What Does It Mean To Be Trauma-Informed?
An important piece of how The Wild Hope will run it's day-to-day operations includes the principles behind Trauma Informed Care. The Board of Directors, staff, and volunteers will all have trauma training so that we can provide the best possible therapeutic environment of safety and empathy for survivors. So what does it mean to be Trauma Informed?
Trauma Informed Care is a strengths-based framework that is responsive to the impact of trauma, emphasizing physical, psychological, and emotional safety for both service providers and survivors; and creates opportunities for survivors to rebuild a sense of control and empowerment. According to SAMHSA, this includes 6 primary principles:
Trustworthiness and Transparency
Collaboration and Mutuality
Empowerment, Voice, and Choice
Cultural, Historical, and Gender Issues
Trauma-informed care means treating a whole person, taking into account past trauma and the resulting coping mechanisms when attempting to understand behaviors and treat the person. Following is an example of why Trauma-Informed is so important.
Sometimes people only believe victims of rape when the victims seem incredibly emotional when describing the details of the assault. This is because the general public falsely perceives that reaction to be the normal reaction to such trauma. But many victims speak matter-of-factly and without affect or visible emotion about these traumatic events. Many have had to dissociate from the event to survive it. This doesn’t mean that a victim is lying, or exaggerating claims. Rather, the stoicism is often tied to a victim’s desperate attempt to cope with trauma through detachment.
There are many other situations in which the lens of trauma-informed care can help outsiders to better understand a trauma victim’s behaviors. It's not uncommon for the general public to have little understanding of the ramifications of trauma. The result of this lack of understanding goes beyond an empathy gap or the lack of appropriate response for victims of trauma. It can result in judgmental attitudes and even re-victimization of those who have survived trauma.
For example, when people say they don’t understand why women in abusive relationships “choose” to stay, they must acknowledge that they are not coming from a place of being the trauma victim, and so their understanding about the reasons behind this may be limited. Adhering stereotypical beliefs about the “appropriate” behaviors for a rape victims is called rape myth acceptance. In societies with high levels of rape myth acceptance, victim blaming is more common and perpetrators may suffer few consequences.
Another example is related to substance abuse. With substance abuse, a compassionate, trauma-informed approach is one that starts by acknowledging that people may use substances such as drugs or alcohol as a survival skill as the result of trauma. Without considering that perspective, we will not be able to effectively provide help.