Trauma Informed Sexual Assault Investigation Training


Trauma Informed Sexual Assault Investigation Training

The Trauma Informed Sexual Assault Investigation Training provides law enforcement and multi-disciplinary community partners with information on the neurobiology of trauma and investigative strategies to respond to sexual assault crimes in a victim centered, trauma informed manner.


With funding from the Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women (OVW), the IACP conducted the Trauma Informed Sexual Assault Investigation Training for over 2,200 participants with 38 on-site training events held from 2014 through 2020.

Approximately 1 in 3 women and 1 in 6 men have experienced sexual violence in their lifetime. However, around 67.5% of rape/sexual assault victims do not report their victimization to police.

The IACP is pleased to announce that the Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) recently refunded the Trauma Informed Sexual Assault Investigation Training. The IACP conducted training for over 2,100 participants with 38 on-site training events held from 2014 through 2020 and we look forward to holding many more events over the next few years.

At present, crimes of sexual assault go vastly under reported and perpetrators continue undetected. The goal of the Trauma Informed Sexual Assault Investigation Training program is to strengthen the capacity of law enforcement to provide effective response to victims of sexual assault while simultaneously holding offenders accountable. The training provides information on the neurobiological impact of trauma, the influence of societal myths and stereotypes, understanding perpetrator behavior, and conducting effective investigations. 

Training Objectives

At the completion of the two-day Trauma Informed Sexual Assault Investigation Training, law enforcement officers are able to:

  1. Describe how specific experiences impact victim trauma, memory, reactions and behavior and how officer interpretation of this behavior impacts sexual assault investigations.

  2. Explain how key decisions made by law enforcement impact the progression of a sexual assault investigation.

  3. Understand that victim disclosure often occurs in pieces over time and identify strategies for working with victims to facilitate trust and communication.

  4. Employ strategies that postpone judgment regarding the validity of a case until a thorough investigation is completed.

  5. Identify investigative methods and techniques that focus on offender behavior.

  6. Conduct victim interviews and document sexual assault cases utilizing physical, psychological and sensory evidence to effectively build a strong case.

  7. Recognize potential sources of officer bias and ways to mitigate its impact on reports.

  8. Make case coding and clearing decisions based on analysis of evidence identified through a thorough investigation.

Additional Resources

Dr. Rebecca Campbell (BJA)

The following webinar series features Dr. Rebecca Campbell, a Professor of Psychology at Michigan State University presenting for the BJA Sexual Assault Kit Initiative Training and Technical Assistance (SAKITTA) project. She presents on the neurobiology of traumatic events, its emotional and physical manifestation, and how these processes can impact the investigation and prosecution of sexual assaults. The webinar series is located at: 

Dr. David Lisak (ACASA), Neurobiology of Trauma Presentation  

Dr. Rebecca Campbell (Joyful Heart Foundation), Article on Fight, Flight, or Freeze Response (Tonic Immobility)

Anna Möller, Hans Peter Söndergaard, Lotti Helström, Study on Tonic Immobility During Sexual Assault

For more information on the training events or the initiative, contact Rachel Apfelbaum at or 703-647-6843.


1. The Center for Disease Control (CDC), The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey: 2010-2012 State Report, 2016.

2. Jennifer L. Truman, and Rachel E. Morgan, Criminal Victimization, 2015, U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2016,

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