Making Each Other Strong
Four years ago Clinical psychologist Radhika Santhanam-Martin generously agreed to facilitate a session on trauma informed practice for ACRATH’s 14 Companions. Four years later she is now a pivotal part of the Companionship Program, supporting the trained and supervised Companions who in turn offer support and friendship to 23 trafficked women and their 40 children.
Radhika is one of ACRATH’s 110 wonderful volunteers working around Australia to combat human trafficking. Our volunteers work in many areas including political advocacy, awareness raising through presentations, developing education resources, companionship to trafficked people and fundraising. In 2021 our volunteers contributed 8588 volunteer hours.
Since that first session, Radhika, who works in the field of trauma, has continued to run regular peer reflective sessions for the Companions, allowing them as a group to share how they witness the human suffering of the trafficked women they support.
“We talk about the heaviness that a Companion may feel after being with a trafficked woman and what they do with that heaviness, how they manage it in their lives. We talk about the ethical dilemmas they witness and how to process this experience,” Radhika said.
“The sessions are about supporting the Companions to find different perspectives or multiple truths that can co-exist. And be liberated by the ethical questions rather than be shackled. We look at how our own sense of who we are intersects with the issues that each of the Companions encounter.”
Radhika recalled a recent session where a Companion discussed the death of a friend, which raises questions about how to say goodbye, how to let people and their stories go when it is time.
“Our group looks at issues which are the big universal issues of love, joy, grief and shame and how our lives are intertwined with the story of the trafficked woman,” Radhika said. “We gather as a group, so no one is alone, we are doing it in solidarity and witnessing the stories and each others’ struggles. It allows us to go deeper.”
Radhika values her work with ACRATH’s Companions; a group of women who have decades of practice and lived experience among them.
“The Companions are such a strong affirmation of how women make each other strong, empower the other.”