Supporting Survivors in Community Settings: A practice resource

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One of my passions is empowering communities to support the presence and resilience of survivors. Sexual violence is so epidemic that we can assume survivors are present in every gathering. Evidence indicates that negative social responses damage survivors and that social connection can be a powerful mechanism for healing.

Often trauma-sensitive practice is considered a clinical concept, appropriate only to psychotherapeutic settings and work with identified survivors. This unnecessarily limits the impact of our growing knowledge about trauma. Sexual violence is hugely underreported; those who would benefit from trauma-informed practice are everywhere. Disclosure need not be a prerequisite to survivor-centered work.

Empowerment Self-Defense (ESD) practitioners have developed a rich practice wisdom for supporting survivors—whether or not they disclose—in our classrooms. In my research into trauma and community as a student at Boston College School of Social Work, I've been unable to find many resources to support trauma-sensitive mezzo-level practice. This is significant gap, because countless community and group settings—including faith communities, classrooms, and service agencies—have the potential to either profoundly help or hinder survivors' recovery from trauma.

In response to this information gap, I developed this resource describing the pro-active practice behaviors ESD instructors demonstrate to support survivors and avoid the negative social responses cataloged by Sarah Ullman (2010). This is a work in progress!

These practices can be adapted to many settings. Teachers, movement instructors, journalists, clergy-people and all of us can have a profoundly beneficial impact on survivors by incorporating these concepts into our speech and behavior.

Thanks to Lauren Taylor, Defend Yourself! for making this beautiful! Please feel free to share, retaining author credit and references.

Download the PDF here: 

Supporting Survivors in Community Settings