Individuals who work with Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) taskforces face the difficult task of working with the darker side of human beings. ICAC task forces are responsible for finding, apprehending, and prosecuting those who sexually exploit children through the Internet. Some ICAC taskforce members have children of their own, which may impact how this work affects them and influences the degree to which they take this work home. The interaction between ICAC work and family life also may be predisposed by secondary traumatic stress (STS), a unique blending of symptoms that mimic posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) but develop from indirect exposure to traumatic material or events (Bride and Kintzle 2011; Hille 2010). With this research study, we explore how ICAC taskforce personnel feel their line of work impacts their relationships with their families and whether STS intersects with their perceptions of how the work impacts their family life.

Difficulties of Police Work and Family Life

Much has been written about how police work can cause stress among families due to issues such as the impact of shift work on family life, hypervigilance of officers (even when off duty), and a reluctance to share daily events at home (Borum and Philpot 1993; Miller 2007; Montgomery-Drake 2008). Interestingly, it is the day-to-day events, as opposed to the critical traumatic incidents that may punctuate an officer’s career, that appear more at fault in causing marital stress. For example, a recent study of 160 officers found no relationship between the number of critical incidents experienced in one’s career and marital satisfaction (Hille 2010). Yet during in-depth interviews with 10 spouses of law enforcement officers, the spouses agreed that working odd hours caused stress in the relationship; further, they grew resentful that they were required to attend social events on their own, be responsible for most of the household tasks, and had little time for self-care (Montgomery-Drake 2008). The stress from shift work, however, did not necessarily impact the law enforcement officers themselves. Further, researchers found no relationship between shift work and officers’ self-reports of depression, anxiety, or anger (Zhao et al. 2002), though, additional research has shown that female officers tend to experience more stress when trying to balance work and family life, possibly due to conflicts between traditional gender roles and full-time work (Kurtz 2011).

Beyond conflict within the marital dyad, the difficulties of law enforcement work on spouses can lead to problems for the individual officer. In a study conducted in Norway, work-family conflict was related to poorer psychological health of police officers (Mikkelsen and Burke 2004), and Burke (1993) found a relationship between police officers’ emotional well-being and conflict within the family. Additionally, even in those cases where both spouses were law enforcement officers, the connection between family conflict and emotional health was still apparent (Burke and Mikkelsen 2004).

Work stress can also impact how couples interact with each other in day-to-day discussions. High levels of job stress for law enforcement officers is related to high physiological response (cardiovascular activation) and low levels of positive affect for each partner, factors that hinder positive marital interactions (Roberts and Levenson 2001). When looking at how work stress manifests itself as physical exhaustion, Roberts and Levenson (2001) found more positive affection was evidenced by both partners, and lower levels of negative emotions were demonstrated by wives of officers. In other words, wives seemed able to realize when their law enforcement husbands were physically tired, an observation that may help produce more affirmative interactions. These findings remained consistent, regardless of the husbands’ work shifts, if there were children from the relationship and overall marital satisfaction (Roberts and Levenson 2001).

Police stress can also manifest itself in ways beyond physical exhaustion and can appear in the emotional interactions between spouses. Further, this stress has been shown to be related to a disconnect between spouses in the area of hostility (Roberts et al. 2013). A study found that the more stress was experienced by the police officers, the more their wives tended to focus on negative factors in their lives while the police officers focused more on their wives’ affectionate behaviors (Roberts et al. 2012).

Social Support

To deal with the challenges of being a police officer while maintaining a strong family life, officers have reported using a variety of coping techniques. Social support has been routinely mentioned by officers as a way to deal with secondary stress from the job (Conn and Butterfield 2013), and the use of social support is a factor that has been found to be related to higher marital satisfaction in law enforcement couples (Brodie and Eppler 2012; Halbesleben 2010; Jackson and Maslach 1982). Furthermore, law enforcement officers who utilized the social support of their romantic partners were less likely to suffer from psychological distress (Davidson and Moss 2008). In fact, one study found that the more avoidance-numbing symptoms an officer experienced after a traumatic event, the more psychological distress his or her romantic partner also reported (Davidson et al. 2006). Interestingly, coping by using social support has appeared to have a positive impact even years after an officer leaves the field of law enforcement. In a survey of retired police officers, those who used social support and confided in family and friends had higher resilience scores than those who did not (Pole et al. 2006).

