He Verbally Assaulted Me

I received my first case as a child protective services intern in the Family Reunification unit. I needed to call a father to arrange for supervised visits between he and his child. The father had been recently released from jail. I had to explain to him the reason visits had to be supervised: no visits were currently happening, he did not have stable housing, and most importantly, he was refusing to drug test. As I explained what had been arranged and why, he began to escalate. He yelled profanities, threatened, and demanded, demonstrating his capacity for rage. To sit, listen, and actively empathize required tremendous effort on my part. What I believe was most unnerving was the understanding that I needed to find a way to engage and build trust with this father who was verbally assaulting me. I thought about what it might feel like for the mother of his child to be on the receiving end of a verbal lashing from him. I also thought about what it might be like for his young child to witness this kind of display. Nevertheless, I had to remain very thoughtful, deliberate, and empathetic. I wondered if I could really handle my role. I was emotionally exhausted following this encounter. I had been able to de-escalate his anger and guide him in the direction of acceptance, but the cost to my emotional energies felt entirely too big. I continued to work with this man however, by understanding his need for control through the cycle of violence. I viewed him through the lens of his experience and history with CPS. I learned that his family of origin first came to the attention of CPS when he was only 5 years old. He spent most of his life in foster care or group homes. It is little wonder that he drops to a place of powerlessness when he feels threatened.

Jennifer S.

One Response to “He Verbally Assaulted Me”

  • anonymous Says:

    Our job in Children Services is very emotionally exhausting every day and there have been days that I have come home so emotionally drained that I had nothing left to give my own family. Being able to deal with a person who is escalating while remaining calm is defiantly a skill that is needed in order to be a successful social worker.

    Sounds like you were able to understand this man and why he acted the way he did when he was handling a stressful situation and that you were able to provide support and encouragement for him. It also seems to me that you realized that he could easily continue to emotionally exhaust you if you did not get to know why he acted the way he did. Reacting immediately to him while in the escalated state would have done neither one of you any good and in order to provide support for him you had to step away from your own emotions and listen to his rants. You were able to help manage his stress while realizing he was taking all the energy from you emotionally. I hope that from this situation you were able to take some time to yourself and recoup from the emotionally draining job we all do daily in Children Services. Our own self care is just as important as our clients wellbeing, especially if we want to continue to provide encouragement and support to our clients.

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