Section 1: Introduction
20 Minutes

Lecture TopicTOPIC: INTRODUCTION
(20 Minutes, including Group Activity)

Use SlideUse Slide #1: Introduction

Each one of us in this room today shares a critical responsibility in the work we do. We are charged with protecting our communities and trying to prevent further sexual victimization. It's quite a challenge for me to think of a more important undertaking than this. What job could be more significant than working to ensure that the sex offenders on our caseloads and in our treatment groups don't perpetrate again, that the devastation that they've already caused to their victims, their victims’ family members and friends, and their communities isn't repeated? The stakes associated with our work are incredibly high, as every new sex offense can cause physical and emotional damage that lasts for generations.

Unfortunately, our work, and the responsibility associated with it, is likely to overwhelm us at times. On a daily basis, we witness the impact of sexual assault in our interactions with victims and their family members, through our work with abusers, and in our reviews of offense histories and descriptions of abuse. We discuss sex offenses with those who've perpetrated them and listen to their sexual histories, sometimes for hours. And while holding offenders accountable for their abusive and offending behaviors, supporting their participation in specialized treatment, and working to promote positive changes in their lives, we are subjected to deviant, criminal, and anti–social values and beliefs.

We may feel like we can never take a break. Our work is just too important! As a result of our immersion in the business of sex offender management, our perspectives regarding what is “normal” and “abnormal”—and, indeed, our view of the world around us—can begin to change. How many of you have walked through a mall or a store on your day off and found yourself picking out individuals in the crowd who you thought were sex offenders? How many of you have seen a man walking into a public restroom with a child and followed him in—or waited outside the door until they emerged—just to make sure that he wasn't doing anything suspicious? Most people in the general public don't do this, but my guess is that many of us in this room have.

To us, these reactions seem logical. It's difficult for us NOT to have them. But they reflect the potential negative effects of the work we do. Unfortunately, our work can consume us, change our perspectives, and drain us—physically, psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually. Our work—rather than our families, or friends, or ourselves—can quickly become THE priority in our lives. We may detach ourselves from many of the important things in our lives in service of our work. And when offenders fail, as some inevitably do, we immediately conclude that we too have failed. This can be a devastating process for each of us and cause us to experience what we call “secondary trauma,” or the experience of feeling (psychologically, emotionally, and physically) like you have been traumatized as a direct result of the work you do with sex offenders and victims of sexual assault.

Use SlideUse Slide #2: Goals of This Training

So with that in mind, I'd like to accomplish a few things during this brief training session today that I think will be helpful to you in your work. First and foremost, I'm going to provide you with a clearer understanding of how our work—and the way that we approach it (both individually and organizationally)—can negatively affect us and cause secondary trauma. I also want to empower you with some practical tips and strategies that you can use in your day–to–day work to lessen some of the negative effects of your work. In other words, I'm going to provide you with a primer on self–care because historically, those of us who are in this business haven't done a particularly good job of taking care of ourselves. In addition, we'll have some conversations about things that can be done organizationally within our agencies to prevent and mitigate the effects of secondary trauma.

The agenda is designed to be interactive, so if you have questions or concerns as we move forward, please speak up. I often find that what we have to offer one another—our reflections and thoughts about our work and how it impacts us—is just as helpful as the material provided by the trainer.

I'm thrilled that you all are here today because I believe that this training is just as important as the substantive part of our work. Our ability to assess or treat or supervise is directly related to our ability to stay emotionally and physically healthy and motivated in the context of incredibly difficult work circumstances. Similarly, our ability to stay emotionally healthy and motivated, and to live balanced, rich, and rewarding lives, depends on how well we process and cope with this challenging work.

Use SlideUse Slides #3—4: Learning Objectives

Learning Objectives

At the conclusion of this training, you will be able to:

Use SlideUse Slide #5: Introductions of
Trainer(s) and Participants

Group Activity: Introductions of Trainer(s) and Participants

Because this is going to be an interactive session that includes discussions, and because I don't think that everyone knows each other, I'd like to spend just a few minutes on introductions. Let's quickly go around the room and please state:

Please write down on a piece of paper what you perceive to be the hardest part of your job and pass it to the front of the room. We'll briefly discuss some of the most common responses. I think we will learn that we all have a lot in common when it comes to our work.

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