Effects of Trauma

"Understanding trauma and its impacts on survivors of sexual violence, and their families and networks, is a powerful tool in supporting the healing journey."
Toah Nnest 1

TOAH-NNEST is a national network of those providing specialist services for sexual violence prevention and intervention, from NGOs to individual specialists in whānau, hapu, iwi, families and communities across New Zealand.

The brief was to produce a clear and easy to understand animation showing the effects of trauma on the brain, targeted at clients, carers, support practitioners and agencies. Highlighting a self-care model based on the te whare tapa whā’ – the model of Māori health was also important.

A script and visual story were co-created with experienced crisis support workers, with the animated storyboard reviewed at workshops across NZ. The goal was to show in simple terms, with neutral characters using a gentle, calming tone that what someone may be experiencing is a normal reaction to an abnormal situation.

The final animation covers what is trauma, how the brain works, common reactions and trauma responses, with social connectedness and self-care as positive coping mechanisms.

The first use of animation after publication was for a workshop with a group of High Court Judges in New Zealand to explain why information, motion, and memory can be affected by a traumatic experience.

Since publishing the animation Effects of Trauma on the Brain has been chosen by a major international health organisation for use in their health programmes:

“Your animation really hit the mark, due to a number of reasons:


• Since our audience is individuals who will be training health providers and providers themselves, it was important for us to have a connection to a biological system (the brain explanation was great).

• English is not a first language for most and the narration was at a good pace and clear

• Because our training includes disclosure of violence, some of the imagery and explanation of someone trying to put words to their trauma is something our providers struggle with

• The danger response that goes beyond just fight-or-flight is incredibly valuable, especially for our providers who struggle to understand why a survivor of violence had a particular response in the moment

• The imagery, especially the cut outs of people, works for a diverse audience. Too often, we are showing videos of white Americans to colleagues in Africa and Asia and asking them to relate

• Self-care and coping is also a module within our training and we liked introducing this concept early when the video discussed ways for trauma survivors to take care of themselves (our providers experience plenty of secondary trauma)
• It was not too long and did not get overly technical

• Additionally, we have heard from providers that working with clients within HIV programs can be stressful. We are hoping the video shines a new light on trauma responses. 

This resource is intended for educational purposes in sexual violence prevention and response, provided TOAH-NNEST is credited. They welcome opportunities for collaboration to adapt this resource to other contexts – contact [email protected]