Trauma Informed Care and Disability Inclusion: Gender Based Violence (GBV) and beyond
This piece is excerpted from a presentation on Mental Health and Gender Based Violence (GBV) by Paul Sachs December 9, 2022, as part of a multi-day awareness program focused on GBV, particularly as it affects persons with disabilities.
Gender based violence (GBV) is a worldwide problem reportedly affecting 1 in 3 women in the world in their lifetime. The World Bank reported: 35% of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence. 200 million women have experienced female genital mutilation/cutting.
The impact of GBV goes beyond the victim to include the victim’s family and local community.
Increased awareness of the problem helps victims come forward to report GBV and to seek help.
What is trauma:
In discussing GBV, people speak about trauma. But the term is used inexactly.
Trauma is an emotional response to exposure to an extreme event, such as actual or threatened death, serious injury or sexual violation. The person can be the direct victim of being threatened, injured or violated or the person can be a witness to another person’s victimization.
Trauma has immediate effects on a person and causes delayed reactions. Some notable traumatic reactions are disturbing memories or dreams, flashbacks to the traumatic event, emotional numbing and difficulties in concentration. Sometimes these symptoms are overlooked or misinterpreted.
Children and adolescents experience different reactions to trauma than adults. Persons with disabilities, particularly those with cognitive disabilities, also experience trauma differently.
Special issues for persons with disabilities:
Women with disabilities are disproportionately victims of GBV. A UN Population Fund report noted that women with disabilities are up to 10 times more likely to experience sexual violence. Estimates suggest that 40 percent to 68 percent of young women with disabilities will experience sexual violence before the age of 18.
Some reasons for these data:
- Persons with disabilities are seen as less powerful by virtue of their disability. A person with a significant physical or sensory disability may be less able to resist attack or to call for help than someone without a disability.
- Persons with disabilities are often not seen as sexual beings. This view is dehumanizing to say the least. For the perpetrator of GBV, may enable their victimization behavior.
- Persons with cognitive impairments such as traumatic brain injury or autism experience trauma differently than those without such impairments. Their sensory experience of the traumatic event, their ability to remember and reflect on the experience and their ability to express feelings associated with the event may lead them to not report it or to have their report discounted.
Trauma informed care:
Managing and, ideally, preventing trauma requires a trauma informed environment. This environment is not just for care settings. Trauma is pervasive. So, every living and working environment should be trauma informed.
A trauma informed environment includes four elements:
- Realization – awareness that trauma happens and who is vulnerable to it.
- Recognition of signs – identifying post-traumatic signs and symptoms in people
- Response – providing the support and guidance for victims
- Resisting re-traumatization– taking steps to avoid trauma from re-occurring
Creating a trauma informed environment is not something one does on top of other things. Trauma informed education and interventions, and disability inclusion and advocacy, in the workplace must become part of the organizational culture. Ultimately, it should become impossible to think of a work or care setting without trauma and disability awareness.
If you or your organization is seeking training or other consultation related to work with disability inclusion or trauma informed care, please be in touch with us at email@example.com
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