A Socioecological Approach to Understanding Secondary Trauma in Professionals Working with Survivors of Sex Trafficking: A Hierarchical Regression Analysis

Ginny Sprang, Adrienne Whitt-Woosley, Jessica Wozniak, Stephanie Gusler, Caitlyn Hood, Kelly Kinnish, Hannah Stroup

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

Individuals who are trafficked for sex have high rates of trauma exposure prior to and while being trafficked; therefore, professionals who work with this population are potentially exposed to high levels of trauma details increasing their risk of developing secondary traumatic stress (STS). This study investigated the STS symptoms of professionals working with survivors of sex trafficking utilizing a socioecological framework to guide the design and analysis. An online survey was completed by 583 respondents from a broad range of organizational settings who completed measures tapping into STS symptoms, lifetime trauma exposures, history of being sex-trafficked, dose of direct and indirect trauma exposure at work, use of emotional and instrumental support to cope, state report cards on sex trafficking policies, and organizational-level practices toward being STS informed. STS scores among professionals working with survivors of sex trafficking were high, with those in child welfare settings reporting the highest levels of STS. Hierarchical regression analysis indicates higher STS was associated with variables at all levels of the socioecological model except the macrosystem, with fewer years of experience, a history of being sex trafficked, higher dose of indirect exposure, less use of emotional support, and lower organizational STS scores predictive of higher distress. Together, study findings indicate that STS is a significant concern in the anti-trafficking workforce and that a socioecological framework is useful for understanding STS impacts, highlighting the value of multiple response strategies across levels. This analysis suggests that organizational-level strategies to ameliorate/buffer impacts of occupation-related trauma exposure among these professionals can be especially impactful.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11745-11767
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Interpersonal Violence
Volume38
Issue number21-22
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2023.

Keywords

  • PTSD
  • mental health and violence
  • sexual abuse < child abuse
  • vicarious trauma
  • violence exposure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Applied Psychology

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