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Empathy, compassion fatigue and burnout in police officers working with rape victims

Turgoose, D; Glover, N; Barker, C; Maddox, L; (2017) Empathy, compassion fatigue and burnout in police officers working with rape victims. Traumatology , 23 (2) pp. 205-213. 10.1037/trm0000118. Green open access

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Abstract

Police officers who work with victims of rape and sexual assault are exposed to severely traumatic material. This study aimed to investigate whether these specialist officers had developed compassion fatigue, secondary traumatic stress and burnout, and whether these variables were associated with trait and situational empathy, an important factor in retaining victim involvement within the prosecution process. The study also piloted a brief training intervention aimed at educating officers about compassion fatigue and ways of reducing and preventing it. A convenience sample of specialist police officers (N = 142) who work with victims of sexual assault completed measures of compassion fatigue, secondary traumatic stress and burnout, as well as two empathy measures, rating trait empathy and ‘in vivo’ empathy in response to a video vignette. Cross-sectional analysis showed that longer-serving specialist officers had greater compassion fatigue, secondary traumatic stress and burnout, but that neither measure of empathy was related to compassion fatigue or secondary traumatic stress, although high burnout was related to low trait empathy. The training was well received, and pre and post-test measures showed that officers’ knowledge of the constructs increased. Given the potential risks to their well-being and work performance, officers would benefit from further support to cope with and prevent emotional distress. Higher empathy might protect against burnout. Longitudinal research is needed to better understand the relationships between empathy, compassion fatigue, secondary traumatic stress and burnout.

Type: Article
Title: Empathy, compassion fatigue and burnout in police officers working with rape victims
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1037/trm0000118
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/trm0000118
Language: English
Additional information: © 2017, American Psychological Association. This paper is not the copy of record and may not exactly replicate the final, authoritative version of the article. Please do not copy or cite without authors permission. The final article will be available, upon publication, via its DOI: 10.1037/trm0000118 This article may not exactly replicate the authoritative document published in the APA journal. It is not the copy of record.
Keywords: Compassion fatigue, Secondary traumatic stress, Burnout, Empathy, Police
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Clinical, Edu and Hlth Psychology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1540106
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