The Trauma of Sexual Assault: Treatment, Prevention, and Practice

By Jenny Petrak; Barbara Hedge | Go to book overview
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Chapter 12
THE IMPACT OF SEXUAL
ASSAULT ON HEALTH-CARE
WORKERS

Barbara Hedge


INTRODUCTION

The horrific stories of individuals who have been sexually assaulted are frequently difficult to listen to and may be deeply upsetting. How then do health-care workers manage to provide a high level of professional care on a long-term basis for people who have been sexually assaulted? Is there a high rate of burnout? Does this work lead to any lasting physical or psychological damage? Are there ways of managing sexual assault clinics that can minimize the negative impact on staff? These are a few of the questions that spring to mind when considering the difficulties faced by health carers working with people who have been sexually assaulted.

Although there are a number of accounts of individual health carers' experiences, the question of whether there are specific factors associated with working with sexual assault that may lead to high levels of distress remains unexplored. Koss and Harvey (1991) suggest that enhanced feelings of vulnerability occur in health carers when working with victims of brutal crime including sexual assault.

Few studies have investigated the impact on health carers of working with people who have been sexually assaulted, and even fewer have addressed the issue of managing the distress engendered in this setting. The cost to health services of staff who are sick or just absent can be enormous. If ways can be found to manage occupationally induced

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