New legislation in New Jersey will now require police officers to get sexual assault training every 3 years. Efforts to enact this legislation were spearheaded by the New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault (NJCASA) and based on applying a trauma informed lens to sexual assault.
In an interview about the legislation, Patricia Teffenhart, Executive Director of NJCASA explains:
Sexual assault is highly traumatic thing that happens to people. It’s actually recognized as the second most violent crime, the first of which is murder, so the traumatic response that a survivor experiences looks and feels different for every survivor. There’s no cookie cutter response that someone should expect. So to train law enforcement on understanding the trauma response that a survivor might have, and to help them respond affirmingly and with sympathy and with understanding, that the trauma impacts the way someone affect presents, or the way they recount their story, is critically important. And I think one of the things that’s also really important is that in New Jersey if I’m the victim of a sexual assault and I wish to get immediate crisis response I can activate what’s called a sexual assault response team. And that’s comprised or three different components: both a forensic nurse examiner, a member of the law enforcement community and a confidential sexual violence advocate, which comes from one of our county-based rape crisis centers. Nurses have extensive annual training and ongoing training. Confidential sexual violence advocates, by mandate, also have a minimum of 40 hours of training and ongoing training from our rape crisis centers. Law enforcement was the missing piece. Prior to this bill being signed into law, law enforcement professions only had to receive sexual violence training while they were in the academy. So there’s obviously a lot that changes over time as we learn about the neurobiology of trauma. It’s a great opportunity for them to keep up the pace.