Campus workshop brings trauma-informed training to front-line staff

- Lindsay Windecker

Sexualized and domestic violence can be difficult subjects to talk about, but 300 members of the UVic and Greater Victoria communities came together on campus last month to do exactly that.

On Feb. 13-14, UVic and the Saanich Police Regional Domestic Violence Unit, in partnership with the BC Post-Secondary Counsellors Association, invited clinical psychologist Lori Haskell to campus for a two-day workshop on trauma-informed approaches to working with survivors of domestic and sexualized violence.

Haskell, an academic research associate at the Centre for Research and Education on Violence Against Women and Children, focuses her research and practice on victimization and its effects, violence prevention and the effects of trauma on psychological and physiological development.

The workshop was attended by front-line and student services staff from UVic as well as local police, members of the legal community, psychologists, counsellors, social workers and other human services professionals from across the province.

“I attended this workshop to better support my team in working with the complex and sometimes confusing ways that students who have experienced trauma might present themselves at our centre,” said Tricia Best, associate director of International Student Services.

Workshop attendees learned how trauma can affect the structure of the brain and how these neurobiological changes can impact a survivor’s memory and sense of time and order.

“The actions survivors take, even though they may seem illogical to an observer, can be perfectly logical considering the effects that sexualized violence can have on a survivor’s brain,” said Roger John, counsellor for Indigenous students at UVic.

“Friends, family and professionals who try to support survivors are often unaware of the physical and neurological effects of trauma and may view the actions of survivors as being inconsistent, illogical or consensual.”

A trauma-informed approach to supporting survivors also takes into account how social response can revictimize and stigmatize survivors, even when that response is well-meaning.

“Recovery from a traumatic event is an act of courage,” says education professor Tim Black, one of Canada’s leading specialists on post-traumatic stress disorder. “A trauma-informed approach to support helps increase an individual’s resilience in their process and helps protect from future harm due to stigmatization.”

“The learning from this workshop will directly support our ongoing assessment of student conduct investigations and student outreach, and support processes to ensure that our work with students is traumainformed,” says Emily Waterman, manager of investigations and training in the Office of Student Life.

"The information that Dr. Haskell presented on the neurobiology of trauma has increased my understanding of how I can implement trauma-informed approaches into the interactions I have with students involved in conduct processes.”

Find more information on sexualized violence initiatives on campus.


In this story

Keywords: sexualized violence, psychology

People: Lori Haskell, Roger John, Tricia Best, Tim Black

Publication: The Ring

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