The Florida Council Against Sexual Violence seeks to improve Florida's sexual violence programs, raise awareness about the impact of sexual violence, support the reduction of sexual violence through prevention education and increased prosecution, and provide training to professionals such as nurses and law enforcement officers. Much of that training focuses on the effects of trauma and the benefits of using trauma-informed approaches when interacting with sexual assault survivors. FCASV already offers in-depth training to law enforcement officers who investigate sexual assaults. However, FCASV determined there was also a need for a much shorter training to introduce uniformed patrol officers to the effects of trauma and to simple ways they can incorporate trauma-informed approaches into their work.
Patrol officers are often the first representatives of law enforcement to interact with a sexual assault survivor. The impacts of that first contact reverberate throughout the investigation and prosecution phases of the case. If the initial law enforcement interview is unproductive or re-traumatizes the survivor, the survivor may decide to drop out of the process, ending the community’s opportunity to hold the perpetrator to account. Patrol officers who understand the effects of trauma on the body, brain, and memory may be able to interact with survivors in ways that elicit more information, encourage the survivor to persevere throughout the process, and increase the chances that an arrest will be made and a case brought to trial. However, patrol officers have limited time to participate in training and do not need the detailed information provided in FCASV’s in-person training for investigators. Instead, patrol officers need basic information presented in a way that moves their attitudes and practices in a more trauma-informed direction.
CIMES created a short, high-impact web-based training that can be used in group roll-call situations at law enforcement agencies but can also be viewed by patrol officers on their own. The main part of the training is only 15 minutes long and uses video interviews with a police captain, a state attorney, a trauma expert, and an advocate to deliver its core message about the effects of trauma and encourage officers to adopt trauma-informed approaches. CIMES and FCASV chose the interview format to lend credibility to the approaches being recommended.
That main section is followed by a brief practice scenario featuring an actress playing the role of a person reporting a sexual assault. Officers being trained are presented with multiple-choice options for how to respond to the “victim” at various points in the law enforcement interview. They receive immediate feedback on their responses.
Florida Council Against Sexual Violence