consortium, delivering a range of services for survivors of domestic and sexual violence, under six themes, funded by London Councils. The second tier support project aims to address the long term sustainability needs of organisations providing services to those affected by sexual and domestic violence. The project seeks to improve the quality of such services across London by providing a range of training and support. 

Women’s Resource Centre is the lead partner in the Support Services Strand where we work together with 5 partner organisations:

Rights of Women


Women and Girls Network

Against Violence and Abuse (AVA)


Find out more about the Ascent project here.

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