H13: After a case
Dealing with harassment cases is tough for all involved. This doesn't just apply to the parties of the case, but to the mediator as well. It is important to know how to effectively care for yourself after handling a case, no matter what the outcome of the case is.
It's not uncommon to feel personally invested in cases, particularly ones which do not have an easy solution or which uncover information that upsets you. You may experience "secondary trauma" or "caregiver burnout" – a common feeling of guilt or mental exhaustion experienced by those providing care to others. It is important to recognize that this might impact you as well, and that you should deal with it seriously. Your ability to care for others depends on you keeping yourself safe and healthy enough to effectively give that care.
Some resources around caregiver burnout include WebMD and Australia's HealthDirect, which provide steps on what to do to deal with this. Many other resources are available to help you deal with stress. It is most recommended to speak with your doctor if you feel this is getting in the way of your activities both on and off the projects.
Immediately after a case, you and the group in which you work (for example, local oversighters or the stewards) should gather to "debrief" on the case you just helped to mediate. Ask yourself questions to help with this, like:
- Was the result the best possible given the circumstances?
- What went well in this case? (Perhaps note down some things you did or said which were received well, or which led to progress.)
- What didn't go well in this case? (Perhaps note down some areas where progress was slow, or where processes made things difficult.)
- How could you work to make things better for next time? Are there policies that could be improved or discussed?
While it may seem odd to discuss a case, finish it, and then return immediately to talking about it, this type of debrief is useful to work out better processes, as well as to keep at least an informal record of how things are going. It is best done soon after the case, before people begin to forget details. It should make future cases that are similar easier should they come up, or it might even prevent them coming up at all. Your debrief doesn't need to be public – it can be done on an email thread or on a platform like IRC. The important thing is to think about whether your processes can be improved, and to start to understand where problems exist.
Cases don't always end with a final decision and a report-out. Sometimes – especially in more controversial cases – your decision or actions taken will be questioned. Information on what to include in your answers to questions like these can be found in a previous section of this module. There is more to this than just answering the questions, though. You also need to be able to manage your own mental health here, balancing it with the well-being of those involved in the case.
If a question from the community is stressing you out, by all means discuss it with other people on your team. It might be a question that's difficult to answer without compromising the privacy of the parties involved in the case. Or it may be that the asker is less interested in the actual case than in making a point about policy or your team's enforcement methods. While you need to be able to navigate these questions calmly, accurately, and in a reasonable timeframe, those obligations shouldn't come at the detriment to yourself or those involved in the case.
You are never obligated to take an action you aren't comfortable with, particularly in a case that involves the potential for harassment; however, the community should be able to expect that relevant and non-intrusive questions will be answered. If you're concerned that doing something like answering a public question might result in harassment directed at you either onwiki or on external websites, consider asking another team member to answer it, or referring the questioner to a more private venue like email for discussion.
Follow-up tracking and appeals
Once you've finished dealing with a case, there's usually an avenue for the punished party to appeal later. This is usually at some point after their block or ban is placed. (In some cases your team may need to restrict the frequency of or time frame of such appeals.) For the mediator, this means it's not unlikely that a case comes up again in the future. Even if there is no appeal, it's worth keeping an eye on these cases after they come to a close.
You don't need to keep a personal log of every case you've ever looked at. For the most part, you should just know where to look for records about previous cases, and know how to parse them in the future. For those on Arbitration Committees and on other committees which rely on decisions made in previous cases, this is a key part of your work. In particular, you should know how to find:
- The result of the case
- The parties involved in the case
- The reporter, assuming they weren't otherwise a party in the case
If the case was dealt with privately for some reason – if it was a sensitive issue, or if revealing any of the above points would be dangerous somehow – then you should at least be aware of these details in case they are needed in future cases.