The Observer is a student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame, Saint Mary's & Holy Cross. Learn about us.



Raise Your Voice: Alumna speaks on sexual violence trauma

| Wednesday, April 19, 2023

Over the last few days, the Raise Your Voice Symposium has been successfully educating the Saint Mary’s campus community on the causes and effects of sexual violence.

On Tuesday, a variety of speakers spoke with students and faculty about sexual violence, using their personal experiences and knowledge to emphasize the importance of understanding its impact. Alumna Connie Adams was one of these speakers, running a panel titled “Was That Them or Their Trauma?: Understanding the Impact of Trauma on the Brain.”

Adams graduated from Saint Mary’s in 2008 with a degree in social work and a minor in justice education. She then earned her Master of Social Work (MSW) degree from Washington University in St. Louis and worked as the assistant director of Saint Mary’s Belles Against Violence Office (BAVO) for several years. Returning to her alma mater, she thoroughly explained how our neurological systems perceive trauma and influence the way we react to it. 

Adams spent most of her time talking about the roles that three specific sections of the brain play in traumatic events: the brainstem, the limbic system and the cerebral cortex.

“When we have an experience, our brainstem and our limbic system encounter it first, followed by our cerebral cortex,” she said. “But sometimes when something that happens is a little bit triggering and we have an emotion that becomes pretty strong, there’s no time for our cerebral cortex to really get involved. Our amygdala responds to a situation that it perceives as stressful, and it’s almost as if that cerebral cortex is no longer connected.” 

She later goes on to explain how people will respond to similar situations based on who they are and what they have already experienced in their lives.

“Because we’re all different humans, and how we respond varies, we can have the same type of encounter but it may fall in a different place [on] the spectrum based upon who we happen to be,” she said.

Before answering questions from the audience, Adams mentioned the beneficial resources that people can utilize to get themselves through traumatic events such as sexual violence. 

“Eye Movement Desensitization Therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Somatic Therapy Experiences are psychotherapies that are proven to have an impact on traumatic events,” she said. “Yoga, mindfulness and writing are also things that we as individuals can do that you don’t even have to go outside ourselves to use.”

Liz Baumann, director of Student Involvement and Advocacy, has been an integral part in bringing this three-day event to fruition and is grateful to see it positively impacting others. 

“It’s gone great,” she said. “People have been really showing up, and we’ve had a really wonderful variety of audience members which has been really great and a lot of great participation in all the sessions so I’m excited for the next three.”

While the symposium has had a positive outcome thus far, Baumann also mentioned the tri-campus Take Back the Night event taking place on Wednesday.

“We end tomorrow with Take Back the Night,” she said. “We’ll kick that off at 4:30 on our campus and then continue to Notre Dame for the tri-campus event.“

Tags: , , , ,

About Moira Quinn

Contact Moira