Constructions of complex trauma and implications for women’s wellbeing and safety from violence: Key findings and future directions
This is an edited summary of key findings from ANROWS research “A deep wound under my heart”: Constructions of complex trauma and implications for women’s wellbeing and safety from violence.
Women with experiences of complex trauma are a significant but overlooked group of victims and survivors of gender-based violence in Australia. This project sought to develop a comprehensive picture of how complex trauma is constructed in public policy and practice, and how it is viewed by women with experiences of complex trauma.
- Complex trauma refers to multiple, repeated forms of interpersonal victimisation, and the resulting traumatic health problems and psychosocial challenges.
- Women who have experienced complex trauma have interlinked health and safety needs, and are often in frequent contact with crisis services and police due to domestic violence and sexual assault.
- The development of shared frameworks of practice for addressing complex trauma has been stalled by a lack of professional consensus and understanding.
- Complex trauma is neither consistently nor well defined in Australian public policy.
- Professionals favour a psychological/biomedical understanding of complex trauma, while women with experiences of complex trauma emphasise bodily and relational aspects.
- Addressing multiple needs of women with experiences of complex trauma is fraught within a fragmented, single-issue service system.
- Gendered stereotypes about women’s health can impact optimal service provision across many sectors.
- Provision of services to women with experiences of complex trauma can have workforce benefits as well as risks.
- Make a whole-of-government commitment to the implementation and coordination of trauma-informed practice across sectors.
- Improve the identification and prioritisation of women with experiences of complex trauma within public policy and service frameworks.
- Embed trauma-informed care within a holistic wellbeing framework that integrates mental, physical and psychosocial wellbeing.
- Invest in preventing and reducing the intergenerational impact of childhood trauma.
ANROWS Research to policy and practice papers are concise papers that summarise key findings of research on violence against women and their children, including research produced under ANROWS’s research program, and provide advice on the implications for policy and practice.
Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety. (2020). Constructions of complex trauma and implications for women’s wellbeing and safety from violence: Key findings and future directions (Research to policy and practice, 12/2020). Sydney: ANROWS.