A Trauma-Informed Approach to Violence Investigation

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Employer liability spans a broad range of potential issues. Even when another employee's acts were intentional - such as when committing an act of violence or psychological abuse against a worker - an employer may still be held liable for the act. By responding to all reports of workplace incidents and implementing trauma-informed investigations, employers and human resource personnel can confront this problem aggressively and promptly to avoid further problems. 

Effects of Workplace Violence 

Physical, psychological, and sexual violence perpetrated in the workplace can create lasting effects. Often victims are deeply traumatized by such acts, leading to significant damage to their emotional and psychological well-being. To managers not informed about these topics, this often looks like a "crazy" employee or group of employees complaining about a plethora of seemingly minor things. When employers do not respond with trauma-informed investigations, investigators may appear insensitive, uninformed and disinterested. Creating this environment can easily make victims feel re-victimized. This approach may cause other victims not to report such incidences, creating a hostile work environment in the process. These situations can further escalate, making victims even more susceptible to harm in the workplace. When employers and human resources managers are not trained on trauma-informed investigations, they may have a lack of understanding about how violence victims react to trauma. This may lead to dismissing reports of victims and not preventing future violence in the workplace. 

Trauma-Informed Investigations

Trauma-informed investigations emphasize responding to reports of  workplace incidents in a direct and sensitive manner that takes into consideration the traumatic effect that these acts had on the victim. Additionally, trauma-informed investigations identify potential triggers so that there is consideration given to the consequences of re-triggering victims. They focus on protecting the emotional and psychological health of victims. These investigations empower victims while reserving judgment against the alleged attacker until all relevant information is uncovered. At the same time, efficient methods are utilized to efficiently conduct an investigation. Trauma-informed investigations should be focused on considering the impact on the victim from the first disclosure of workplace incident until the final decision is made in the matter. These investigations may take longer or be more complicated than usual due to the impact of trauma on the victim. For example, victims frequently have trouble remembering all of the details or may remember details out of order. However, memories may come back in spurts so investigators can respond when new information is available. Employers and human resource managers can often supplement what a victim has said with other non-verbal communication or evidence collection. 

Implementing New Policies 

One of the most effective ways to combat abusive behaviors in the workplace is to implement new policies that address this issue. Policies may be included in a more thorough employee handbook or be stand-alone policies. The emphasis of these investigations should be on providing fair and balanced investigations that consider the potential impact that trauma can have on the victim. Individuals who are responsible for such investigations may be trained on how to conduct fair and balanced investigations. They may learn about the effects of trauma and how it may affect victims.  Professional investigative teams, like the Lynch Law Firm, be able to train key personnel on how to effectively conduct these investigations. 

Cite this article: Lynch, N. (2017). A Trauma-Informed Approach to Violence Investigation. Available: https://www.lynchlf.com/blog/a-trauma-informed-approach-to-violence-investigation/


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