School of Behavioral Sciences
Doctor of Education in Community Care and Counseling (EdD)
victim advocate, credential, secondary traumatic stress, military, civilian
Inch, Bette Marie Stebbins, "Secondary Traumatic Stress Among Nationally Credentialed Victim Advocates: Baseline and Risk Factors" (2023). Doctoral Dissertations and Projects. 4388.
Crime victims rely on the expertise of nationally recognized victim advocates to navigate the complex criminal justice process that includes reporting the crime and participating in the criminal legal system while recovering from trauma. People indirectly involved in traumatic events can also experience adverse effects. Providing direct services to traumatized crime victims may increase an advocate’s risk of developing secondary traumatic stress and negatively affect client services. This study was designed to examine the occurrence of specific symptoms matching the Secondary Traumatic Stress Scale to establish a baseline of secondary traumatic stress among a sample of nationally credentialed victim advocates working with military or civilian communities. The data identified potential risk factors, including victim advocates’ caseload volume and frequency, personal history of trauma, the nature of support from their employing organizations, long-term engagement with trauma victims, and demographic variables of gender, age, and ethnicity. This study was quantitative, descriptive, and exploratory. Results indicated secondary traumatic stress is a genuine phenomenon that affects victim advocates working with traumatic crime victims, that advocates working in military or civilian communities did not differ in terms of the impact of indirect trauma exposure and secondary traumatic stress, and that caseload volume was a minor risk factor. Of the 59 respondents, 43 experienced at least one symptom of secondary traumatic stress in the previous 7 days. Comparing advocates working with the military to those working with the civilian community showed half reported high to severe symptoms based on the Secondary Traumatic Stress Scale.