Women In The Criminal Justice System: What is a trauma-informed approach? 


There is currently a growing recognition that a large percentage of women who have committed criminal offences are suffering the effects of trauma as a result of having experienced sexual or domestic abuse. Open Criminal Justice Services Work is guided by a trauma-informed approach; one that takes into consideration that women may have experienced past trauma and may still be effected as a result, whilst offering support services and engaging with these women. This model keeps an awareness of the effects of trauma at the forefront of the approach to support.

The effects of trauma, often resulting from past domestic or sexual violence, can range from complex mental health issues to resiliency and in some cases, offending behaviour. Histories of abuse and its subsequent effects appear to be a central feature of women’s pathways into offending and their experiences post-sentence within probation and beyond.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, an organization that is trauma-informed does the following: 

  • Realizes the widespread impact of trauma and understands the potential paths for recovery 
    Open Criminal Justice Service support workers understand the impact of trauma often relating to sexual and domestic abuse through ongoing specialist training. This not only focuses on the impact of trauma but also potential pathways to healing.

  • Recognizes the signs and symptoms of trauma in clients, families, staff, and others involved with the system
    Open Criminal Justice Service support workers carry out an initial assessment with the women we work with which help to recognize and identify signs and symptoms associated with trauma which can then be addressed throughout their support provision. Our support workers are also required to engage with regular individual supervision themselves to uphold and enhance their own wellbeing. 

  • Responds by fully integrating knowledge about trauma into policies, procedures and practices
    Supporting women whilst maintaining an awareness of trauma and its effects is at the core of the Women’s Centre Cornwall’s policies and practices which extends to the Open Criminal Justices Services across Cornwall, Devon and Dorset.

  • Seeks to actively resist re-traumatization
    Open Criminal Justice Services seeks to recognize how certain practices and approaches may trigger painful memories and aim to navigate all elements of support in a considerate way, keeping in mind the complexity of trauma and its many after-effects. 

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