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Blog Home > Author > Natalie Sonek
Natalie Sonek
Featured Image for Trauma-Informed Care Project

Written by Katie Reid
Image by Edel Rodriguez

On March 11, Oprah Winfrey released a story for CBS and 60 Minutes on how trauma plays a role in childhood development and describes an approach to working with children called “trauma-informed care” (TIC). Winfrey said that working on this story “changed her life” in that it had more impact on her than practically anything she has ever done. The report highlights a school in Wisconsin that trains teachers to be sensitive to the trauma experienced by their students by first asking what has happened to a student and then embracing a trauma-informed approach to heal the trauma. This approach recognizes that the brain development in children can be altered when they experience developmental trauma, which for some children cause behaviors such as acting out, lack of impulse control, aggression, and anger. Winfrey reports that if children are penalized for behaviors without first addressing the trauma, they can experience a range of negative effects including physical, mental, and social health problems that can last into adulthood. The story highlights the importance of teachers, social service providers, and others working with children and adults to receive training on trauma-sensitivity and to take steps to create trauma-informed organizations.

The topic of TIC is nothing new for advocates working in domestic violence and sexual assault intervention and prevention. The practice of working with survivors to understand and address their individual experiences has always been part of our practice, even before the term “trauma-informed care.” Advocates, clinicians, and shelter workers often receive training on ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences) and trauma sensitivity. However, TIC trainings fall short if they fail to help providers understand historic or community trauma and how it impacts an individual who is coping with and recovering from the trauma of sexual/domestic violence. Recent research is helping us better understand how experiences such as poverty, racism, housing insecurity, or lack of economic mobility can cause individual and community trauma. It is imperative that advocacy organizations and allied professions such as child welfare agencies, schools, law enforcement agencies, hospitals, and legal service providers embrace a public health approach to address trauma.

In order to contribute to SCCADVASA’s efforts of building healthy, resilient communities across South Carolina, in 2017 and 2018 the Coalition is engaging in a system-wide evaluation to assess the current capacity of its 22 member agencies’ provision of quality care for trauma survivors and to enhance their capacity to address and mitigate the negative effects of trauma on their clients and to improve their outcomes to serve vulnerable, trauma-exposed clientele. SCCADVASA is partnering on this project with the American Institutes for Research (AIR), one of the world’s largest behavioral and social science research and evaluation organizations. AIR’s mission is to conduct and apply the best behavioral and social science research and evaluation towards improving people’s lives, with a special emphasis on the disadvantaged.

SCCADVASA’s goal is to work toward developing a universal approach to TIC, whereby South Carolina has an entire system of care for survivors of domestic and sexual violence have adopted policies and procedures that reflect trauma sensitivity and recovery. To find out more about our TIC project, contact us at 803-256-2900 or

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Featured Image for March Webinar: Preventing Sexual Violence in Online Dating
Our next free webinar will be presented by Nyomi Guzman, our Prevention and Inclusion Specialist on March 29, 2018 from 10:00am - 11:00am where we will discuss the intricacies and increase of online dating and sexual assault in our society. Attendees will learn how to identify the drawbacks along with benefits of online dating. We will talk about how to distinguish between the various kinds of online abuse and gain a deeper understanding of sexual violence prevention.
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Featured Image for What Can You Do to Prevent Sexual Violence?

As a response to the ever growing and impactful #MeToo movement, we’re launching a campaign, calling South Carolinians to action, to publicly declare what they #CanDo. Let's start a conversation about things we can do to respond to and prevent sexual violence. The campaign will take place on social media, meaning we will post your photo and your quote on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

The campaign will launch at the beginning of April for Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). If you would like to participate, we need a photo (or selfie) you want to use, and a quote about what you #CanDo to prevent sexual violence, change culture and support survivors. You can participate as a group or as individuals.

