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MSUPD hosts trauma-informed conference for law enforcement

Helping professionals – such as law enforcement, attorneys and other community partners – understand the impact of trauma and how they can provide support to survivors of sexual assault and relationship violence was the goal of a recent conference hosted by Michigan State University Police Department’s Center for Trauma-Informed Investigative Excellence.

The two-day conference, titled “A Multi-Disciplinary Trauma-Informed Response to Sexual Assault Investigations,” featured powerful testimonies from sexual assault survivors and activists as well as presentations from several nationally recognized trauma and sexual assault experts from MSU and across the country.

Among the speakers were:

• Sterling Riethman – survivor and activist
• Brenda Tracy – survivor, founder of Set the Expectation
• Chief Thomas R. Tremblay, retired consultant and trainer
• Angela Povilaitis – staff attorney, Michigan Domestic and Sexual Violence Treatement and Prevention Board
• Marisa Kwiatkowski – investigative reporter, USA Today
• Robika Garner – senior information manager and special legal analyst, Drew, Cooper & Anding

“By expanding our multi-disciplinary teams and training together on a trauma-informed approach, we can provide an experience for survivors that is more informed about options and more supportive in navigating several processes that, while intended to be helpful, can feel very overwhelming to someone experiencing trauma,” said MSU Police Lt. Andrea Munford, also a presidential adviser on relationship violence and sexual misconduct, and conference organizer.

Conference participants, who came from Michigan, other Big Ten universities and the greater Lansing community, not only were taught about supporting survivors but how advocates, law enforcement, institutions and others can work together more efficiently in responding to sexual assaults.

For example, Tremblay introduced the concept of a Sexual Assault Response Team, which is a group of specially trained members that work together to provide services to sexual assault survivors and investigate cases for criminal prosecution.

“This [SART] team was organized to make the process more trauma-informed, create access to more resources and be less harmful to survivor’s,” said Tremblay.

This was the first time MSU hosted this conference since the Center for Trauma Informed Investigative Excellence was created in 2018. The organization was created to provide training in best practices to further the use of Trauma Informed Investigation techniques in support of survivors.