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SART Foundations: Incorporating Trauma Informed in Your Team

Sexual Assault Response Teams across the U.S. and the territories are becoming more and more focused on the concept of being trauma informed in their work—meaning that you understand the neurobiology of trauma and work to minimize any triggers or re-traumatization. This is a much needed shift in our fields of work, because trauma causes a lot of changes in the functioning of the brain and body. Sexual violence is a heinous and acute form of trauma; thus, it is important that the SART find ways to introduce and incorporate trauma informed approaches into their work.

For those who do not have a clear definition on trauma informed, there can be some confusion about trauma informed and trauma specific work. Here’s a handy chart that SVJI developed after conducting a national inquiry to get some clarity about what trauma informed means in our work:

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There is general agreement that trauma informed is a set of guiding principles that influence how we interact with the folks who have experienced trauma—this doesn’t describe precise actions to take, but rather gives ideas and guidelines on how to best support folks. Trauma specific is about exact steps to take to address trauma—these are actionable steps, often implemented by trained service providers.

When thinking about your SART and the member agencies represented, it is essential to ask yourselves about how you can use basic guidelines and principles that ensure you understand and respond to the effects of trauma. These principles fundamentally work to avoid re-traumatization for the victim/survivor. What are the areas of your sexual assault response that might cause re-traumatization? What steps can the member agencies take to change those areas of improvement?

Have you been working on implementing trauma informed practices in your team and communities? Do you have questions about what trauma informed might look like for your work? Leave questions and ideas in the comments!