While social support has been shown to help with stress, officers often attempt to protect their spouses and families from the negative aspects of their jobs by sharing very little about their day-to-day work interactions. Interviews with police officers have found an ambivalence to talking about distressing work-related events with others outside of work due to a burden that may be placed on others (Conn and Butterfield 2013; Evans et al. 2013). Brodie and Eppler (2012) found that spouses of law enforcement officers did not desire this exclusion, and in fact, they reported they wanted more information about their partners’ daily work happenings. The spouses surveyed felt such disclosure would permit greater social support and promote higher marital satisfaction (Brodie and Eppler 2012).

Child Exploitation Investigations and Family Life

In previous work, researchers have found that three types of police experiences were especially related to stress in the law enforcement setting: (a) exposure to death and disaster, (b) violence, and (c) working with sexual crimes (Brown et al. 1999). In light of the third finding, it would seem likely that working cases involving the sexual exploitation of children would impact the home life of investigators embroiled in such cases, an issue that deserves further empirical examination. Many questions focusing on the intersection between child exploitation work and home life need to be answered. Researchers have only begun to fully approach this topic, and now the unanswered questions are changing, due to the fact that with computers and online access, many child exploitation investigators must view photos or videos of the abuse occurring, rather than only being exposed via victims’ accounts.

Unanswered questions have arisen related to whether the gender of the officer plays a role in how the officer is affected by his or her work. In a previous study, for example, researchers examined the interaction between compassion fatigue, PTSD symptoms, and sexual satisfaction in a sample of detectives who investigated child sex offenses; they found that female detectives reported less overall well-being, less sexual well-being, and less quality time with their spouses than the male detectives (Lane et al. 2010). Although the study suffered from a lack of measurement of social desirability and a small sample size, which limited the authors’ ability to do comprehensive multivariate analyses, this pilot study provided a good foundation from which to continue exploring the issue.

It should be noted that those who work on ICAC task forces must view still images and video footage of the sexual abuse of children, and they engage in investigative role-playing where they must act as child victims or adult perpetrators. In a survey administered by Wolak and Mitchell (2009), 90 % of ICAC taskforce personnel indicated they were “somewhat concerned” or “very concerned” about work exposure to child pornography. However, there was not a clear consensus among ICAC respondents when they were asked if this type of work impacts family life. Slightly more than half (55 %) of survey respondents (commanders and contact personnel for ICAC affiliates) believed there was no negative impact on the family lives of personnel tasked with viewing child pornography, but approximately one-quarter of the respondents felt there was some level of negative impact (Wolak and Mitchell 2009). There also was inconsistency about whether the work impacts those with young children differently than those without. Forty-four percent of respondents felt that officers with young children experienced greater difficulty with the work, but 42 % of those surveyed did not feel this was the case (Wolak and Mitchell 2009).

Research to date has been very limited in exploring the impact of ICAC work on the families of task force members. Many in the child exploitation field have viewed family support as a positive way to cope with work difficulties. In a recent study, a strong majority of respondents (83 %) believed that families help ICAC personnel stay healthy and productive (Wolak and Mitchell 2009). However, taskforces have rarely reached out to spouses or significant others with information on how they can help their partners or how ICAC work may impact a law enforcement officer. In fact, as recently as 2009, only 3 % of agencies were providing this information to spouses and family members of ICAC personnel (Wolak and Mitchell 2009).

Secondary Traumatic Stress

As previously stated, STS is a grouping of symptoms that is similar to PTSD but that results from indirectly experiencing another’s trauma (Bride and Kintzle 2011). In her theoretical article on child exploitation, Krause (2009) observed that investigators could be at heightened risk of STS due to the nature of their work, specifically, by engaging in tasks such as viewing child pornography and playing the role of a child during undercover chats. However, this work was theoretical in nature and further empirical work was needed.

