Missoula County, Mont.
The Missoula County Attorney’s Office, in collaboration with local trauma expert Andrew Laue, L.C.S.W., created and implemented an organizational resiliency program for prosecutors and staff called Secondary Trauma Group, to prevent and mitigate the negative effects associated with working with victims of violent crime. The program’s facilitator is a clinical social worker who teaches the fundamentals of working with victims who have experienced trauma and also the devastating effects of long term exposure to secondary trauma stress to those professionals working closely with victims. As a community, we are only beginning to understand and appropriately respond to trauma. Even more recently we started discussing the need to address secondary trauma in professionals who work with victims of abuse and violence. Little if any secondary trauma work has been done in the field of criminal prosecution, a profession literally immersed in violence and trauma. We’ve created a program to specifically address secondary trauma within a prosecutor’s office. Our Secondary Trauma Group has four major components—Orientation; Development of Group Culture of Trauma Resiliency; Integration and Impact; and Case-Specific Trauma Response Teams, involving prosecutors, jurors, advocates and law enforcement. We have been able to successfully accomplish several of the program’s goals. We have fostered an organizational culture that is safe, supportive and trauma-informed and are educating prosecutorial staff about neurobiological and behavioral effects of primary trauma in victims. Additionally, we’ve become organizationally fluent in secondary trauma. Our employees understand the risks associated with cumulative trauma exposure and are learning specific prevention strategies and remediation techniques. We’ve created a Resiliency Toolbox full of resources employees can use to mitigate the impact of secondary trauma and maintain a positive work-life balance. We’ve also been able to offer case-specific post-trial trauma processing for jurors, our law enforcement partners and our litigation team.
Hon. Kirsten Pabst