Trauma and the Courts

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Indiana Court Times on June 23, 2016 by Ruth Reichard

Unless they are there for a wedding or an adoption, people rarely come to court for a happy, positive reason. Judges who handle criminal cases involving allegations of spousal or child abuse, sexual assault, or other violent crimes can count on seeing people who have experienced at least one traumatic event in their lifetimes.

But what about judges in drug courts, veterans’ courts, problem-solving courts, or juvenile courts? Indeed, a party to almost any case type—bankruptcy, eviction, domestic relations, malpractice, or collections—could be dealing with the effects of trauma.

When plaintiffs and defendants come to court, wounds from their past can come along with them, manifesting as behaviors that may frustrate judges and lawyers who are not familiar with the dynamics of trauma—who are not, in other words, trauma-informed.