321 – The Toolkit For Building Survivor Informed Organizations Part 2, with Crystal Bennett

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Crystal Bennett returns to join Dr. Sandie Morgan for part 2 of their conversation about how the Toolkit for Building Survivor Informed Organizations integrates effective strategies and builds assessment measures.

Crystal Bennett

Crystal Bennett is a seasoned professional serving as the Deputy Director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility, and Special Initiatives at the Office of Trafficking in Persons’ National Human Trafficking Training and Technical Assistance Center. With a rich background in social justice, advocacy, and community engagement, Crystal is dedicated to fostering inclusive environments and advancing initiatives that combat human trafficking.

Main Points

  • An organization’s job postings should be intentional, explicitly stating its  commitment to SAMHSA’s 6 Guiding Principles to a Trauma-Informed Approach.
  • The toolkit encourages the implementation of reflective supervision practices within an organization. This means that there should be opportunity for collaboration and building relations between supervisor and supervisee.
  • Reflection supervision enhances collaboration and the choices that an employee has, creating trust and extending greater control for the person who is being supervised.
  • It’s essential that a person with lived experience has control over their own story and how it is shared. The sharing of one’s story should have a purpose and shouldn’t be simply providing shock value or sensationalizing an issue.



Sandra Morgan 0:14
Welcome to the Ending Human Trafficking podcast here at Vanguard University’s Global Center for Women and Justice in Orange County, California. My name is Dr. Sandie Morgan and this is the show where we empower you to study the issues, be a voice, and make a difference in ending human trafficking. We are back with part two of our episode exploring The Toolkit For Building Survivor Informed Organizations. We’re having a wonderful conversation with Crystal Bennett, a seasoned professional, serving as the Deputy Director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility, and Special Initiatives at NHTTAC. I’m not going to do her whole bio again because if you missed the last episode, you have to go back and listen to it. Crystal, thank you so much for coming back, ‘m really excited to dig in again today.

Crystal Bennet 1:23
I’m excited to be back, Sandie.

Sandra Morgan 1:26
All right. Well, we looked at the first six chapters, we looked at the framework, and we understand that this is a critical toolkit that provides opportunity for assessment along the way. So your organization should be thinking, as you look at this, to do the assessments that populate every chapter, and then in six months go back and do it again. And in a year, do it again, because we can do better when we know better, but we’re more likely to do better if we measure our progress. We’re going to jump in to chapter seven, and talk about human resource development and training. I think this was one of the most insightful chapters for me, Crystal, because I’ve been around a long time, I’ve heard a lot of the content. But this particular approach with going beyond the walls of my center, and going to our human resources, and making sure this is part of onboarding. So talk to us about how that helps with our culture shift.

