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  • Courtney S.

Trauma-informed Care at Sojourner

Updated: Apr 18, 2023

Many of the domestic and sexual violence survivors Sojourner works with are also trauma survivors. The term “trauma” is something of a buzzword…but what does it actually mean? Trauma is a threat to physical or emotional safety that overwhelms someone’s ability to cope, leading to fear or helplessness. There are many categories of trauma that range from a single event to an on-going experience. Domestic violence is typically a chronic and relational trauma, meaning it happens over long periods of time and within the context of a relationship. This can make domestic violence a particularly challenging type of trauma, as it is confusing and violating when a partner displays both harm and care. Domestic violence-related trauma can also continue even after a survivor has left the relationship, especially if they share children with their abuser.

Responses to Trauma

So how do people respond to trauma? How do they cope? Responses to trauma can take many different forms, some of which may look harmful or unhealthy from an outsider’s perspective. It is important to remember that response to trauma, whatever it may be, is a normal response to an abnormal experience. Those who have experienced trauma cope in way that feels most healthy and safe to them. Here are some common responses to trauma:

  • Psychological responses such as PTSD, depression, anxiety, hyperarousal, disassociation, avoidance, flashbacks, or intrusive thoughts

  • Difficulty with higher cognitive functions like memory, goal-setting, decision-making, problem-solving and learning new material

  • Physical health challenges such as chronic pain, gastrointestinal issues, fatigue, poor appetite and headaches

  • Behavioral issues such as substance use or self-harm

Trauma-Informed Care at Sojourner Project

When working with survivors of domestic violence, our staff and volunteers utilize trauma-informed care practices. Trauma-informed care acknowledges that how services are provided is just as important as the services themselves. This is practiced by recognizing how trauma impacts behavior and how trauma responses are unique to each person. At Sojourner, trauma-informed care can look like:

  • Active listening, paraphrasing, summarizing, and empathy

  • Empowering survivors to make their own choices and encouraging their autonomy

  • Normalizing how survivors respond to trauma in different ways

  • Recognizing the compounding effects of living with multiple types of trauma, including systemic and intergenerational trauma

  • Supporting and practicing self-care, for staff and survivors[1]

Understanding trauma and how survivors respond to trauma helps us to provide better support and have more positive and productive interactions with clients. Trauma-informed care allows us to compassionately and effectively support survivors’ transitions from fear to hope.

Interested in being a part of the team?

Hiring: Sojourner Project is hiring! We are looking for a full-time shelter advocate. This position works directly with survivors who are staying in our shelter, where advocates create a safe, welcoming environment and provide support and resources to residents. To learn more and apply, please visit:

Volunteering: Are you interested in volunteering with Sojourner Project? We are looking for individuals to volunteer with us in our shelter and community legal advocacy programs. We can also host groups to work on projects, such as gardening or cleaning/organizing. To learn more, contact or call 952.351.4062.


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