Outlook: Newsletter of the Society of Behavorial Medicine

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Violence and Trauma: Essential for Behavioral Medicine

Emily Rothman, Phd, Violence and Trauma SIG

In 2014, there were 14,249 homicides in the U.S., an estimated 702,000 children (unique incidents) were victims of abuse and neglect, there were 5,479 hate crimes reported to the FBI, and 9,000,000 people were physically assaulted by an intimate partner.  Experiences of violence have been demonstrated to contribute to a host of physical health problems including neurological, cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, dental, opthalmologic, genito-urological, endocrinological, and oncological (see COLEVA for specifics on causal pathways).  But in 2014, the Society for Behavioral Medicine had no special interest group on violence and trauma.   

In 2015, a small but committed group of SBM members decided to found a new SIG focused on violence and trauma, boost the visibility of the issue, raise the bar for scholarship in our area, and above all to make an encouraging, supportive, and friendly “home” within SBM for the hundreds of students, researchers, advocates, and professionals who have a connection to the issue of violence or trauma.  As the Chair of the Violence and Trauma SIG (VT_SIG) from 2015-2017, I could not be more proud to tell you that we have grown from a group of six at our inaugural business meeting at the 2015 SBM conference to 106 members today.  Our membership comprises psychologists, nurses, social workers, physicians, public health students and researchers, and several advocates for survivors of violence and trauma.  We are a diverse group, and hail from all regions of the U.S., as well as Iceland, Denmark and Australia.

VT_SIG Achievements Since its Inception:

At the 2016 annual meeting, we organized and presented the first-ever violence and trauma-focused session, and presented novel and cutting-edge research on a national program to train health care providers to use a trauma-informed approach, the impact of a prevention strategy on potential victims of partner abuse, and research with cancer radiology patients who were sexual assault survivors about how their healthcare experience could be less frightening.  Perhaps even more importantly, we enjoyed an extremely tasty and festive dinner together, and discovered that despite wide variation in our training backgrounds and present positions, we now had a built-in support system for networking, collaborating, and inspiring one another. 

The intrepid Dr. Pam Behrman co-authored an introduction to violence and trauma for child health specialists for a peer-reviewed manuscript that was published in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine later that fall.

Dr. Andi Clements, who was the immediate past-Chair of the Spirituality and Health SIG, helped coordinate a new symposium proposal for the 2017 annual meeting on “Caring for Trauma Survivors: Caregiver Characteristics, Compassion Fatigue, and Outcomes of a Spiritual Intervention,” which will include papers by Drs. Jill Bormann and Rose Constantino (look for it on Thursday, March 30th from 8:00-9:15am in Sapphire 411a). Dr. Clements also received a grant from the State of Tennessee Department of Children’s Services to conduct a demonstration project infusing Trauma-Informed Care in a Boys & Girls Club to attempt to ameliorate the effects of Adverse Childhood Experiences ($600,000 over five years).

VT_SIG members Ivy Ko, Rose Constantino, and Sheela Raja collaborated on a symposium submission entitled: “Intimate partner violence and trauma-informed care: Priority issues for behavioral medicine” (look for it Saturday, April 1st from 8:30am-9:45am in Sapphire 400), and Dr. Pam Behrman organized a symposium entitled “Child and Family Health and Violence and Trauma SIGs Present: The Impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences [ACEs] on Child and Young Adult Health Functioning” to be presented by Drs. Behrman, Raja, Kimberly Randall and Nisha Beharie (look for it Friday, March 31st, from 1:30-2:45pm in Sapphire L). 

Looking Ahead:

It’s been a busy and productive two years.  Now that our SIG has taken root within SBM, we hope to welcome even more new members, and encourage those with an interest, passion, or curiosity about the relationship between violence, trauma, and health to join us at our annual business meeting or to join our SIG today.

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