What do you think? This year’s nationwide SAAM theme is Embrace Your Voice, and we believe that your voice has the power to change culture and help prevent sexual assault in South Carolina! Join us by emailing your #CanDo quote and photo by mid-March to! Also, please share this around in your various networks: friend, family, faith and professional communities. We want this to be HUGE!

For more insight to what the campaign will look like, you can see what MECASA has done!



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Featured Image for Effective Ways to Keep Your Patrons Safer From Sexual Harassment

A space that is safe for patrons in a comfortable environment is one that will flourish. Bars and clubs are places that people socialize for fun; but unfortunately they can also be locations where some people give others unwanted sexual attention and, in some cases commit acts of sexual violence. Alcohol is the most common substance used in sexual assault. Bartenders and other restaurant and bar staff can play a vital role in creating an atmosphere that leads to greater safety for all patrons.

Bar staff often will not witness blatant physical or sexual violence, but more commonly might see something that causes a gut reaction that something is a little “off.” For instance, you may observe that one patron is giving another customer or staff member unwanted attention. Not all people feel safe rejecting unwanted advances and it may be unclear what the role of bar staff is in intervening in such situations, but it is important to remember that there are steps you can take to safely intervene to prevent/stop harassing and inappropriate situations, and to keep your establishment safe for patrons and staff.


Here are some questionable behaviors or situations your staff can look out for as potential indicators of harassment or vulnerability:

Pressuring one or more people to drink, or buying unwanted drinks 
Giving one or more people unwanted attention 
Staring at a person or group of people, making lewd or inappropriate comments, making sexual jokes to friends or other patrons 
Intoxicated patrons without a safe friend or a safe way to get home
While this list is a good starting place, it is by no means exhaustive. If someone’s behavior seems inappropriate or unsettling to one person, that feeling is usually shared by others but they may just be afraid to say something. Encourage your staff to talk to each other when they notice questionable behavior. Also remember that these behaviors are not exclusively directed to members of the opposite sex and that harassment can occur across the spectrum of sexuality and gender identity.


Once you have identified that something seems wrong, here are a few ways you can intervene. Keep in mind, intervening shouldn’t require getting physically involved and, ideally, you should have support from other staff. You can use one or more of these at the same time, depending on the situation.
1. Direct: Confront the offender, talk with the victim, and stay nearby.
2. Distract: Create a distraction so someone can check in with the person you are concerned about and offer assistance if needed.
3. Delegate: Talk to others involved in the situation, or who are friends with the victim or offender; talk with other staff or security at the bar; or talk with bystanders or others who might be able to effectively and safely intervene.

These situations are nuanced and there are many options to safely stop unwanted sexual harassment. Below are two sample case scenarios to help you consider ways that a bartender or server might respond.

Scenario 1: Every Monday, Alex comes into your bar for trivia night. You have gotten to know him through the weeks during trivia, but you don’t interact with him much when he visits the bar on the weekends. Over the past few weekends you have seen him leave with a different woman each night. The women always stumble toward the door and can barely stand. You realize that he only ever talks to women who are alone and that he has never come into the bar with the person he leaves with. Concerned, you start to pay closer attention when Alex walks in tonight. You and your co-worker notice Alex bringing a young woman her third drink in 30 minutes. Your co-worker says, “Alex is the man, I wish I could get that many girls.” While you recognize that for some people, Alex’s behavior is considered normal, your gut reaction is telling you that he is purposely getting women drunk so he can take advantage of them. And you are correct! A lot of things that may be accepted as normal in a bar setting can actually be predatory and maybe even against the law. Now, you are concerned not only for the women Alex targets, but also the culture among bar staff that reinforces this predatory behavior. Consider some of these intervention options as ways to address what Alex is doing:

1. Direct: Point out to your manager that Alex is currently feeding drinks to a woman who is intoxicated and alone (this is not the first time.) Both of you tell Alex that you’ve been noticing his behavior and that he needs to leave immediately and is not welcome back. This also communicates to other patrons that their safety is your priority.
2. Distract: Distract Alex by creating a fake scenario, like telling him that because he is a loyal customer you want to get his input on drink specials for next week. Doing this will take the attention off of the woman and take Alex out of the situation. You could also work with another bartender or server to check in with the woman while you have Alex’s attention. Keep in mind, this may only be a temporary fix. 
3. Delegate: Ask the bouncer at the bar to remove Alex and let him know he’s not welcome back. The bouncer holds a position of authority and will be respected in the space. While he does this, check in with the woman Alex was targeting and make sure she has a safe way home.

