Law enforcement officers and other service providers responding to crime victims will soon have more resources to address their work-related trauma. The Vicarious Trauma Response Initiative (VTRI), a new partnership between the State of Utah Division of Aging and Adult Services Adult Protective Services (APS), the Salt Lake City Police Department and the Salt Lake Area Family Justice Center (located at the YWCA), provides resources, training and technical assistance at selected community sites to help workers develop strategies to address their personal reactions to protecting those in extreme situations.
“Law enforcement officers are repeatedly confronted with stressful, dangerous, and complex situations that the average citizen will never have to experience. This repeated stress and trauma can lead to burnout, cause vicarious trauma and even PTSD,” said Salt Lake Police Department Victim Advocate Program Supervisor and Peer Support Team Member, Wendy Isom. “This partnership will help us bolster our efforts to care for the mental health of officers and civilian staff, to help us strive to better serve our community.”
Utah was selected for a VTRI grant by the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) as part of their efforts to address the vicarious trauma and post-traumatic stress experienced by law enforcement and victim service providers responding to the needs of victims of crime.
According to Liz Watson, director of the Salt Lake Area Family Justice Center, “Everyday, our victim advocates bear witness to the heartbreaking details of violent crime perpetrated on victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, and elder abuse. We believe this collaboration will help us identify meaningful actions we can take as an organization and a community to address the trauma our staff is experiencing and ensure that we can continue to provide critical services to victims of crime.”
ABOUT VICARIOUS TRAUMA
Vicarious trauma is defined as exposure to the traumatic experiences of other people, which can manifest from daily experience of working with crime victims or encountering mass violence incidents. When there are negative consequences from this work-related exposure, it is referred to as vicarious traumatization. Other related terms include secondary traumatic stress, compassion fatigue, critical incident stress, among others It is important to mitigate the potential negative effects of vicarious trauma in emergency responders to provide high-quality services for victims and their families. When such impacts are not addressed, individual providers and their organizations suffer, as do victims, their families, and the communities who rely on a variety of professionals and services to assist them in seeking healing and justice. Adapted from The Vicarious Trauma Response Initiative Training and Technical Assistance Community Implementation Site FAQ