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Trauma and Retraumatization

NCJ Number
Nina Kammerer; Ruta Mazelis
Date Published
July 2006
32 pages
After providing an overview of the features and effects of trauma, this paper examines the impact of disasters on existing trauma, and recommendations are offered for trauma-informed and retraumatization-informed disaster preparedness and response, with attention to criminal justice issues.
The paper begins with a section on the definition of the type of trauma that is the focus of this paper. "Trauma" refers to "interpersonal violence in the form of physical abuse and sexual abuse, including childhood sexual abuse, rape, and domestic or intimate partner violence." Such trauma may or may not involve the medical sense of traumatic bodily injury, but certainly involves adverse psychological states that pertain to self-concept, trust, views of events in one's life, and coping mechanisms. After defining the parameters for the trauma addressed in this paper, a section discusses the types and prevalence of trauma, followed by a description of the impact of trauma. Another section focuses on trauma that results from criminal victimization and how the criminal justice system deals with such trauma. This is followed by a discussion of how a person who is still suffering from the impact of a previous trauma has heightened vulnerability to stressful events that follow. This experience, called "retraumatization," is discussed in association with disasters, whether natural, man-made, or a combination of the two. Recommendations for disaster preparedness and response note that at the individual, family, local, State, and national levels, both preparedness for and response to disaster must be designed and implemented with an awareness of the nature and effects of trauma and retraumatization. Thus, preparedness and response must be both "trauma-informed" and "retraumatization-informed." This paper concludes with recommendations for such preparedness and response. 7 notes and 139 references