New training could help with violence and abuse care

The state of Alaska experiences some of the highest rates of domestic violence and sexual assault and abuse in the nation, yet most health care personnel are not trained to document and collect medical evidence crucial for aiding victims of assault and abuse. Creators of the Alaska Comprehensive Forensic Training Academy, who visited Wrangell last week, are trying to bridge the gap in training.

ACFTA provides free training to nurses and health care providers that “teaches medical providers the correct way to collect forensic evidence from the onset of care, as well as the necessary knowledge and skills to offer dignity and respect to any victim reporting trauma and or violence in Alaska’s communities.”

Academy personnel met with health care professionals and community members in Wrangell on June 18 to give a presentation on their training program, which includes 20 to 25 hours of online coursework and 20 to 25 hours of live instruction via Zoom.

Following the presentation, they opened the floor up to feedback from about a dozen community members on how the training could be best utilized in Wrangell.

Every community in Alaska has its own unique issues and resources, said Angelia Trujillo, a nursing professor at the University of Alaska Anchorage who gave the presentation June 18. Providing necessary training is important, but it’s also important to tailor the training to specific communities so that people are actually able to get the training they need and use it effectively.

Trujillo and Kathi Trawver are currently visiting 20 communities across the state to host meetings like they did in Wrangell.

Part of their work, and their reason for visiting Wrangell, was to collect data on challenges and issues in individual communities in order to continue funding training that actually works. Their goal is to tailor the training to Wrangell so that it can be brought to health care personnel here.

Trawver asked community members what their concerns were, what they thought might be missing in the training, what the community needs and how to get people to buy into and participate in the training.

Community members shared the importance of making sure the training aligned with practices within the community, addressing shortages of administrative help, time constraints of documentation and paperwork and addressing the occasional lack of confidentiality in such a small town.

There are programs in the state designed to protect women and children from domestic and sexual abuse, but for other demographics and other forms of abuse, there are gaps in care.

“The general public needs to feel confident in their health care personnel responding to their needs, and feeling safe when they go in there, and feeling heard,” Trujillo said. “When you have providers who haven’t had training or don’t know what to say or how to ask, it doesn’t make a person feel comfortable or confident in sharing something very personal.”

Trujillo said a broader approach is necessary to address the gaps in care. The skills required to document, collect evidence and talk to victims are more or less the same regardless of the type of violence or abuse victims face. So providing training to deal with cases of violence in general can be extremely beneficial.

The goal of the program is to “have a critical mass of health care persons able to respond to all victims,” she said.

“So many people are such advocates for themselves now, this is another realm of advocacy.” Trujillo said. “It’s like, ‘wait a minute, I want my health care provider to know how to do that.’ People should encourage and push health care to be responsive to all of their needs, not just some of them.”


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