Bonus option: Since you are concerned about overall culture of the bar, suggest to the manager to make the next trivia night’s theme, “Consent is Sexy/Required.” Donate the proceeds to your local Rape Crisis Center.

Scenario 2: Jordan is a doctor at the local hospital, who came into your restaurant to grab a cocktail after her shift. She often sits at your table because you two have enjoyed chatting from time to time. Tonight she is alone at her table, reading a book. All of a sudden a man approaches and starts a conversation with Jordan. You can tell that Jordan is trying very hard to be polite, but after a few minutes she lets him know she needs to get back to her book. However, the man does not leave, but pulls up a chair and moves closer to Jordan. You hear him say to her, “I know you didn’t actually come here to read.” You think to yourself, “How rude!” and you can see by Jordan’s face that she is completely put-off by the interaction. Despite that, she seems reluctant to forcefully say anything. You don’t want to allow an environment where patrons feel their personal space is not respected.

1. Direct:  Say to the man, “Excuse me, she said she doesn’t want to talk. Please respect her space.” While being this direct might feel uncomfortable, it lets the man know Jordan has your support. Stand there until he leaves her table.
2. Distract: Tell the man you think his car is being towed. When he leaves to look, you have time to check in with Jordan. You can assure Jordan that you agree she should be able to sit alone without harassment and make a plan for if he returns to her table.
3. Delegate: Have the man’s server bring him his check, encouraging him to leave and thanking him for coming in. This will give him a subtle social cue to leave.

Remember, sometimes effectively keeping a situation from escalating will require a combination of strategies.

This article has primarily discussed how to handle subtle displays of harassment. Unfortunately, there may be other times when violence occurs quickly or when there is little advanced information to help you proactively intervene. If you have knowledge that a crime has occurred, if you saw someone spike a drink, or if you suspect violence may occur, it can be helpful to future investigations if you help gather any information about a suspected offender. For example, swap a suspected drug-laden drink and keep the cup, take a picture with your phone of the suspected offender, or talk to other people who witnessed the behavior. If there is danger, call 911 or local law enforcement for help. Don’t put yourself in harm’s way.

For more information or resources, contact South Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault (SCCADVASA). 803-256-2900.

Adapted from: The Bar Outreach Project © 2012 Our VOICE, Inc.

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Featured Image for Charleston Silver Lady & Her Southern Pearls Fundraiser

Join The Charleston Silver Lady and her Southern Pearls on January 28, 2018 from 2:00 - 4:00pm in Columbia, SC for a special event benefiting SCCADVASA.

The Charleston Silver Lady will present a 90 minute program about items from her personal collection of storied silver. The Charleston Silver Lady is a nationally renowned expert on antique silver.

The goal of this event is to raise $10,000 for SCCADVASA. In addition to the Charleston Silver Lady's appearance, the venue, raffle prizes and refreshments are all being donated with 100% of proceeds going directly to support the work of SCCADVASA.

$425 includes a table of 8 seats and 1 verbal appraisal of 1 piece of silver by the Charleston Silver Lady.

$45 will reserve an individual seat for the presentation. For an additional $25, a verbal appraisal of one piece of silver can be purchased (only a limited number of appraisals are available and are only available with the purchase of at least one ticket to the event).

A range of pearl jewelry will be available from the Charleston Silver Lady for sale at the event. The pearls used are purchased directly from pearl divers from various countries and reflect the unique waters of their origin. All proceeds from these sales will benefit SCCADVASA.

