Understanding the experiences of police personnel who are exposed to sexual offence material

Parkes, Ruth (2020) Understanding the experiences of police personnel who are exposed to sexual offence material. Doctoral thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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The programme of research holistically explored the experiences of Police officers and civilian Police staff whose role involves exposure to Sexual Offence Material (SOM). Study one comprised qualitative questionnaires and semi-structured interviews with 11 participants. Use of the Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) methodology ensured each participant’s unique experience was explored in depth. In study two, a survey was created using the emergent themes from study one and was completed by 384 Police personnel respondents. Qualitative responses were thematically analysed, and the quantitative data was subject to correlational analysis and analysis of variance. Factor analysis identified the factor structure of concepts such as adverse impact, coping strategies, motivation and role choice. Multiple regression analysis identified factors predictive of adverse personal impact and overall difficulty levels. Study three involved piloting the self-assessment tool ‘Impact of Sexual Offence Material Exposure’ (ISOME). The pilot involved 349 respondents. The findings of the programme of research provide substantial new knowledge about the impact of working with SOM, and the coping strategies, organisational factors and operational issues which can either exacerbate or protect against this impact. Findings relating to the impact of negative coping beliefs, parental status, and having personally been a victim of sexual abuse all contribute to trauma theory, by identifying key risk factors for traumatic stress following sexual trauma exposure. The finding that avoidance-based coping is predictive of higher levels of traumatic stress and detachment-based coping is linked to lower levels of traumatic stress adds to coping theory around the consequences of using passive and active coping strategies. The findings of the research can be directly applied to practice and a broad range of recommendations for organisational policy have been made.

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