Trauma-Informed Ethics

My latest research explores trauma-informed care from a religious ethics standpoint. Psychological trauma is a spiritually disruptive experience. To accompany someone through the aftermath of trauma, we need to be willing to talk about God. In the article, “Bearing Witness as Social Action: Religious Ethics and Trauma-Informed Response,” I provide guidance for caregivers and other service providers. Trauma-informed care can become a form of social action in solidarity with the survivor. I use the framework “bearing witness” to describe this action.

Keywords: psychological trauma; trauma-informed care; interpersonal trauma; spirituality; bearing witness; religious ethics; solidarity; social action; Judith Herman; relational model; pro-cess theology

This article is a Feature Paper in the inaugural issue of the journal Trauma Care. Feature Papers represent the most advanced research with significant potential for high impact in the field. Feature Papers are submitted upon individual invitation or recommendation by the scientific editors and undergo peer review prior to publication. This type of paper provides an outlook on future directions of research or possible applications.

Table: Bearing Witness in Four Moments

Perspectival MomentMode of TranscendenceMoral Theme  Practice of Social Action  Trauma-Informed Response (SAMHSA)Stage of Trauma Recovery (Judith Herman)
I. Existence    recognitiondignitygrounded beingrealize  overcoming relational barriers
II. Present    empathyloveattentive presencerecognize (identify and name)safety
III. Past    memoryjusticehistorical clarityrespondreconstruction of narrative
IV. Future    imaginationsolidaritymeaningful participationresistreconnection and restoration

Related Publications

“Bearing Witness: A Trauma-Informed Approach to Christian Ethics.” Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion 39 no. 1 (2023): 155–74. doi:10.2979/jfemistudreli.39.1.10.

“Bearing Witness as Social Action: Religious Ethics and Trauma-Informed Response.” Trauma Care 1, no. 1: 49-63.

Bearing Witness in the Kin-dom: Living into the Church’s Moral Witness through Radical Discipleship. New York: United Methodist Women, October 2020. ISBN: 9781952501043.

Teaching Sexuality and Religion in Higher Education: Embodied Learning, Trauma Sensitive Pedagogy, and Perspective Transformation, co-edited by Darryl W. Stephens and Kate Ott. New York: Routledge, 2020.

“Trauma-Informed Pedagogy for the Religious and Theological Higher Education Classroom.” Special issue Reflecting on the Possibilities of Religious Education Research. Religions 11, no. 9 (2020): 449. doi:10.3390/rel11090449.