Often, when we speak to community members about the work Blackburn Center does in Westmoreland County, they are surprised to hear about the scope and depth of our services. Most people who know about Blackburn associate us with our emergency shelter for victims of domestic violence, or possibly our hotline, or maybe our community awareness programs. While these resources are an important part of our mission, they tell only part of the story of what we’re trying to achieve in Westmoreland County. There are two core concepts that drive Blackburn Center’s work: primary prevention and trauma expertise. Today, we would like to explore how we have built an expertise in trauma over the past 39 years, and how we use a trauma-informed approach to help victims of domestic and sexual violence.
The word trauma is used to describe experiences or situations that are emotionally painful and distressing, and that overwhelm people’s ability to cope, leaving them powerless. A person who has experienced domestic or sexual violence has endured a trauma in her or his life, which is why it is so critical that the services they receive are sensitive to this reality.
At Blackburn Center, all services to victims/survivors are trauma-informed. This approach emphasizes emotional, psychological and physical safety for clients. It also employs the core principles of trust, choice, collaboration and empowerment. This approach to treatment goes beyond simply providing a safe place to stay or assistance in obtaining legal or medical services. A trauma-informed perspective asks clients not “What is wrong with you?” but instead, “What happened to you?”
Counseling methods across all types of services at Blackburn Center incorporate an understanding of how trauma affects the life of a survivor of domestic or sexual violence, and a sensitivity to the triggers or vulnerabilities of domestic or sexual violence survivors. This supportive approach avoids re-traumatization and helps the survivor rebuild a sense of control and empowerment. The agency’s policies and procedures are victim-centered, with client goals established by the survivor, not by the counselor.
The combination of Blackburn Center’s unwavering commitment to confidentiality and anonymity in our services, coupled with our decades of trauma expertise, make us uniquely qualified to provide the care and services survivors of violence need to heal from that trauma. This impact can be seen in the consistently positive outcomes we see in all the services we provide. If you need help (or if you know somebody who does), please call us at 1-888-832-2272 or 1-724-836-1122. Our hotline is open 24/7, and is free, confidential and can be anonymous.