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Implementing Trauma Informed For Your SART Members

Working in sexual violence response is deeply rewarding and also, deeply draining work. Each day, we listen to and support those experiencing high levels of trauma, loss, and violence. This work affects people over time, both, positively and negatively. Many folks are familiar with vicarious trauma. This is a long-term and negative change in the person who works with traumatized individuals. That’s every single member of your Sexual Assault Response Team. This means that each of you are dealing with the effects of trauma and traumatization.

Thus, when we talk about implementing trauma informed approaches into our work—through writing protocol, changing trainings or policies, etc.—it is crucial that we also evaluate how we incorporate trauma informed principles into our team meetings. This is especially true for rural responders who may regularly be the only one scheduled on a shift or may be the only designated responder to sexual violence.

Here are some questions about how you might consider honoring the experiences and coping mechanisms of your team members when working together.

  • Are team members knowledgeable about vicarious trauma?
    • Have you talked about different coping strategies that all people use to manage their experiences and feelings regarding doing sexual assault response work?
  • Have you spent dedicated time discussing vicarious trauma and its effects in your meetings?
  • Do team members have confidential and neutral resources to discuss their experiences and stressors outside of the meetings?
  • As a team leader, are you able to have direct (and private) conversations with your team members when they are acting out of character or potentially harming the group?
  • How can you make changes to processes, policies, or meeting styles/locations that may provide more supportive environments that respond to the effects of trauma?

These questions are just starting places for you to think through how you can start to implement a trauma informed approach in all aspects of your team. If you have examples, suggestions, or questions about making your team meetings more trauma informed, please leave them in the comments!