Our goal for advocacy and service provision is to respond to the needs of survivors, loved ones, and their communities. New Jersey’s racially and ethnically diverse residents reflects this spectrum of needs for survivors. During Black History Month, we would like to reflect on some of the unique needs seen across communities of color.

Safe and healthy communities are empowering environments. Exposure to and/or fear of violence impacts the health and wellbeing of communities. There is a growing recognition that trauma is widespread and has a far reaching impact beyond just the individual. Trauma can manifest at the community level within three spheres: the socio-cultural environment, the physical/built environment, and the economic environment. For example, when a community experiences systemic oppression, the stress felt by the community at large is widespread.  This means the environment cannot, or struggles to, meet the basic needs of its residents. Communities of color often experience disproportionately higher levels of community trauma due to intersections of oppression; economic, political, and social isolation.

For those of us engaged in advocacy and social change, we can strive to understand the unique needs of communities of color. For many communities of color, safe spaces play an important role in helping affirm their identities and support healing from both individual and community trauma. Culturally appropriate trauma support can help provide safe spaces for healing. Similarly, if a community has culturally specific organizations, these can be a conduit to access and provide necessary services, given the trust already existing between the community and the culturally specific organization.

What does trauma-informed community change look like?

  • Supporting culturally specific organizations and projects. For communities of color these provide safe spaces for healing in an environment that values their perspectives and contributions.
  • Supporting improvements in community environments that promote safer public spaces for everyone. Availability of safe public spaces can promote increased intra and inter community engagement and interaction.
  • Supporting collaborations that maximize community assets and are community led. These can help communities leverage their shared strengths in community organizing and advocacy for social norms change that promotes safety.

Our advocacy and service provision is founded on affirming the unique needs of each survivor—this should also reflect the needs of diverse communities.  While we work to uproot oppression and rape culture, we must embrace an understanding of oppression at all intersections and be thoughtful in our advocacy to survivors everywhere.