It’s an exciting time for Help Now of Osceola County. It has been chosen, as one of three Florida organizations, to be part of a trauma-informed services pilot project.

And so, with October being National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Help Now Executive Director Tammy Douglass used the group’s annual domestic violence conference to bring forth experts in the field on the subject.

Friday’s tenth annual local summit meeting was attended by Osceola Regional representatives and a cross-section of the county’s support systems — shelters, the court system, medical providers, and more.

The idea was to inform those supporters on the signs of trauma, and how to best deal with what victims are going through.

“It’s about establishing procedures for domestic-violence trauma response,” Douglass said. “Trauma is a buzz word and a starting place for community experts.”

In past years, Help Now’s annual conference centered on subjects like child abuse, elder abuse, cyberbullying, pet abuse, and how to identify them. The trauma pilot project, and the state funds that have arrived to implement it, helped shape this year’s event.

In order to help form a trauma-informed approach for some of the first people that those in the throes of a violent relationship might encounter, Friday’s attendees heard from a panel of domestic violence survivors, who could give a first-hand description of the trauma involved in landing in, then climbing out of, their situations.

Before that, field experts like Shena Kitt, a community response coordinator with the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence, spoke. She discussed the impact of trauma on the lives of survivors and the ways it manifests itself.

She said, when trying to reach a traumatized person, the line of questions should not be on, “What is wrong with you?’ and more toward, “What happened to you?” — because knowing the “What” of the past helps address the “How” of the future.

Often times, a victim buries their trauma under a series of layers and, like peeling an onion, care givers have to peel back those layers to reach the source.

Natalie Mullett, the director of business development and performance for Park Place Behavioral Center in Kissimmee, spoke of providing therapy in a safe environment — which can become a complex issue when trauma is coupled with substance abuse and disorder with intimate partner violence that can bring its connections coercion, recovery and violence issues. 

Since survivors of domestic violence will likely need representation in court, Maris Jose Fletcher, the founder of VIDA Legal Assistance, discussed how to apply trauma-informed principles in legal context. Topical because immigration issues are now a hot topic now for those who lack citizenship and fear deportation through ICE, Fletcher gave advice on how to identify those challenges and develop ways to respond to victims’ legal needs.

If you, or someone you know need more information on Help Now, and the services it provides call