Using a Trauma-Informed Approach

Training Resources on Trauma-Informed Care

OVC TTAC offers a module on Trauma-Informed Care through Victim Assistance Training (VAT) Online. Module lessons include: definitions, how to develop trauma-informed programs, and more.

All task force members should understand how trauma affects victims' response to services and the criminal justice process, and the individual task force members' response to victims. A trauma-informed approach begins with understanding the physical, social, and emotional impact of trauma on the individual, as well as on the professionals who help them. It incorporates four elements [PDF 789KB]:

  1. Realizing the prevalence of trauma.
  2. Recognizing how trauma affects all individuals involved with the program, organization, or system, including its own workforce.
  3. Responding by putting this knowledge into practice.
  4. Resisting means to actively seek to resist re-traumatization of victims you serve.

Trauma-informed approaches place priority on restoring the survivor's feelings of safety, choice, and control. Programs, services, agencies, and communities can be trauma-informed.

OVC Model Standards Definition

Trauma-informed–Approaches delivered with an understanding of the vulnerabilities and experiences of trauma survivors, including the prevalence and physical, social, and emotional impact of trauma. A trauma-informed approach recognizes signs of trauma in staff, clients, and others and responds by integrating knowledge about trauma into policies, procedures, practices, and settings.

Key Concept: Trauma-informed Care

  • Safety
  • Trustworthiness
  • Choice
  • Collaboration
  • Empowerment

Summary from Harris, M. & Fallot, R. (2001). Using trauma theory to design service systems. New directions in mental health services, Jossey-Bass, 89, Spring.

Trauma affects how victims see themselves, their worldview, and relationships. These beliefs affect how victims respond to services and the criminal justice system and underscore the importance of task forces taking a trauma-informed approach, not only through service delivery but also throughout the investigation and prosecution process.

Both the criminal justice and victim services systems can inadvertently re-traumatize. Taskforce member responses that can lead to re-traumatization include–

  • Not having time to consider options; arrests, lack of choice in housing or service provision can create a feeling of a lack of control for victims.
  • Not providing accurate or timely updates on events, not returning phone calls; not providing transparency on timelines can accelerate stressors for victims with ongoing unexpected changes.
  • Enforcing power dynamics; not allowing victims to make their own choices related to services, engaging with law enforcement and/or prosecution. This can cause victims to feel threatened or even attacked.
  • Being asked to share story multiple times; not knowing victim rights; not knowing that working with law enforcement is not always a requirement or services are optional.
  • Using wrong terminology or terminology that does not align with the client's identified experiences.

Smart Tips for Building and Utilizing a Trauma-Informed Lens in Your Task Force

  • Review agency policies and procedures to identify and remove any that are potentially unsafe and harmful to trafficking victims with histories of trauma.
  • Provide education and training to task force members and agency staff, including those working directly with trafficking victims as well as other providers in relevant systems of care.
  • Ensure safety and meet basic service needs, as identified and outlined by the victim, are consistently met and available.
  • Build long-term, sustaining relationships with your community stakeholders and partners.
  • Provide access to trauma-specific and culturally relevant treatment services.
  • Understand the role that culture plays in resiliency and the importance of community resources as potentially mediating the trauma experience.
  • Make peer models and supports available for all taskforce members and victims served.
  • Engage survivors in programming and seek additional guidance from subject matter experts who have lived experience.

Source: "Treating the Hidden Wounds: Trauma Treatment & Mental Health Recovery for Victims of Human Trafficking" (March, 2008) by Heather J. Clawson, Ph.D., Amy Salomon, Ph.D., and Lisa Goldblatt Grace, LICSW, MPH.

For additional information and tools, visit the Resource page for Section 4.1 Using a Trauma-Informed Approach.