Individual-and Setting-Level Correlates of Secondary Traumatic Stress in Rape Crisis Center Staff

Emily R. Dworkin, Nicole R. Sorell, Nicole E. Allen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Secondary traumatic stress (STS) is an issue of significant concern among providers who work with survivors of sexual assault. Although STS has been studied in relation to individual-level characteristics of a variety of types of trauma responders, less research has focused specifically on rape crisis centers as environments that might convey risk or protection from STS, and no research to knowledge has modeled setting-level variation in correlates of STS. The current study uses a sample of 164 staff members representing 40 rape crisis centers across a single Midwestern state to investigate the staff member-and agency-level correlates of STS. Results suggest that correlates exist at both levels of analysis. Younger age and greater severity of sexual assault history were statistically significant individual-level predictors of increased STS. Greater frequency of supervision was more strongly related to secondary stress for non-advocates than for advocates. At the setting level, lower levels of supervision and higher client loads agency-wide accounted for unique variance in staff members’ STS. These findings suggest that characteristics of both providers and their settings are important to consider when understanding their STS.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)743-752
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of interpersonal violence
Issue number4
StatePublished - Feb 1 2016


  • advocacy
  • rape crisis centers
  • secondary traumatic stress
  • sexual assault
  • vicarious trauma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Applied Psychology


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