A safe, just and equal world for women

Working in a trauma-informed way

Our Head of Safeguarding explains the key principles of a trauma-informed approach and how we incorporate them at Advance.
This Safeguarding Adults Week, we’re reflecting on what it means to be trauma-informed and how it relates to safeguarding.

Adopting a trauma-informed and responsive approach means organisations, services and practitioners being aware of how trauma can affect individuals, so that measures can be taken to avoid practices that could inadvertently retraumatise people they’re working with.

Trauma-informed and responsive practice incorporates core principles of safety, trust, choice, collaboration and empowerment*. Organisations working with people who have experienced trauma should apply these principles across all aspects of their work, from the physical environment and facilities provided to engagement activities and service development and delivery. At a practitioner level, it means being able to recognise trauma and trauma responses and respond in a way that supports recovery, does no harm and takes a strengths-based approach.

Many of the women we support at Advance have lived experience of violence, abuse and trauma, experienced both in adulthood as well as childhood. It is therefore vital that a trauma-informed and responsive approach** is adopted across all our operations and functions, including safeguarding, which is at the heart of what we do. We prioritise safety and work collaboratively with individuals to promote their wellbeing and uphold their right to live a life free from violence and abuse. This includes acknowledging and validating personal experiences and the impact of abuse and trauma.

Our trauma-informed approach

We take our responsibility to protect the women and girls we work with very seriously and are committed to providing a caring, positive and supportive environment that promotes wellbeing and prevents potential and actual harm. We strive to provide safe and nurturing spaces and services, such as our Women’s Centres, where much of our work is carried out including our lived-experience volunteer programme. We foster relationships based on trust and listen without judgement, supporting women and girls to openly express themselves and better understand their experiences. Our work is rooted in empowerment, and we encourage and empower women to share how they’re feeling and make their own informed decisions. We support them to lead the lives they choose, always respecting their choices.

We work in collaboration with individuals and organisations to maximise our shared knowledge, advocate for women and girls and bring greater impact to those we support. By building meaningful relationships with women and girls, we gain a clear understanding of what’s important to them. We ask them what they want to happen and the outcomes they want to achieve, and we’re open and honest about what we can and can’t do. We regularly gather formal and informal feedback from the women we work with, which impacts our decision-making, helps to shape our services and ensures we’re always working in a trauma-informed and responsive way.


* https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/working-definition-of-trauma-informed-practice/working-definition-of-trauma-informed-practice

** Harris, M. and Fallot, R., D. (2001) ‘Envisioning a trauma-informed service system: A vital paradigm shift’, New Directions for Mental Health Services, 89, pp 3-22

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