Sexual Violence and the Baker Act
In December, FCASV presented a webinar on "Sexual Violence and the Baker Act". This presentation was the result of several statewide reports, and feedback from sexual violence advocates who reported survivors experiencing different forms of re-traumatization following involuntary exams, otherwise known as the Baker Act.
The Florida Baker Act was created as a response to the overuse of involuntary long-term placements in mental health facilities. Prior to the Baker Act, many people were sent away after displaying signs of trauma. At that time, trauma wasn’t fully understood, and it wasn’t being identified. With the Baker Act, came a new way of thinking. It allowed for intervention when individuals were about to harm themselves or someone else. Assessments could then be provided and outpatient care with wraparound services offered. The goal was to deinstitutionalize mental health by providing comprehensive care that clients needed. This also kept individuals in their communities and allowed them to maintain their rights.
In late 2019, the Florida Department of Children and Families released a report on involuntary examinations of minors that showed the number of exams on this population has more than doubled in the last 17 years. An issue surrounding this is that some survivors are having their trauma responses misread, leading to unnecessary Baker Acts.
There can be confusion about when to Baker Act a survivor of trauma because trauma can look a lot like mental illness. Particularly actions like self-harm. If service providers are working with a survivor who is cutting, that may be part of their coping process and not necessarily a suicidal ideation.
It’s vital for agencies to adopt policies and invite trainings that will meet survivors where they are at on their journey of unpacking trauma. Failure to create this supportive environment may result in misreading trauma responses. This can lead to survivors repeating trauma, having a lack of control/autonomy over their bodies, experiencing distrust of the system, delaying reporting, and delaying healing.
To help build a supportive environment, the following trainings for advocates and supervisors are recommended: Empowerment-based Advocacy, Motivational Interviewing, Crisis Intervention, De-escalation, Harm Reduction, and Positive Youth Development.
Additionally, it is important for leadership to ensure staff have the best and most up to date tools to support trauma work. This can include looking at Intake/Screening tools to ensure they not only ask about past Baker Acts but also make room for personalized safety planning for clients with a history of involuntary exams. Leadership should review and consider existing policies that address who is called when there is a need for a Baker Act. Most policies rely on law enforcement to transport during a crisis but not all survivors feel safe with this service. Within the organization, trauma informed supervision can also create an environment of support for staff and leadership.
Adopting these philosophies, policies, and trainings will strengthen your agency's capacity to work alongside survivors and reduce re-traumatization of those impacted by sexual violence.
40 Hour Adult/Adolescent SANE Training
2/22/2021 - 2/26/2021
The 40 hour SANE Training is geared toward medical professionals: APRNs, RNs, physician assistants and physicians. It is an approved International Association of Forensic Nurses course which adheres to the National Training Standards for Sexual Assault Medical Forensic Examiners for adults and adolescents.
For more information about this training, please visit fcasv.org.
This project was supported by subgrant No. COHK4 awarded by the state administering office for the STOP Formula Grant Program. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this publication/program/exhibition are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the state or the U.S. Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women.