Victims' Advocates Train On Trauma

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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Kansas Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence professionals deal with victims every day, but even they learned new insights at Tuesday's Safe Home Safe Streets event.

"The brain functions very differently when it's been traumatized. People who've been traumatized remember things differently," Dr. David Lisak, a forensic consultant, says.

He spoke to about 200 professionals from the medical to the legal field, advocates and first responders who deal with trauma victims in the immediate aftermath of a crisis.

"When we're going to the hospital in the middle of the night, to meet with survivors of rape, when we're taking calls on a domestic violence hotline for people who have recently been hurt, it help us understand their perspective," Laura Burton, public educator for the YWCA Center for Safety & Empowerment, said of the training. About 12 members of the YWCA attended, Burton said.

Victims advocates with years of experience say the training helps them understand why victims don't always run or fight back.

"For me, it was the fact that trauma changes people, and impacts they act in fundamental ways, " Burton said. "For example if a survivor of sexual assault is unable to scream, or unable to yell or unable to fight, that's not a conscious choice that's being made."

Lisak says professionals and laymen need to understand there's a fight, flight and a freeze response to sexual assaults.

"It's a physiological reaction. It's not a moral lapse," he said. "It's very important everyone in the criminal justice system, as well as jurors who hear these cases, that they understand some of the physiology, so they can accurately understand and interpret victim behavior," he said.

The Safe Homes Safe Streets event continues Wednesday and will feature a woman who was victim to a serial rapist in the area.