Raffle tickets are $5 each at the event. Prizes include: a string of pearls donated by Ms. Corley with a retail value of $450 and a facial with a brow wax donated by Jennifer Griffitt.

This is the experience of a lifetime that you won't want to miss!

Get Your Tickets Today!

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Featured Image for TOMORROW is #GivingTuesday!

TOMORROW is #GivingTuesday!


Tomorrow is the day for our holiday #GivingTuesday!

Our goal is to raise $1,000 to help us continue to amplify the voices of survivors and advocate for their rights. From partnering with the Governor's Domestic Violence Task Force to get new laws passed, to working with the Attorney General's Human Trafficking Project, we advocate for best practices, policies and procedures for all systems working with survivors.

So what can YOU do?

Tomorrow, as people across the world support various causes, here are some ways YOU can gear up for #GivingTuesday:

• Donate or become a sustainer
• Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram
for exciting updates
• Share this message with friends and family
challenging them to give

For the price of less than a cup of coffee per month, you can help make real, lasting change in the lives of survivors. Let’s do this!

Join the Movement

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Featured Image for Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Domestic Violence Awareness Month is here! This year at SCCADVASA, our theme for DVAM is Safety and Justice. In the past we’ve focused on social media awareness campaigns, but we want to go beyond awareness and work toward bringing education and training to our community partners statewide.

We will be focusing on justice; economic, social, legal, etc. and how we can work together as a community to create safer systems. Our aim is to build the knowledge and capacity of community partners in order to provide trauma-informed care for our survivors when having to navigate these systems.

One of the most important things we believe we can do to support the work of our member organizations is by helping get the word out about events they have organized in their communities during October to bring awareness. Check out our calendar to see what's going on in your area!

Upcoming SCCADVASA Events:

DVAM Images for Social Media:

DVAM 2017 Poster - Safety and Justice

SCCADVASA - Facebook


SCCADVASA - Instagram




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Featured Image for South Carolina Ranks #5 in Rate of Women Murdered by Men
According to the new Violence Policy Center (VPC) study When Men Murder Women: An Analysis of 2015 Homicide Data, South Carolina ranked fifth in the nation in the rate of women murdered by men, with a rate of 1.83 per 100,000. This annual study is released in advance of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, which is recognized in October.

This is the sixth year in a row that South Carolina has ranked in the top five states for women murdered by men and the rate has increased since last year's report of 1.73 per 100,000.
“South Carolina’s continued presence at, or near, the top of the list of the most dangerous states for women demonstrates how much work as a state we still have to do,” says Sara Barber, executive director of the South Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault.

“We have changed laws but there are still struggles with consistently implementing them to increase victim safety. A long term change in our horrifying record will also need an increased emphasis on prevention education around healthy relationships. This should begin in schools and extend across all community settings, to stop this violence before it begins.”
The study uses 2015 data, the most recent year for which information is available. The study covers homicides involving one female murder victim and one male offender, and uses data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Supplementary Homicide Report.

The study found that nationwide, 93 percent of women killed by men were murdered by someone they knew and that the most common weapon used was a gun.

The Violence Policy Center has published When Men Murder Women annually for 20 years. During that period, nationwide the rate of women murdered by men in single victim/single offender incidents has dropped 29 percent — from 1.57 per 100,000 in 1996 to 1.12 per 100,000 in 2015.

Below is the complete list of the states with the 10 highest rates of females murdered by males in single victim/single offender incidents in 2015:

Rank   State                           Homicide Rate, Females Murdered by Males
1          Alaska                         2.86 per 100,000
2          Nevada                       2.29 per 100,000
3          Louisiana                    2.22 per 100,000
4          Tennessee                  2.10 per 100,000
5          South Carolina           1.83 per 100,000
6          Arkansas                    1.78 per 100,000
7          Kansas                       1.65 per 100,000
8          Kentucky                    1.60 per 100,000
9          Texas                         1.54 per 100,000
10 (tie) New Mexico               1.52 per 100,000
10 (tie) Missouri                     1.52 per 100,000

For each of these states, the study offers a detailed summary including: the number of victims by age group and race; the most common weapons used; the victim to offender relationships; and the circumstances of the homicides.

