I agree with everything Fawnsternurse said. After ~20 years in psych nursing, I have found that how you are treated (by fellow staff as well as patients/clients) will largely result from how you present yourself. People will attempt to manipulate if you seem like someone they can manipulate ...
Also, my observation over the years (for what that's worth :chuckle ) has been that male clients are much less likely to hit/assault a female staff member than they are a male. The "ya don't hit girls" taboo seems to have a pretty strong hold on men until they are really
out of control (like, floridly psychotic or v. high). Female
clients, on the other hand, will hit anyone (and slap, scratch, kick, bite, spit, etc.)
There are some basic, common-sense precautions that we should all be taking to be safe at work. In my career, it has been extremely rare that a client has assaulted a staff member out of the blue, without plenty of warning that the situation was building to this. I don't mean it's NEVER happened, but it's been rare. In most of the situations I have witnessed, the client was usually telegraphing that he or she was getting seriously angry and about to lose control (or had been flirting with a female staff member for some time, and escalating the flirting), yet the staff member did not respond to de-escalate the situation or take steps to maintain safety for the client as well as the staff.
I'm one of those psych nurses who would go hungry before I'd do any kind of nursing -- I recommend it highly! Best wishes on whatever career decision you make --