Crystal Bennet 2:59
Absolutely, Sandie. I would say chapter seven is probably the longest chapter in the toolkit, which I think really emphasizes the importance when we’re thinking about our recruitment processes, our hiring practices, our onboarding protocols, and our training processes, and making sure that every single component of each of those has those guiding principles integrated throughout. Just to remind us about those guiding principles, based on SAMHSA’s six principles of a trauma informed approach, safety, trustworthiness, transparency, peer support, collaboration and mutuality, empowerment, voice and choice, and cultural, historical, and gender considerations. What that looks like is, when we’re thinking about our job postings, our salaries the way that we interview, the questions that we ask, our background screening processes, our training, our supervision, is that those should be integrated throughout each of those, and be very intentional. We first look at our hiring practices and the way that we recruit. This is where you want to assess your job postings, and are your job postings intentional around explicitly stating your organization’s commitment to those guiding principles? Because there should be no surprises when an employee or a potential employee applies for a position and then learns that there are these expectations to be trauma informed, to be person centered, to be equity focused. When we’re looking at creating those job postings, do we find that salary transparency is practiced? So somebody who’s applying can look at the salary range and determine for themselves if they would then want to apply. Having salary transparency also helps to mitigate any inequities in salaries when we’re thinking about individuals from minoritized and marginalized communities that when there is not a salary range listed, and a potential employer ask somebody how much money they would like to make, is that oftentimes we find that individuals from marginalized communities will potentially lowball themselves because there have been situations throughout our history in which we find that marginalized folks just have not experienced being valued and compensated accordingly. We also want to look at what are the requirements to support the potential employment of people, particularly people with lived experience, in looking at the possibility of creating exemptions for those with criminal history or removing drug testing requirements? Do our job descriptions demonstrate that we value not only learned experience, but lived experience? Then that creates some opportunity to replace a particular amount of lived or professional experience. So an example that’s provided in the toolkit is perhaps you have a job posting, where you would like someone with a master’s degree in social work. However, that requirement might be met by having someone who has a bachelor’s degree in a related area, and maybe experience in the field, or has lived experience, as we think about that as well. Looking at where are we recruiting? So where are we advertising positions? Do we have relationships with culturally specific schools? Historically, black colleges and universities? Colleges and universities that serve tribal communities? Making sure that we’re really expansive and thinking about where are we recruiting? What organizations might we be able to partner with, organizations that work specifically with individuals with lived experience of trafficking, such as the Survivor Alliance, National Survivor Network, also using non traditional methods of approaching. Again, just aligning with all of our guiding principles as we’re thinking about our recruitment, as we’re looking at how our job postings are written, as we’re creating opportunities for training, where we’re thinking about what is the baseline that we would want someone to come in, in terms of their knowledge or expertise around these trauma informed principles? And then where can we really enhance knowledge and expertise through our training, and through our support in ensuring that people have adequate understanding of safety and crisis protocols, that they receive training and support on trauma, trauma reactions, and creating a trauma informed culture within an organization? Lastly, when we’re thinking about professional development, is creating opportunities where continuing education, and perhaps certification is available, where an agency may be able to provide some sort of financial assistance for team members to pursue additional training opportunities, and certifications to ultimately support what their broader career goals might be.

Sandra Morgan 8:35
So one of the questions that has kind of nagged at me since I read this a few months ago, is the concept of supervision, trauma-informed supervision. I’ve been hiring survivors for a very long time, as when it has been part of different work study programs, all of that, and the trauma informed piece has been a learn as you go process. How do you advise an HR department to do trauma informed supervision training?

Crystal Bennet 9:21
Absolutely. I know this also kind of falls into both the HR chapter as well as the wellness chapter. I would certainly encourage organizations to implement reflective supervision practices. When we think about reflective supervision practices, that means that when an employee and a supervisor are meeting for their regular one on ones, is that it’s not just for the purpose of learning about the employees progress on a particular project that they’re working on, but that it’s an opportunity to build relationship, again based on one of your favorite words Sandie, collaboration. When we are creating a supervisor-supervisee relationship through reflective supervision, is that this enhances collaboration and enhances the choices that employees have. It creates trust and it also extends greater control for the person who’s being supervised. Some of the components of reflective supervision include just reflective listening. Reflective listening is we’re creating the space to hear the stories of those that were supervising, and then we’re reflecting to make sure that we can capture the essence accurately of, “Hey, what I heard you say is…,” or, “Can you help me understand a little bit more about on one hand, I hear you say that you really enjoy working out in the community and interacting with people. But on the other hand, it sounds like the work is really heavy and you feel overburdened, or you feel overwhelmed at times,” and really being able to bring emotion into it. I know, early on in my career, I was kind of taught to leave your personal life at the door and just come into the workplace, and that there’s no place for emotion. But I think when we really are creating a trauma informed culture, is that we create that space for emotion, knowing that people are people, and even though we might be working with people who’ve experienced trauma, those that work within our organizations, are people as well, so we all have instances in which maybe we have a history of trauma, or we are experiencing just instances in our daily life that are traumatic. Being able to ask, “How is the work impacting you as the person and as you’re working with people, what are the thoughts and the feelings that come up? How are you making sure that you’re able to really honor those feelings and to create the space to dissipate some of those strong feelings, so that they’re not being held in the body?” Then, through supervision, is that it’s okay for us to share times where maybe we felt nervous, or we felt frustrated, and bringing that humanity into that space. Also just asking people what are the most stressful parts of the job? Or where did they find joy? And what are they proud of? Because a lot of the times in the work that people do when working with folks who have experienced trauma, we fail to take time to find joy, and sometimes all we see is the trauma, but people are more than their trauma. We have to not only consider what’s happened to somebody, but also consider what’s right with somebody, and how do we really center those strengths and that joy?

Sandra Morgan 13:06
I love that! That just slides us right into chapter eight.

Crystal Bennet 13:11
It was not intentional.

