Standing Up for Trauma Victims in a Bipartisan Manner: Trauma-Informed Legislative Workgroup
For Immediate Release
January 18, 2018
Utah House of Representatives
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Standing Up for Trauma Victims in a Bipartisan Manner
Trauma-Informed Legislative Workgroup
SALT LAKE CITY – Representative Ken Ivory (R-West Jordan) and Senator Luz Escamilla (D-Salt Lake) announced their proposed bipartisan legislation, H.B. 177 Trauma-Informed Justice Provisions, that would enable and assist victims of crime, during the Trauma Informed Justice Solutions panel discussion on January 16, 2018. The mission of the workgroup is to eradicate re-traumatization of victims in Utah by establishing trauma-informed systems that are sensitive to and aware of the needs of victims.
“A traumatized person thinks differently than they did before,” said Jenny Livsey, crime survivor, and advocate. “The criminal justice system is a foreign place. My role as a victim is to survive, and I need someone to show me how.”
Under the current system, the workgroup says victims are often re-traumatized by their experiences with the criminal justice system. The workgroup is calling for a process that understands traumatized victims and carefully assists individuals seeking help.
“H.B. 177 is the first step in moving our state to trauma-informed practices that will help improve survivors’ experiences,” said Sen. Escamilla.
The goals of this proposed legislation include:
Reduced the likelihood of re-victimization, leading to less accumulative adverse childhood experiences, less behavioral risk-taking, fewer negative health impacts, and reduce state spending on healthcare
Increase the likelihood that victims will engage with the Criminal Justice System in the future by supporting a more positive experience, which in turn enables improved healing and coping skills by connecting victims with available resources
“I have learned from my constituents over the years that the way we treat traumatized victims matters tremendously for the effective, efficient and respectful administration of criminal justice,” said Rep. Ivory. “We can do a better job system-wide to protect the important role victims have in our criminal justice system.”
H.B. 177 will establish a Multi-Disciplinary Trauma-Informed Committee tasked with creating a trauma-informed justice program. The committee will conduct a study of current and
recommended trauma-informed policies, procedures, programs and practices in Utah’s criminal and juvenile justice system including:
The role of victim advocates and victim services in the criminal and juvenile justice system
How to implement the option of a comprehensive, seamless victim-advocate system that:
Is based on the best interests of victims
Assists victims throughout the criminal and juvenile justice system
Assist with the progress of recovering from trauma experienced as a result of being a victim of crime
“Victims are tasked with navigating a system for which they are simply not prepared to navigate,” said Amy Coombs, Masters in Social Work, Certified Social Work Manager. “The best way to evaluate how we operate systems of service in the criminal justice system is to ask crime victims/survivors for feedback. We should listen attentively to this feedback, and then react accordingly.”
“Many resources have been dedicated to worthy efforts such as the Justice Reinvestment Initiative and other efforts to enhance trauma-informed justice,” said Turner Bitton, Executive Director UCASA. “However, that process has often focused on offenders and not victims. This legislation is a critical first step in resolving that disparity and expanding the opportunities for victims of sexual assault. We are pleased to support this great legislation."
Members of the workgroup include the Commission on Criminal & Juvenile Justice (CCJJ); The Utah Office for Victims of Crime (UOVC); The Office on Domestic and Sexual Violence; the Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault (UCASA); Turner Bitton, executive director at UCASA; Amy Coombs, M.S.W, CSWM; Jenny Livsey, crime victim/survivor; Rhiannon Livsey, crime victim/survivor; Donna Kelly, deputy district attorney, Salt Lake City; and Gary Scheller, director of the UOVC.
Sen. Escamilla and Rep. Ivory will continue to work on this bipartisan issue to pass legislation that will meet the expressed needs of survivors of crime victims, such as Jenny Livsey and her family, during the 2018 General Session.