Incidents of domestic and sexual violence are on the rise in our community, and the severity of each situation increases in impact, significance and danger. Though the effects of violence may not have reached your neighborhood specifically, it continues to show up to the detriment of our community.
We have lost three community members to domestic violence related murders since the end of July; three women who were mothers and grandmothers, sisters and friends, community members who built a life in our community. These women weren’t alone in their struggle.
This summer, SafePlace has seen some of the worst accounts of physical violence among our clients since we opened our doors in 1981. This has, unfortunately, become the new normal. Out of about 30 calls per day to our helpline, 25 are extreme cases of physical violence, which often include torture. This is unheard of in our 36-year history, with no signs of stopping.
Sexual assault also is on the rise in our community. This month our team went out on five rape calls in five days, when the average last year was one per week. The need for support is dramatically increasing, and resources can’t keep up with demand.
As these instances of trauma permeate our community, it becomes increasingly important for us to heighten our community competency in trauma-informed care. For some, this shift would be minor or non-existent. The work of many organizations in our community is deeply rooted in trauma-informed methods and standards, and SafePlace is no exception. But a comprehensive problem necessitates a holistic solution, and we’re all accountable to keeping our community safe, healthy and secure.
So, how do we do that? The three main tenets of trauma-informed care are understanding, commitment and practices.
In understanding, as a community, we view those experiencing trauma holistically, and understand that focusing on the symptoms and signs of abuse limits the scope of support, care and concern we can display. We offer person-centered services collaboratively, and we focus on strengths-based approaches that view people as resourceful and resilient in the face of adversity.
In commitment, our community walks the walk and talks the talk. We ensure that people are trained to do their jobs well. We examine hiring practices, policies and procedures, and channel resources to be responsive to needs following trauma.
In practices, we focus on empowerment, not management or control. We speak our truths and our stories, and allow space for the power of telling one’s own story. We focus on building strengths, promoting resilience and maximizing the sense of safety through meeting emergent needs first.
For each of us, this translates differently.
For me, as a leader in our community, I can make choices that continue to point SafePlace, its programs and its staff in the right direction while holding partner entities accountable to doing the same.
For me, as a mother in this community, it means holding my children’s schools accountable to show up in trauma-informed ways. Do the educators use growth mindset (in which intelligence can be developed) versus fixed mindset language and messaging (that assumes intelligence is static)? Are my children being given strengths-focused instruction? Does the leadership of the school hire and train their educators to be trauma-informed? Am I showing up in my parenting in ways that do the same?
For me, as a community member, it means having hard conversations when I hear language that condons violence; using strengths-based verbiage when I speak; creating space for people to speak their truth, though I may not understand it; focusing on giving people choices when we interact.
It doesn’t require a counseling position at a social services agency to show up for our community. It takes investment, willingness to ask questions, and a strong desire to step out in action against violence.
I am a product of this environment; I found my voice in our schools, I competed in our playing fields, I learned to lead from our teachers. I believe that we can move the needle the other way, and change the landscape of safety and security for all of our community members, our families and our friends.
We have work to do, and we can’t do it alone. May we stand together in unity when any one of us is in danger.
Sarah M. Lloyd is the new executive director of SafePlace.