Constructions of complex trauma and implications for women’s wellbeing and safety from violence
In Australia, one quarter of women subject to gendered violence report at least three different forms of interpersonal victimisation in their lifetime, such as child sexual abuse, domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking. Being exposed to multiple, repeated forms of interpersonal victimisation may result in complex trauma, which involves a range of traumatic health problems and psychosocial challenges.
This research examines Australian policy and service responses to this significant but overlooked group of victims and survivors of gender-based violence in Australia. The research team interviewed women with experiences of complex trauma and the professionals who work with them. The research found that while health professionals favour a psychological understanding of complex trauma, women with experiences of complex trauma emphasise its somatic and psychosocial aspects.
Navigating a fragmented service system where the majority of services are funded to address a particular issue or concern—each with their own (formal and informal) rules—while you are in crisis is fraught for women with experiences of complex trauma. This research demonstrates there is a need for responses to women who have experiences of complex trauma to be sensitive, coordinated and consistent between services and agencies. It reflects a growing body of evidence that collaboration between agencies is essential to effectively support women who have experienced domestic, family or sexual violence.
Associate Professor Michael Salter, University of New South Wales
Dr Elizabeth Conroy, Western Sydney University
Professor Jane Ussher, Western Sydney University
Associate Professor Molly Dragiewicz, Griffith University
Dr Jackie Burke, Jackie Burke Psychology and Consulting, WSU fellow
Professor Warwick Middleton, Director, Trauma & Dissociation Unit, Belmont Hospital
Research partners / Confirmed advisory group members:
Blue Knot Foundation
Canberra Rape Crisis
International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation
“A deep wound under my heart”: Constructions of complex trauma and implications for women’s wellbeing and safety from violenceDownload
Constructions of complex trauma and implications for women’s wellbeing and safety from violence: Key findings and future directionsDownload
Conflicting understandings of complex trauma create challenges for survivors of gender-based violenceView more
Webinar: Working with women who have experienced complex trauma in mental health and refugee services – a comparative discussion
This webinar draws on ANROWS research ‘Constructions of complex trauma and implications for women’s wellbeing and safety from violence’. The panel of researchers, practitioners and survivors with lived experience discuss:
- survivor’s understandings of complex trauma and the way this differs across different professionals
- how these different understandings impact practice and women’s experiences of services
- the gendered nature of service responses to complex trauma
- what changes can be made to improve access to services for women who have experienced complex trauma.
Working with women who have experienced complex trauma in mental health and refugee services— A comparative discussion: Webinar resources and questionsDownload
Women with disability, women who are, or have been, incarcerated, women who live in rural and remote areas (as explicit topic).
Funded by Australian Commonwealth, state and territory governments under ANROWS’s 2017 core grant round.
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