Sandra Morgan 13:14
You’re just that good.

Crystal Bennet 13:16
Yeah, so chapter eight is all about wellness. It’s interesting that there is a separate chapter for it, and I think just like we’re talking about these trauma informed principles being integrated throughout, is wellness is really integrated throughout all of the sections of the toolkit. As I think about wellness, again, I’ll bring my quotes back in the space, but a really amazing quote that I literally have printed and it sits in front of me by Nikita Valerio is, “Shouting ‘self-care’ at people who actually need community care is how we fail people.”

Sandra Morgan 13:58
Say that one more time, because somebody driving is like, ‘where do I pull over?’

Crystal Bennet 14:03
Yes, “Shouting ‘self-care’ at people who actually need community care is how we fail people.”

Sandra Morgan 14:13

Crystal Bennet 14:15
Right? I mean, just think about that for a moment and think about how many times we place the onus of responsibility on the shoulders of an individual person for their own well being. That’s a very individualized approach to self care and to well being. I think really, to truly honor wellness and to truly maintain staff retention, satisfaction, buy- in, and good emotional, mental, and physical health for everyone that we’re working with, is that we have to do more to wrap around people as a community. This really looks at not just encouraging people to take time, but in the assessment, it’s really asking you as an organization to evaluate, how does your organization create space for some of that self care? How does an organization create space so that maybe people who need a little bit more time or are going through something don’t feel stigmatized, but feel encouraged? And that as an organization, as a supervisor, we’re taking time to address vicarious trauma, and burnout, and compassion fatigue, and that we’re really again, wrapping our arms around our team where perhaps team members are able to engage in some wellness together, and create that community and camaraderie together, through some initiatives that are supported by the organization to make sure that there’s flexibility, there’s time to connect with others, there’s times to just pause and hold space for people. And when people do take time off, how do we help to cover some of the responsibilities and tasks that people might have on their plate, so that people don’t come back in from PTO, perhaps wishing that they’d never taken time off because they’re walking back in to all of the work that was left for them while they were on leave.

Sandra Morgan 16:41
I love that one of the assessments, and you have to answer “no, never, occasionally, yes, always,” is “Does staff receive training on vicarious trauma, secondary traumatic stress, and how to develop healthy coping skills?” I think you remember that my background is nursing. I used to take call in the operating room, and if there was a car accident, something really over the top, unexpected, once the emergency had passed, the whole team that responded came back together, walked through how they processed, what they did, affirmed each other, and took time for that reflection. There’s no blood and guts here, so I just pack up my computer and go home. I love that this is intentional, and maybe this is going to be the first assessment I do. I’m already starting to plan the next academic year. That would probably help me a lot in chapter nine with Trauma Informed Supervision. I always get ahead of myself and want you to answer questions before we get to that chapter.

Crystal Bennet 18:04
Absolutely. I think we’ve already talked a lot about this when we thought about HR and wellness, so I certainly won’t regurgitate what we’ve already talked about. But trauma informed supervision is key when we’re thinking about opportunities to reflect on our organization’s mission, vision, and culture, and to receive feedback from staff. That’s what I really want to emphasize, is that in the toolkit, it talks about supervision as a way to receive feedback from staff. I really just want listeners to reflect on their experience with supervision, because I think oftentimes, when I think about my own experience in history with supervision, is that I’ve believed that supervision was for me to receive feedback from my supervisor. So really making that shift around how do we engage in supervision, almost through the lens of like a 360 degree, where it’s based again on that mutuality, where there’s an opportunity for supervisors to touch in with team members, and to touch in on progress on projects, and to talk about how the work is impacting the employee, and how do we find that the guiding principles are being implemented into the work. There’s the opportunity for individuals who are the supervisee to also share back with the supervisor around how is the work impacting them? What’s the impact of policies, or procedures, or opportunities for us to create change and continue to do our work in a better and a different way? Supervision, especially when we’re looking at the lens of an individual with lived experience being part of our team, is important to move someone who may have been a client into a staff roll, or someone who has received services previously, even outside of our agencies, but are coming in to our organizations as a newer team member, that how are we really investing in our team members to provide opportunities for growth and development, and building on opportunities for growth while also acknowledging the strengths that our team members already have, and finding ways where those strengths can be centered so that people feel like they’re able to do their work autonomously, and with that sense of pride? It’s not just about looking at growth areas, but really, is supporting our team to continue to build upon their own strengths. In this section, you’ll also see a piece around promoting wellness. Again, as a supervisor, how are we modeling taking care of ourselves? That’s one area that I can definitely say, even for myself and various positions that I’ve held as a supervisor, is that I don’t always do well at creating the space for myself to take self-care. I can’t push a staff member to care for themselves, if they’re watching me not take care of myself, and so that modeling is so instrumental to make sure that you know, we’re practicing what we are preaching, so that we’re setting boundaries, and also encouraging all team members to set those boundaries.

