Awareness about and resiliency to vicarious or secondary trauma is a top priority for UC Berkeley's Human Rights Center Investigations Lab. In the course of their work on open source investigations, our 65+ lab students (undergraduate and graduate) are likely to come in contact with weighty issues, graphic imagery, hate speech, and other kinds of disturbing user-generated content.
We believe the development of awareness and tools is as essential as developing open source skills—for the health of our students and the longevity of their work in the human rights field.
To this end, teaching and training about resiliency is built into our classes and Lab work—as essential to open source training and not "extra."
HRC's work in this area began with Amnesty's Sam Dubberley who integrated awareness about secondary trauma into our very first training. We continue to collaborate with Sam, and we integrate research from colleagues at NYU and Columbia as well as others who have studied trauma and resiliency; we listen to our students and alumni who are constantly innovating and seeking better ways of working; and we integrate ideas about wellness and mindfulness from around the world. The efforts are ever-evolving, but our goal remains to promote wellness, sustainability, ethics, and joy into our global work for human rights and justice.
The program consists of the following:
- At the beginning of each semester students will receive an initial resiliency training in the lab as a whole and in their small teams and at least one additional mid-semester resiliency check-in. Resiliency exercises and community building are built into the semester.
- Students will be partnered within their teams—both for effective collaboration on verification and for resiliency.
- Students will be provided resources, including access to the lab's resiliency manager.
What is secondary trauma?
An adverse reaction to the emotional residue of exposure to the pain and suffering of trauma survivors.
Symptoms may include:
- Not sleeping.
- Sleeping too much.
- Not eating.
- Eating too much (or badly).
- Drinking or using drugs in excess.
- Not doing normal activities with friends.
- Irritability and short temper.
- Inability to enjoy normal activities of your life.
What isn’t secondary trauma?
- It’s not just an expected emotional response to difficult or challenging material.
- It’s not trauma, which is defined as a deeply distressing and disturbing experience or physical injury.
- It’s not Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, which is a mental health condition that's triggered by a terrifying event — either experiencing it or witnessing it. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event.
Tips and tricks when dealing with user-generated content that may be disturbing
- Adjust the window size of the video to make it small
- Use post-its to block out graphic material when viewing a video repeatedly
- Turn off the sound on videos
- Adjust settings in Facebook and Twitter to turn off autoplay
- Work with other people
- Use warnings. Ask someone what you’re about to see and label graphic material so others have a heads up
- Set limits and take breaks
- Be mindful of your health outside of the lab
Human Rights Resilience Project: https://chrgj.org/focus-areas/human-rights-resilience-project/(link is external)
Journalism and Vicarious Trauma: https://firstdraftnews.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/vicarioustrauma.pdf(PDF file)(link is external)
- Graphic violence online: campus human rights lab pioneers safer viewing: https://news.berkeley.edu/2020/08/06/graphic-violence-online-campus-huma...
Making Secondary Trauma a Primary Issue: http://eyewitnessmediahub.com/research/vicarious-trauma(link is external)
- Rated R: Resistance, Revolution, Resilience: https://sites.google.com/view/ratedr
Alexa Koenig and Keramet Reiter: https://www.palgrave.com/gp/blogs/social-sciences/reiter-and-koenig-on-researching-trauma(link is external)
What students are teaching us about resiliency and human rights (Andrea Lampros and Alexa Koenig) https://medium.com/humanrightscenter/(link is external)what-students-are-teaching-us-about-resiliency-and-human-rights-9a34f3af75a(link is external)
The hidden victims of repression – how activists and reporters can protect themselves from secondary trauma: https(link is external)://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2019/02/how-activists-and-reporters-can-protect-themselves-from-secondary-trauma(link is external)/(link is external)
Handling Traumatic Imagery: Developing a Standard Operating Procedure: https://dartcenter.org/resources/handling-traumatic-imagery-developing-standard-operating-procedure(link is external)
Please contact Andrea Lampros, the lab’s resiliency director, with questions related to the lab and resiliency. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org(link sends e-mail) or 510.847.4469.
*The Tang Center, the campus’s mental health provider, is a key resource for students. Student may access a counselor by calling (510) 642-9494 or can attend the crisis drop-in hours at the Tang Center Monday through Friday from 10am to 5pm. For urgent, after-hour needs, students can call (855) 817- 5667 for counseling.