Trauma Informed Care for Victims/Survivors of Domestic Violence

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. This designation by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence helps bring awareness to the issues faced by battered women and their children. Every home should be a safe home. But what happens when it is not?

Beth Larson, the CEO of the Center for Women in Transition recently wrote of the importance of a trauma informed approach for those who have experienced violence in their lives. She related her own traumatic car accident to illustrate the point. This is what Beth said:

I’ve been well versed in trauma-informed care for some time as it relates to working with individuals and families exposed to violence.

That being said, I visited my primary health care physician (PCP) following a recent car accident when the headaches continued beyond the first few days. When he came into the exam room, he asked me what I recalled happening. As I began to explain, it became clear I didn’t recall if I was completely stopped or slowing down as I approached the cars in front of me. I had no idea what position I was in when the impact happened or what I was doing. Then he asked “What do you remember hearing? Smelling? Feeling?” I answered explicitly. The memories were as vivid as if I were right there in the moment.

That is trauma brain. Our primal brain kicking in. The one that remembers the smells. The sights. And the sounds. As if you are right back there in the moment.

I applaud my doc for being so in tune with the latest research even when it wasn’t a serious criminal case.

I say all this because this week at work we had yet another situation where we spoke of victims of sexual assault and how they are often scrutinized for their “sketchy recollection” of events. When reports are made to law enforcement, the details don’t add up. Chances of bringing a reliable witness to testify are slim. So many assume they are lying.
What if we approached domestic violence victims as my PCP had done to me following a relatively minor incident? What if we took the time to train our first responders so they understood what would elicit meaningful reports?

If you’re in a position where you can learn more about being trauma-informed, I recommend you take the time to educate yourself and others. Our collective society will be better for it.

And finally, in your thoughts, prayers and actions:
Mourn those who have died because of domestic violence
Celebrate those who have survived
Connect with those who need help
Let your members of Congress know that you support funding for domestic violence prevention and treatment
Support those who work to end violence, particularly the trauma informed staff of the Center for Women in Transition – CWIT.

~Jane R. Dickie, on behalf of Community Ministry