Nationwide, 1,686 females were murdered by males in single victim/single offender incidents in 2015, at a rate of 1.12 per 100,000. Of the 1,686 female homicide victims, 1,110 were white, 476 were black, 48 were Asian or Pacific Islander, 28 were American Indian or Alaskan Native, and in 24 cases the race of the victim was not identified.

Nine out of 10 victims knew their offenders.  Of the victims who knew their offenders, 64 percent were wives or other intimate acquaintances of their killers. Fourteen times as many females were murdered by a male they knew than were killed by male strangers.

Black women are disproportionately impacted by lethal domestic violence. In 2015, black females were murdered by men at a rate of 2.43 per 100,000, more than twice the rate of 0.96 per 100,000 for white women murdered by men.
Firearms — especially handguns — were the weapons most commonly used by males to murder females in 2015.

Nationwide, for homicides in which the weapon used could be identified, 55 percent of female victims were shot and killed with a gun. Of the homicides committed with guns, 69 percent were killed with handguns.

The overwhelming majority of these homicides were not related to any other felony crime, such as rape or robbery. Nationwide, for homicides in which the circumstances could be identified, 84 percent of the homicides were not related to the commission of another felony. Most often, females were killed by males in the course of an argument between the victim and the offender.

The study calculates the rate of women murdered by men by dividing the total number of females murdered by males in single victim/single offender incidents by the total female population and multiplying the result by 100,000. This is the standard and accepted method of comparing fatal levels of gun violence.

The study urges state legislators to adopt laws that enhance enforcement of federal legislation and ensure that guns are surrendered by or removed from the presence of abusers.

View Full Report

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Featured Image for 287g Agreements Unsafe for Our Communities
SCCADVASA is a statewide coalition of organizations providing intervention services to victims and survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault across the state. Our hope is for community in which prevention work is our focus—a commitment to prevent sexual and domestic violence from occurring in the first place—where we can center our work on the building of healthy relationship practices rather than the aftermath of violence. We believe that everyone has the right to live in a community where respect and trust form the core of relationships and fear has no place to thrive. It is from these core values, as victim advocates, that SCCADVASA opposes the implementation of 287(g) agreements.

287(g) agreements erode public trust. A number of studies conducted in areas where 287(g) are already in place show that officers and police chiefs alike experienced greater barriers to using community policing techniques.

In Davidson County, Tennessee, nearly two years after the implementation of their 287(g) program, researchers found that although Black residents were more likely to know the victim of a crime (49% of Blacks, 35% of Latinos), respondents of both races cited nearly the same level of discomfort (~40%) with law enforcement.  The cause and the result of that discomfort, however, were clear between the two groups. Latinos were far less likely to report a crime to the police. “42% [of Latinos] said that they knew of a crime that had not been reported to the police,” compared to just 4% of Black respondents, and, “when asked whether they would report a crime in the future, more than half (54%) of the respondents in the Latino community said they would choose not to call the police,” compared to 27% of Blacks.  Half of all Hispanic respondents cited “being ‘afraid,’” and one-third specifically mentioned “immigration issues” as a major reason they distrusted the police; not a single Black respondent cited either of these issues as reasons they might not call upon law enforcement for protection.  It is not unreasonable to draw a tie between these fears and the fact that 85% of Latinos knew “someone who had been deported after being arrested, compared to only 8% of Blacks.”

