DSP, for those of you who don’t know, stands for Direct Support Professional. The definition says are people that work with physical and/or intellectual disabilities with the aim of assisting them to become integrated into their community or least restrictive environment.
Sounds rewarding doesn’t it? It is, but some times it’s not all rainbows and sunshine.
I started as a DSP last year when I was sick of being an assistant manager and wanted to do more for this world. It was a different schedule, pace, career and really it was a totally different world. I was exposed to intellectual disabilities before so it was no stranger to me. But what came along with it was.
I worked in children’s residential program unit A, also known as CRP A. It was connected to the actual agency and the school. The walks to school were fantastic because we didn’t have to deal with the driving and/or walking outside. My hours essentially didn’t give me a life but I was fine by that because when I like something, I tend to become a workaholic. Of course there were behaviors. They’re kids trying to figure out how to communicate how they are feeling. Biting, pinching, punching, screaming, choking, pushing, pulling of the hair, scratching, throwing of object or even you, and eloping. Usually the behavior would be over food honestly. But I loved the kids and I loved helping them with their daily activities. Which included, showering them, toileting, and feeding. It was a challenge but so rewarding.
But this agency in particular I had a problem with, and it wasn’t how poorly they paid their DSP’s. It was the higher ups, really the Director of the Childrens Program. At work, I was being sexually harassed by a guy who was sleeping with the house manager. I told him thousands of times I wasn’t interested and he didn’t take no for an answer. He was always making comments about my appearance and at one point he cornered me in the kitchen and rubbed up against me.
I told my boyfriend all of this and he went to his assistant manager straight away, he worked in the house semi-close to where I was working. They contacted one of the HR’s people and I got called in that day. I had to speak with the Director and she had someone come in from another unit to be a witness. The other person knew the exact guy, apparently he doesn’t have the best of records with everyone. I told the Director what happened. It seemed like she was going to get on the case.
The next day my house manager was going crazy in the house. She was cleaning up the office, taking down pictures of her with the staff, and kids. (which you weren’t suppose to do). She came up to me saying, very nicely too (which she never was to me) that they needed me in the office. All that the director wanted to here was about the neglect that happened in my house. Side note, there was a lot of things happening that shouldn’t have been happening in the house. I reported that but some thing didn’t feel right. I did the right thing and called the Justice Center. After I got off the phone I was told I was moving units. They said I could take a break from this agency and/or move. I had no choice though.
A few days later I get called into her office again, now with another lady as the witness. The Director turned around and said, “I just want you to know that you’re not in trouble.” My hear started pounding and I started to shake. All I can think was, not again. Being diagnosed with PTSD, my mind went to the worse result, and guess what my mind was right,
The director told me that I had to take sexual harassment courses because what happened to me I brought on. She asked me how he got my number, instagram, and snapchat. I told her the number he got from other co-workers asking me for my number. I was new and everyone needs other peoples numbers because of coverage….duh. For my instagram and snapchat, he found on his own. I told her this and the witness finally stopped the director.
“You need to stop. Don’t you see her?” the witness said annoyingly to the Director. “She needs help.” She turned to me and said, “I used to be a rape and sexual assault counselor. Tell me what he said and/or did to you.” I haven’t ever felt so supported before and I still thank her to this day for standing up and saying something.
I eventually quit because I developed a new trigger and it was working in a residence. Almost every girl in that unit was sexually harassed or assaulted from that guy, but no one said anything. One girl did to the house manager but she told her to keep her mouth shut basically. I asked the girls if they would have my back, and they all said, “I don’t want to get involved.”
What? How? Why? We can stop him and this, I just didn’t understand.
I left that agency and went to another one. I worked in the school and I loved it and my co-workers.There was too much drama though and I was getting paid 300$ a week. I was living pay check to pay check. After months of being out of residence I decided to become per diem at a different agency as well. It was rough coming back into a house, old feelings started coming up again. Some weeks I was able to work, others I couldn’t because I was too triggered for that time. I ended up becoming full time at this agency, and told the house I was working in when I was starting.
Two days before I was starting, they wrote me up acting like it wasn’t a big deal, twice. Just a side note to anyone working in an agency like this, YOU DON’T HAVE TO SIGN ANYTHING THAT YOU’RE NOT COMFORTABLE SIGNING. They wrote me up for not calling in for a shift, and another reason where I refused to sign but they lied to me and said it was an “in-service”.
When I started at my new location they said that I was on my final written. I was shocked and kept asking them, “What??? HOW??????” I was so furious and angry. I was a per diem and I was on my FINAL WRITTEN. How was that even possible? Usually there’s 4 other steps before that. After work that day I went straight to HR.
I demanded to speak to someone and HR just told me to speak to the program manager of the house (higher than the house manager) I refused because I didn’t trust him. I mean he owned a strip club and talk to the DSP’s like we were nothing. I started to get teary eyed and HR REFUSED to speak with me.
I started having a panic attack in my car. I don’t even remember the drive home, all I remember was blacking out and finding myself in the shower. My PTSD was fully kicked in. The program manager called me the next day and told me to NEVER go above the next person in line. Which I will never take his advice because that’s what you’re suppose to do when you don’t feel comfortable. He sounded annoyed at me and made me feel like he didn’t care.
I was told to work in a house during the “bomb cyclone” storm. I knew I had to and didn’t mind it. But it was under the old program manager, so I crossed my fingers I didn’t see him. Unfortunately for me I did. At this point, my PTSD was at it’s worse and it hasn’t been this bad for a year.
I went home that night happy that I didn’t have to go back for a while. I got a text though a few hours later saying I had no choice but to go back. I was done. That was the last straw. I said no and I quit because I signed off on working at ONE location in a DAY HAB, not a residence.
Apparently m program manager thought I was rude and told everyone in program the next day. No, I didn’t go about it rude. I’m sorry, not sorry, that I have a mental illness.
In conclusion, I found out these agencies don’t want to start anything. They don’t want bigger cases happening so they put the blame on the person reporting things. They make the person feel what they are feeling is wrong and what they are doing is wrong. But in training we were told to do exactly what I did. But higher ups don’t want to deal with the firing and hiring process. They don’t want to get involved in and make it into a big deal that it gives them a bad name. They don;t care for their workers and how they are being treated. They will let their workers be used, and abused. They will try and hide it as much as possible. They are scared of people like me. People who want to tell others the truth. People who want justice and just want other people to do the right things.
It’s sad that this happens in agencies who help others. But they sit there and wonder, “Why do we have a big turn over rate?” It’s because you tell everyone to keep their mouths shut when big things like this happen.