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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 202310 Find in a Library
Title: Impact of Repeated Exposure to Trauma
Journal: Law and Order  Volume:51  Issue:9  Dated:September 2003  Pages:118-123
Author(s): Lynn Atkinson-Tovar
Date Published: September 2003
Page Count: 6
Type: Instructional Material
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This article discusses ways police departments can assist their officers in dealing with two types of trauma that may be experienced by police officers: secondary traumatic stress disorder and vicarious traumatization.
Abstract: Secondary traumatic stress disorder is "the natural consequent behavior and emotions resulting from knowing about a traumatizing event experienced by a significant other." This stress results from helping or wanting to help a traumatized or suffering person. Vicarious traumatization refers to "the transformation in the officer's inner experience resulting from empathic engagement with victim's trauma materials." Through the inevitable participation in traumatic reenactments, the officer is vulnerable through his/her empathic openness to the emotional and spiritual effects of vicarious traumatization. Vicarious traumatization is unique to police officers and other crisis workers because of their frequent contact with human suffering. This article discusses ways to assess vicarious traumatization. It notes that the worst symptom of vicarious traumatization is the loss of a sense of meaning for one's life, a loss of hope and idealism, a loss of connection with others, and a devaluing of one's spirituality. Efforts to cope with such traumatization can in themselves cause the development of problem behaviors, such as drug, sex, food, and gambling addictions. It is incumbent on police executives to help educate their officers about how daily trauma may affect their lives and those around them. The implementation of employee assistance programs or peer counseling is a first step; however, officers are prone to resist assistance from those whom they believe do not understand their unique culture. Officers must be made aware from the outset of their careers of the high risk for and the characteristics of traumatization, as well as the kinds of assistance available to them. Officers should also be trained in constructive prevention and coping strategies.
Main Term(s): Police occupational stress
Index Term(s): Behavior under stress; Police stress training; Stress assessment; Stress management
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