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Secondary traumatic stress in police officers investigating childhood sexual abuse


Published online on


Policing: An International Journal, Volume 41, Issue 5, Page 636-650, October 2018.
Purpose Previous research has indicated that helping professionals working with traumatised individuals are susceptible to adverse effects which can be recognised as secondary traumatic stress (STS). The purpose of this paper is to explore STS in police officer’s investigating childhood sexual abuse (CSA) in the UK. Design/methodology/approach This study employed a cross-sectional, quantitative design. An online questionnaire was completed by 101 Child Abuse Investigation Unit (CAIU) police officers in England and Wales. STS, coping strategies, anxiety, depression and demographic information was collected for all participants. Findings It was indicated that increased exposure to CSA, measured by number of interviews in the past six months, was associated with higher levels of STS. Positive coping strategies, negative coping strategies, anxiety and depression all had a strong, positive relationship with STS. Research limitations/implications This paper is a first step to understanding STS in CAIU police officers in the England and Wales. This area of research remains under-developed and would benefit from further attention in the future. Originality/value This is the first known study of its kind in the UK.