Evaluation of the Effects of Receiving Trauma-Informed Practices on Domestic Violence Shelter Residents

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Abstract

Domestic violence is a potentially traumatizing experience that has devastating psychological and physical consequences. In response, domestic violence shelter programs have focused increasing attention on helping adult and child survivors understand and heal from this trauma. What have come to be called trauma-informed practices include (a) reflecting an understanding of trauma and its many effects on health and behavior, (b) addressing both physical and psychological safety concerns, (c) using a culturally informed strengths-based approach, (d) helping to illuminate the nature and effects of abuse on survivors’ everyday experience; and (e) providing opportunities for clients to regain control over their lives. Despite the proliferation of these practices, little is known about their effects on survivors. In response, the current study explored the extent to which trauma-informed practices, as experienced by shelter residents, related to changes in their levels of self-efficacy, safety-related empowerment, and depressive symptoms over the course of approximately 30 days in shelter. Fifty-seven shelter residents from 4 programs in Ohio completed surveys shortly after arriving in shelter and again before exit. Their perception of the degree to which they received trauma-informed services was associated with significant improvement in their self-efficacy and safety-related empowerment, but had no impact on depressive symptoms. Depressive symptoms decreased over time, regardless of receipt of trauma-informed practice. Implications for policy and practice are discussed.

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