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Collaboration Enhances Trauma-Informed Response to Sexual Assault Survivors (Webinar)

Event Dates
In 2016, advocates from the Houston Area Women's Center (HAWC) met with representatives from the Houston Police Department (HPD) to talk about ways to improve officers' first responses to survivors of sexual assault. These conversations resulted in an agreement for HAWC and HPD to collaboratively develop, and then, collaboratively facilitate a training for all 5,000+ HPD officers. These successful trainings provided officers a deeper understanding of survivors' complex reactions to sexual assault, disrupted first responders' explicit and implicit biases/assumptions about victim response, and introduced survivor-centered skills.

Called "Understanding Victim Response: The Neurobiology of Trauma," and co-facilitated by HPD's Detective Sergeant Melissa Holbrook and a team of HAWC educators, including Lisa Levine and Aly Jacobs, the three-hour training was offered multiple times per week over the course of fourteen months, starting in 2016 and wrapping up in 2018 (with some downtime in August to October 2017 due to Hurricane Harvey). HAWC and HPD facilitators collected qualitative data onsite and worked with staff from Sam Houston State University to provide a quantitative program evaluation. The training also was offered in April 2017 to outside HPD law enforcement agencies including Harris County Sherriff's Office, other neighboring jurisdictions, and multiple college and university police departments. Ultimately, the training's success was recognized by the International Association of Chiefs of Police as well as in local and national media. In addition, Det. Sgt. Holbrook received the Houston Citizens Police Academy Alumni Association's annual award for excellence "for her tireless efforts to train every officer about the best ways and means of interviewing sexual assault and domestic violence victims."

Detailed learning objectives:
1. Understand how the HAWC-HPD collaboration evolved to create the "Understanding Victim Response: The Neurobiology of Trauma" program.
2. Recognize the importance of training on the definition of sexual violence, perpetrator profile and means of perpetration, survivors' trauma response, perpetration numbers versus limited accountability, and other reasons why survivors fail to report.
3. Identify results from the HAWC-HPC collaboration including successes, challenges, and next steps.

Funding for this Forensic Technology Center of Excellence event has been provided by the National Institute of Justice.

Date Created: February 3, 2021