January 31, 2018

From Ana Hristić, MA, MSW, CSWA, Training and Education Coordinator, Trauma Informed Oregon

I feel honored to be in a position at Trauma Informed Oregon (TIO) where I can influence not only the way the message of Trauma Informed Care (TIC) is communicated—through my in-person and online trainings—but also influence the content that is shared. Education played a significant role in my life as a young person, who freshly immigrated to this country at the age of 10. Without speaking a word of English, I relied on what I at the time felt was a universal language of compassion and consideration, to eventually find myself where I am today. With time, however, I’ve come to realize that this “universal” language was not so universal after all—in fact, some would say, it was available to me solely based on my skin color. Despite being a first generation immigrant and in many ways living the “American dream/nightmare,” that experience was no doubt mediated by my skin color.

It is very important to me, and my colleges at TIO, that a similar misunderstanding does not occur when talking about TIC. For example, while trauma is pervasive and there is a sort of “universal” understanding of how an organism’s heart and mind react to stress, there is plenty of anecdotal and research evidence to show that the experience and effect of certain events is mediated by factors such as race and socioeconomic status in this country. Content like this must not be lost when discussing TIC. For example, when applying TIC in an organization to improve the way it conducts business, it’s important to remember that a lack of diversity and lived experience with trauma can affect the way services are delivered. These need to be honestly looked at for TIC to be accessible to all.

Principles of Trauma Informed Care

I believe that each of the six principles of TIC can get at the heart of dismantling ignorance and violence at the personal, interpersonal, and systemic level. As a white person, to put into practice the principle of transparency and trustworthiness when interacting with a colleague, for example, is to challenge a culture of secrecy, bias, and dominance. Similarly, to practice collaboration and mutuality when creating a new disciplinary procedure is to have an organization directly challenge patterns of power and oppression. If these and similar examples are left unspoken however, the heart of TIC can be overshadowed by what may appear to be simple or incomplete TIC applications. That is, TIC can be seen as just another way to perpetuate old patterns of white-centered thinking that have historically – and in many cases continue to – caused harm to many. I am committed to continually finding ways to inform the way I share TIC knowledge, and the content that I present, so that this incomplete understanding is not perpetuated.

What’s Happening in 2018

As 2018 unfolds, I am excited to use my privilege as TIO’s Education and Training Coordinator to more deeply listen. More specifically, I am working with my colleagues to invite collaboration and partnership with others who are doing this work in culturally specific settings, and who have possibly never called their work “trauma informed” and yet have out of necessity been dismantling ignorance and violence for ages. Inviting voices of the Black/African American community, Native American community, and many others is of vital importance to TIO as we continue to refine and inform the core message of TIC.

One concrete way that I plan to do this in 2018 is by capturing stories of TIC in the community via video interviews so that the role of education and training of TIC is shared and held by all. If you or your group are interested in participating in this project, please drop me an email ahristic@pdx.edu so that I can connect with you in person. I am deeply motivated by my lived experience, but also by my childhood wisdom that I deeply continue to believe—compassion and consideration are universal and if/when TIC is implemented with rigor and humility, it paves the way for this truth to be available to all.