Abstract: Exploring Experiences of Trauma and Race-Based Trauma through a Community Needs and Resources Assessment (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

726P Exploring Experiences of Trauma and Race-Based Trauma through a Community Needs and Resources Assessment

Sunday, January 19, 2020
Marquis BR Salon 6 (ML 2) (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
* noted as presenting author
Shantel Crosby, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Louisville, Louisville, KY
Heather Storer, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Louisville, Louisville, KY
Steven Kniffley, PsyD, Assistant Professor, Spalding University, Louisville, KY
Jennifer Middleton, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Louisville, Louisville, KY
Background and Purpose: Increased attention has been paid to the importance of trauma-informed and healing-centered practices and approaches in clinical and organizational settings. However, to date, there has been limited investigation of upstream community-level approaches to nurturing the development of trauma resilient communities. Furthermore, the existing literature has minimized the contextualized experiences of race-based trauma in communities of color. Although experiences of trauma are prevalent across demographic groups, research suggests that individuals from socially disadvantaged groups endure the highest burden of traumatic experiences and abuse. Studies have consistently documented that the accumulation of traumatic experience has a significant impact on long-term health and well-being. Evidence suggests that inequities in health outcomes are the product of upstream factors such as high rates of racial discrimination and structural violence, and features of the built environment. Using two resource poor communities in Louisville as case studies, the purpose of the present study is to present findings from community-based focus groups on barriers and opportunities to implementing structural and systemic improvements to facilitate the development of a trauma resilient community. 

Methods: This study was informed by tenets of Community Based Participatory Research, which delineates principles for the meaningful inclusion of community voice in change initiatives. Focus groups were conducted with mix-gender adolescents and adult community members (n=32) who live and/or work in two urban communities in Louisville with high levels of racial segregation, economic disadvantage, and multidimensional adversity. Participants were recruited from professional networks, social media, and local social service agencies. Focus groups were audio recorded, transcribed, systematically coded and analyzed using thematic content analysis to identify central themes relevant across all cases. 

Results: Across the focus groups, participants described myriad experiences of community and race-based trauma. Participants conceptualized trauma as having a long-term impact on community members, contributing to significant fear and hypervigilance. They predominantly employed individual and deficit explanations of the antecedents of community trauma, citing a lack of parental involvement and poor decision making by community members. Themes regarding barriers to accessing services included the stigma associated with mental health services and a mistrust of service providers perceived to be culturally non-responsive.   

Conclusions and Implications: This study provides an overview of the meaning-making processes of community members from two racially and economically marginalized, urban areas.  Given that the goal of this initiative is to facilitate the development of a trauma resilient community through a combination of interventions across the ecosystem, the community’s use of predominantly individual and family-level explanations of community issues presents a critical opportunity for reflection. Strategies for facilitating consciousness-raising regarding structural determinants will be discussed, as well as approaches for centering complex dual narratives of the individual and the collective into systems change efforts.