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Trauma: everyone's business

As a country, Scotland is talking more and more about trauma and that's Trauma informed orgs good news for all of us.

The ambition and commitment of the Scottish Government to develop a trauma informed workforce makes it clear that trauma is everyone’s business.

From hairdressers to health care professionals, Sheriffs to shopkeepers, it doesn’t matter who you are or what you do, there’s every chance that you will encounter someone who has experienced trauma. When – not if - you do, being trauma informed means that you can make the world of difference to that person, and together we can change Scotland for the better.

There are five key principles which support trauma informed practice: choice, collaboration, empowerment, trust and safety.

Working every day with survivors of sexual violence and abuse means that at Rape Crisis Scotland, we know how important a trauma informed approach is. For us, these are the principles which guide how we work with survivors, but also how we work with one another.

Learning to be trauma informed can’t come about through a one-off training or seminar - as these videos helpfully show it’s about commitment, leadership, whole organisations and cultures.

An in-depth understanding of trauma is central to the Rape Crisis approach, and it is why our movement is so important in Scotland and beyond. Survivors frequently tell us about how individuals and institutions respond to them, about how empowering and reassuring it can be when this is done appropriately, and how devastating it can be when it isn’t.

In a culture that still blames and shames victims, that asks what she was wearing and how drunk she was, our values and approach remain as powerful now as they were when we were first set up 40 years ago.
Our sincere and unwavering message to survivors that 'we believe you' holds the same resonance today as it did then.

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When it comes to sexual violence, initial and subsequent reactions matter; sharing an experience of trauma can be incredibly difficult and distressing and not knowing what response you might get can be terrifying. It’s important that we don’t underestimate the impact of trauma, especially because it’s one reason why some survivors don’t tell anyone for many years.

As our campaign #IJustFroze showed, trauma is also why some people freeze when they are attacked, even though it might seem counterintuitive, and knowing this helps us to empower survivors to understand their experiences and responses. These are good reasons for us as a country to commit to getting it right when it comes to a trauma informed approach.

Knowing that things which might seem small, like a throwaway comment or location of a meeting room - even a smell or a sound, are not necessarily small to someone with experience of trauma. It means creating a way of working that is flexible and compassionate, developing cultures that are rooted in reflection and learning.

Adjusting our responses when we know what someone has been through is one thing, but of course, none of us know when we meet someone whether they have experienced trauma or not. Research shows that trauma is prevalent amongst the Scottish population, and sometimes what we don’t know is as important as what we do.

As well as learning how best to respond if a disclosure is made, operating and communicating in line with the principles of a trauma informed approach, of choice, collaboration, empowerment, trust and safety protects this space, recognising the prevalence and impact of trauma and reducing the risk of retraumatisation.

We are proud to be involved in helping Scotland to become trauma informed. Developing a trauma informed workforce in Scotland is a bold commitment, but it is no less than each of us deserves, and it is on all of us to realise this ambition.

Tags: trauma

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