Women's Input to a Trauma-informed systems model of care in Health settings: The WITH study

Project Summary

There is a strong association between sexual violence and mental health problems for women. Mental health and sexual violence services often support the same women, however the two sectors are not necessarily working together as effectively as they could. This is often due to differences in approach, bureaucratic alignment or organisational stress. Although sector specific trauma-informed guidelines have been implemented to varying degrees, there is no model outlining how services can implement trauma-informed practice more effectively when both issues are present. In response, this project will build, implement and evaluate a model for systems of care that are trauma-informed. The model will take a whole of organisation approach for services, including: environment, management, direct contact with clients, practitioner support, referral pathways, information sharing, protocols and policies, and community linkages.

To develop the systems model, this project will draw on existing literature and interviews with women who have experienced both mental health problems and sexual violence. It will examine the directionality of the relationship between mental health problems and sexual violence, pathways to safety and care, and the benefits of digital storytelling as a therapeutic process. This material will be used in consultation with stakeholders to build the systems model. The model will then be implemented in three settings - a tertiary women’s hospital with a sexual violence service, an area mental health service and a community mental health service. The systems model has the potential to improve women’s experience by recognising and responding to their complex pathways to safety and care, no matter which service they approach first.

The project will provide an approach (model of care) for mental health and sexual violence services to better support women seeking their help.


Principal chief investigator:

Professor Kelsey Hegarty, General Practice and Primary Health Care Academic Centre, The University of Melbourne.

Chief investigators:

Dr Susan Rees, Senior Lecturer, School of Psychiatry, The University of New South Wales.

Dr Laura Tarzia, Research Fellow, Department of General Practice, The University of Melbourne.

Dr Delanie Woodlock, Researcher, Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria.

Dr Antonia Quadara, Research Fellow, Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS).

Ms Joanna Besley, Sessional Lecturer and PhD candidate, School of English, Media Studies and Art History, University of Queensland.

Dr Victoria Palmer, Senior Research Fellow, Department of General Practice, The University of Melbourne.

Research partners / team members:

Ms Elizabeth McLindon, PhD Student, University of Melbourne.

Ms Helena Maher, Policy & Planning Advisor, The Royal Women’s Hospital, Melbourne.

Dr Christina Bryant, Senior Lecturer, Melbourne School of Psychological Sciences, University of Melbourne, and Centre for Women’s Mental Health, Royal Women’s Hospital.

Dr Sabin Fernbacher, Project Manager, Aboriginal Health, Women’s Mental Health Consultant and FaPMI Coordinator, Northern Area Mental Health Service, Melbourne. 


The WITH Study - ANROWS Compass Issue 2-2017

The WITH study - ANROWS Horizons Issue 2-2017

Implementing trauma-informed systems of care in health settings: The WITH study. State of knowledge paper

WITH study practitioner fact sheet


WITH study digital stories

Five women took part in a digital storytelling workshop for the WITH Study and shared their stories about accessing help for sexual violence and mental health problems.

ANROWS Inaugural National Research Conference 2016

Download presentation slides.pdf (533.14 KB)

Estimated end date: 
This project was completed May 2017.


$314,000 (approx.)