Immigrant communities already navigate reporting barriers, such as lack of shared language and differing views on gender roles. When compounded by fears of racial profiling and immigration scrutiny, even victims and witnesses with legal status are less likely to come forward.  Therefore, the fear that part of the community experiences—the possibility of being asked about immigration status—decreases victim reports, subjecting the larger community to greater risk of violent crimes.  
The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), the nation’s premier law enforcement association, has stated that “local police agencies depend on the cooperation of immigrants, legal and illegal, in solving all sorts of crimes and in the maintenance of public order. Without assurances that they will not be subject to an immigration investigation and possible deportation, many immigrants with critical information would not come forward, even when heinous crimes are committed against them or their families.”
287(g) agreements burden local law enforcement agencies without strengthening community safety. In Maricopa County, Arizona, the East Valley Tribune reported that demands for the Sheriff’s Department to respond to immigration concerns resulted in an inability to respond to life or death crisis calls; “two-thirds of patrol cars arrived late to the most serious calls for police assistance."  A delay of this magnitude puts all crime victims at higher risk of significant harm and even death.

Victims of sexual assault and domestic violence are at particular risk of repeated victimization in areas where 287(g) agreements are in place.  Abusers often use the threat of deportation—whether legitimate or exaggerated—to discourage their victim from reporting the crime committed against them. Abusers use the perception that victims’ rights are secondary to immigration enforcement as a coercive tool to keep their victims submissive.

287(g) agreements create redundancy that undercut the campaign against violent crime. Since 2013, all local jurisdictions in South Carolina have been sharing biometric data of detained criminals with the FBI and DHS. When fingerprint checks demonstrate that an individual who has been arrested is illegally present in the United States, ICE is already enabled to detain and remove that individual.  However, without the public trust that stimulates a culture of reporting and cooperating with law enforcement, criminals are less likely to be arrested, and are more likely to continue perpetrating violence against our community members.
Examples like Maricopa County and Los Angeles County demonstrate that 287(g) agreements take valuable resources away from crime victims at the local level, and allow the federal government to escape their rightful responsibility to enforce immigration law. Studies of communities closer to home—including Davidson County, Tennessee and Gaston County, North Carolina—show that a single law enforcement entity cannot simultaneously ask for cooperation and threaten deportation. The implementation of a 287(g) agreement is likely to result in deportation of illegally present individuals; it’s true, but the vast majority of these individuals will be detained following traffic violations and misdemeanors.  Meanwhile, true violent criminals will continue to intimidate their victims into silence, and our community will become no safer. 287(g) agreements undermine our values of public trust and public safety.

SCCADVASA stands in support of community policing efforts that lead to victim trust and public safety. Crime victims’ confidence that coming forward will lead to safety should be prioritized above ineffective lip service to border enforcement. We strongly condemn the implementation of new 287(g) agreements, while living in hope of successful, victim-centered collaboration with law enforcement officers in Charleston, Horry, Lexington, and York Counties.
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Featured Image for Self-Care and Cultural Safety in Victim Services

September's webinar is Self-Care and Cultural Safety in Victim Services. Our webinars are FREE and open to the public. We also provide 1 OVSEC approved credit hour for your continued learning credits. Practicing and encouraging radical self-care in the work place is a key aspect of pursuing cultural safety and trauma-informed care.

Participants will first explore the goal of cultural safety in victim service provision using the framework of cultural humility. Cultural safety is “an environment that is spiritually, socially and emotionally safe, as well as physically safe for people; where there is no assault challenge or denial of their identity, of who they are and what they need. It is about shared respect, shared meaning, shared knowledge and experience of learning together” (Williams, 1999). Participants will learn to use the practice of cultural humility, viewing themselves as partners in the helping relationship rather than the expert; one outcome of this practice is that survivors are empowered to build collaborative safety and/or treatment plans.

The practice of cultural humility is rooted in critical self-reflection and self-care. Therefore, participants will explore strategies for practicing radical—rather than reactive—self-care in their relationships with victims, with coworkers, and with themselves. Some tactics will include mindfulness exercises, tactile stress management tools, and reflective listening. The webinar ends with a period of self-reflection and personal goal-setting, allowing participants to leave with actionable strategies in practice.

Register Here

If you have not previously registered for our training registration system, Coalition Manager, you can do that here.

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