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Practitioner profile: Nitika from Safe Steps

Practitioner profile: Nitika from Safe Steps

We recently spoke with Nitika, an Intake and Assessment Worker at Safe Steps Family Violence Response Centre, about her role. 

This is my first role after my social work degree. 

I commenced my employment with Safe Steps as an Intake and Assessment worker in March 2019 following the completion of my Masters of Social Work degree. In 2020, whilst working part-time at Safe Steps, I started another part-time role as a Case Manager with InTouch, which is a specialist family violence service that works with women from migrant and refugee backgrounds. However, over time it became difficult to manage two highly demanding jobs at the same time and I decided to return to Safe Steps in a full-time capacity at the start of 2021. I have recently also started a causal role with VICSEG New Futures training as a Family Violence Trainer.  

I didn’t have family violence in mind when I was doing my degree. 

I completed my final social work placement at Centrelink and that’s where my interest in family violence services started growing. What drives me to work every day is the desire and passion to help and to be there when someone needs that immediate support. I consider myself a small part of a big puzzle that clients have to navigate through while they’re trying to get out of their abusive and violent relationships. I believe that I help my clients put together some of the pieces of that puzzle at the very start of their journey out of their abusive relationships and that's what drives me to work - being there in the initial stages of someone's journey. 

A typical day for me as a crisis response worker. 

My typical day at Safe Steps mainly involves answering crisis phone calls, actioning referrals and responding to emails from clients and other service providers. While I'm answering phone calls or responding to emails, I provide a crisis response to clients including immediate psychosocial and emotional support and psycho-education. As an intake worker, I predominantly undertake family violence risk assessments, create safety plans, organise crisis accommodation, refer clients to their local family violence services for ongoing support and case management programs and liaise with other services providers. This can include advocating to the police to help someone collect their belongings from their home, with hospitals to assist with discharge planning or with housing services to secure accommodation access for clients. As a part of my role, I also provide secondary consultation to external stakeholders including Child Protection, schools, disability service providers, employers and other community workers, providing them with advice on how they can best support their clients. Or it could be a call from friends and family who wants to know what they can do to support someone they know who is going through an abusive relationship. 

There are challenges in my role, particularly burnout.  

The most challenging aspect of my role is that it is highly demanding and can lead to burnout. The constant exposure to clients’ trauma can become overwhelming at times. However, improved self-awareness, maintaining a good work-life balance, pursuing my hobbies, regular debriefing and supervision, and accessing EAP support have proven to be quite beneficial in managing my stress and burnout.  

Apart from burnout, I find it quite challenging that access to support and services is limited for clients with temporary visas, particularly housing, welfare payments and employment and education opportunities. It means that some women on temporary visas may not leave their abusive relationships due to a lack of support options available to them and continue to experience family violence which is heartbreaking. There is definitely a need for more advocacy and support in this area so that women on temporary visa experiencing family violence can be better protected and supported. 

There are times when I have been shocked by the details of the actual family violence. 

You never know what to expect. What I didn’t expect when I graduated was how bad the details of the violence were going to be. I am still sometimes in disbelief that someone would treat someone else the way they have. However, with time and experience, I’m less shocked with details than I used to be when I started working in the sector.  

As an individual, I have grown a lot. 

Working in the family violence sector, I've grown as a person and professional. I think I have more of an understanding of how the world operates - what’s okay, and what’s not okay. I have used the knowledge gained working in the sector to support friends and family with their relationship issues.

There are multiple factors within this complex system and sometimes I feel there are not enough options for everyone. I particularly find it challenging when I feel I’m unable to meet client's expectations and that’s hard to sit with.  

I have realised that there are limitations to what I can do for someone and often seek comfort in the concept of ‘Radical Acceptance’- it is what it is. I’m trying to focus on what I’m able to do and the difference I'm able to make to someone’s circumstances within the capacity of my role.