Sandra Morgan 21:59
Okay, I’m going work on that, I promise. Next time I talk to you.

Crystal Bennet 22:03
Am I speaking directly to you, Sandie?

Sandra Morgan 22:05
Yes, you are, ma’am. Another thing about the toolkit that I want to tell people is, particularly at the end of each chapter, there is a resource box. Because this was an area of greater concern for me, I spent some time looking at the links on trauma informed supervision. It included the American Psychological Association and their practices, trauma informed attunement and self assessment in supervision, just some resources, and that happens in every chapter. Okay, moving along to chapter 10, ‘When you’re moving from program participant, to agency representative.’ Oh my goodness! This is where sometimes the collision happens, and we want to protect people from any harm. So walk us through chapter 10.

Crystal Bennet 23:13
Absolutely. When I think about my career, and I think about a lot of people that are doing not just anti-trafficking work, but a lot of work in which we’re working with folks who have experienced trauma, I think that many of us have our own histories of trauma. That’s really what this particular section is about, is how do we move someone who maybe has had their own trauma, particularly with trafficking, and has been a client, to now helping them to transition into being an employee, or a consultant, or a volunteer, while realizing that our services or the services that the person is engaging with, need to take precedence? It’s really important that this section is about looking at what ethical violations might exist? How do we make sure that we’re very clear around the boundaries? And again, how do we evaluate our culture to make sure that our organization is trauma informed, that there are policies and processes that are in place to support a client’s transition? Making sure confidentiality, right? If we’re working with someone who was a client and is now coming alongside us as a team member, is there absolute confidentiality maintained, if we have knowledge or if we’ve learned about the provision? Compensation. Again, compensation is important because we go back to that word that we talked about in the very first part of this podcast. We don’t want to tokenize people, we don’t want to harm people. Oftentimes there are naturally power imbalances that exist when you are in the position to provide services, and we want to make sure that we’re mitigating those power imbalances, and not providing a situation in which someone feels like they can’t tell us ‘no.’ I know that the next chapter will talk about the marketing media, but also in this chapter, which is a really good segue into chapter 11, is that you’ll find a call-out box. When we think about empowering survivors, there is a call-out box that talks about asking a program participant to speak at a speaking engagement, and how that creates a dual relationship between being a helping professional, and then also trying to provide an employment opportunity that might make it difficult, or virtually impossible for that client to feel like they can actually say, ‘no.’ Because they don’t want to disappoint you as the person who is providing services, or the organization, and have that impact the ability for them to continue to receive services.

Sandra Morgan 26:13
Let’s go into that next chapter where that overlap is. I feel like you have access to my calendar and you have seen these challenges happen. How can I make sure that a survivor team member always is able to say no, without fear of any loss of appreciation in our friendship and our working relationship? How do I do that?

