Those who attend court are not there for particularly joyful reasons. They may be involved in family breakdowns, child abuse, domestic violence or dreadful criminal cases.
The judiciary have a unique role, one which exposes them to increased risk of compassion fatigue and vicarious trauma. Judges preside over cases which subject them to a relentless torrent of human tragedy and heightened emotion, whilst having to remain neutral in the face of this testimony. Judges are expected to impartially address each situation individually, listen to witnesses, and reflect on every intricate detail of proof before them.
Advances in computer, mobile phone, video, and DNA technology, has resulted in an increase of evidence, taking on many forms, and consequently escalating the risk of traumatic exposure. Threatening text messages, fear provoking emails, voice mails, gruesome videos, 000 recordings and grisly photos. Additional exposure includes, graphic medical evidence, and impact statements from victims or surviving family members. Not to mention the overwhelmingly high caseloads.
Over time repeated exposure to the harrowing and disturbing details faced by judges and court personnel daily takes its toll and can lead to compassion fatigue and vicarious trauma.
Some practical approaches for increasing life satisfaction and reducing stress for those working in our justice system is to initially educate themselves on the signs and symptoms of compassion fatigue and vicarious trauma. Second, develop excellent self-care strategies. Third, include an early warning system to monitor stress, this can be a simple “how did I go today” check in process at the end of the day. Consequently, enabling prompt implementation of self-care practices, and circumventing further deterioration.