Crystal Bennet 26:50
Yeah. The good news is you have an entire assessment there in chapter 11. But I think it really boils down to the principles of ethical storytelling. I certainly would encourage folks, I think I mentioned the National Survivor Network previously, that there are resources available through the National Survivor Network, around ethical storytelling, and certainly many other resources out there. I don’t want to negate any of the other resources that are out there. But we want to make sure that people that we are potentially asking to share their story, are the owners of their story. We really need to ask ourselves, what is the purpose, and why we’re asking someone to share the story? Is it because of some benefit to that person and that it might feel empowering to them? Or is there some benefit to us in asking someone to share their story? We should never be asking someone to share their story in a way where it’s to sensationalize an issue, or create shock value, or can create in all honesty, secondary trauma to the audience. Also, when we think about storytelling, we have to think about, in what ways are we asking someone to share their story? An example that I would use is, do we want someone to share their story in a way that our organization looks like the hero, looks like the rescuer, looks like that if it wasn’t for us and our services, that perhaps this person would not be in the situation or position that they’re in? That’s really harmful to individuals who’ve experienced the harm, because we are not the heroes here. While we may engage in actions to create pathways to exit or to mitigate some of the barriers, is that people hold power inherent to them. Sometimes, it’s about us creating the space, or moving out of the way so that their power can be centered. We don’t want a story to unintentionally reinforce harmful stereotypes or stigmas that are already out there. So I definitely would encourage that if you are part of an organization that does marketing, or media, or fundraising, or presentations where you are asking individuals to share their stories, that you really take time to look at this assessment and that you’re always creating the space for the individual to remain in control of the ‘when,’ the ‘how,’ the ‘why,’ that they’re sharing that story. That you talk to the individual around what might be the pros and cons, and allow the individual to evaluate the pros and cons of sharing their story. Make sure that anyone who is sharing their story is compensated. That’s essential, and compensated based on comparable positions that are available, and that we’re really focusing on the strength and the healing, and then providing follow up. Because sometimes we think that because someone often speaks about trafficking, and/or their story, that they’re just okay following an event, but going back to being trauma informed, what is the follow up that we have in place? What are the resources and the supports, and potential services that are in place, so that people do have the time and space to process, and decompress, and heal from that experience?

Sandra Morgan 27:03

I think we may need to schedule another podcast interview and talk just about the media implications here, because this assessment, I think anyone who has been doing this for a while already has a media policy, but this should be applied to it to see how you can improve. There is one sentence item on the assessment: “Minors are not asked to share their personal history of exploitation publicly.” This is an area I’ve gone round and round with, on people who say that when I don’t let them, and they really want to, that that takes away their power. How do you answer that question?

Crystal Bennet 31:54

I think that the real question is, is there a way to tell one’s story or to have ownership of one’s experience, in a way where we’re not putting that child, that youth, in front of people? We’re not using their photos, we’re not using one’s name, because we know that so many things that we might do today can have really long term implications, and helping a young person to really process through what could be the safety implications. Helping them understand where it could be re-exploitive, or potentially lead to victimization. But are there other ways that a young person can still share their story and their experience, with us being very cognizant of ways to minimize any inadvertent trauma, or retraumatization, or safety issues? I just recall when I was 16, and I was engaging in some therapy support services. That was really big in the group that I was part of, and the facilitator of the group wanted those of us who were engaging in the group to feel like there was a way for our story to to be put out. We were actually able to create art and to create poetry that was anonymous, that was ultimately compiled into a book, and it was distributed within our local community. To know that was my story, and that that was my poem, was something that provided me voice and to create a sense of pride, without everybody needing to know my name.

Sandra Morgan 33:49
I love that. Earlier we talked about joy and pride, and that is a great note to close this podcast with. Crystal, you exude joy and pride, and this toolkit that you’ve really led, this initiative, is going to be valuable at so many levels, and we’ll recommend it. I’ll call you again, and I want people to find out how to connect with the resources. How do people access this amazing toolkit?

Crystal Bennet 34:30
Yes, great question, Sandie. One of the things I want to mention in regards to the toolkit before we close, is that when you access the toolkit, please take a moment to just look at the acknowledgement page of so many amazing experts who are part of the development and informing the toolkit. Because it definitely takes a team, and I cannot take credit for this toolkit. There are so many folks that were part of its development and ultimate publication. But you can find this toolkit and you can find many, many, many more of the resources including fact sheets, other toolkits, as I mentioned before, online trainings where there are a number of continuing education hours available for certain areas of expertise, and those can be found on our website, which is nhttac.acf.hhs.gov. I’m going to repeat that and spell it out. NHTTAC, which is nhttac.acf.hhs.gov. I hope that you will all find your way to the website and take advantage of so many of the amazing resources available to inform you as you do this important work.

Sandra Morgan 35:54
Crystal, thank you so much. If you’re driving and you couldn’t write that down, don’t worry. When you get to a safe space, go on over to endinghumantrafficking.org and we’ll have that link on the show notes. And you can find other resources we’ve mentioned now, and if you haven’t visited our website before, this is a great time for you to become a subscriber. You’ll receive an email with the show notes every new episode, which is twice a month. And of course, I’ll be back in two weeks for our next conversation.

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