Subsequent work by Perez et al. (2010) examined 28 federal law enforcement officers who worked with child pornography. They used bivariate correlations and discovered a positive relationship between STS and the time the agents had worked in the field of child exploitation. The researchers also found that higher STS was associated with increased protectiveness of loved ones, which supported the observations that STS from child exploitation work impacts how the officers interact with their families. Utilizing more advanced statistical techniques that controlled for other factors, such as social desirability and coping styles, researchers conducting ensuing work found strong support for the idea that higher STS in ICAC personnel is related to over-protectiveness of loved ones (Bourke and Craun 2014). An unanswered question is whether the ICAC work itself impacts the family or if the effects are felt only after the officer develops work-related STS.

We used the previous literature as a foundation to examine the intersection between ICAC work, family, and STS. We explored how respondents described the impact of their work on their families. We then examined how these self-reports were tied to STS scores. Finally, we empirically tested if respondents’ STS scores were related to two items measuring intimacy with their spouses and children. Specifically, we addressed the following three research questions:

  1. 1.

    How do professionals serving on ICAC taskforces view their work as impacting their relationships with their family and friends?

  2. 2.

    Do these views relate to STS scores?

  3. 3.

    Can STS scores predict comfort expressing intimacy with a spouse and children in an ICAC taskforce sample?

In examining these questions, we hypothesized that a positive response about how ICAC work impacts one’s family would be associated with lower STS scores, while responses that highlighted negative effects would be associated with higher STS scores. Finally, we surmised that respondents with higher STS scores would have signifi cantly lower scores on questions that measure intimacy with their spouses and children.

Method

Sample

The authors contacted commanders of every United States ICAC taskforce and asked them to forward a link to an Internet-based survey data collection instrument to members of their respective teams. The email to ICAC commanders and their taskforces highlighted the anonymity of the survey. Additionally, we indicated ICAC personnel were not required to participate and that the survey received approval from a university Institutional Research Board (IRB) at Nova Southeastern University. More than 700 personnel opened the link to the web-based survey, 677 individuals answered at least one question, and 600 surveys were completed in their entirety. The demographic characteristics of our sample are presented in Table 1.

Table 1 Sample Demographics (n = 677)

Our technique to reach our intended respondents by first contacting their commanders had an advantage and a disadvantage. The procedure allowed us to connect with a population that is difficult to obtain; however, this form of convenience sampling prevented us from determining the precise response rate. Of the 61 organized taskforces in the United States (Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, 2012), 29 commanders from across the country explicitly informed us that they sent the survey to their personnelFootnote 1. It is probable that additional commanders also forwarded the survey to their staff without overtly informing us of this fact.

Measures: Dependent Variables

To measure how participants viewed their work on the taskforce as impacting their outside personal lives, we asked the open-ended question: “How has this work affected your relationships with family, children, and friends?” The first and third authors read all the open-ended answers, developed 11 categories, and independently coded each question. The kappa score measuring inter-rater agreement was calculated and at 0.80, which is considered an acceptable and substantial level of agreement (Landis and Koch 1977).

To parse out the impact of this work specifically on families, we also measured comfort expressing sexual intimacy with one’s spouse/significant other and physical intimacy, such as cuddling and hugging one’s children. Respondents were asked to answer the following two questions on a five-point scale from 1 = Strongly Disagree to 5 = Strongly Agree: “I am less comfortable expressing intimacy with my children than I ought to be” (M = 2.33, SD = 1.11), and “I feel comfortable being intimate with my spouse/significant other” (M = 4.14, SD = 0.99). An option was included to indicate the questions were inapplicable to a respondent’s current life situation, such as a respondent not having children.

Measures: Independent Variable—Secondary Traumatic Stress Score

In an effort to quantify STS for research questions two and three, we included Bride’s Secondary Traumatic Stress Scale (Bride et al. 2003). The Secondary Traumatic Stress Scale measures the frequency of STS symptoms in the last seven days (1 = Never, 2 = Rarely, 3 = Occasionally, 4 = Often, 5 = Very Often). The scale included statements such as “I feel jumpy,” “I think about my work when I don’t intend to,” “I am easily annoyed,” and “I have disturbing dreams about my work.” We calculated the mean score of items on the scale when a minimum of 14 out of 17 items were answered (only one person did not answer the minimum of 14 items). With the current sample of ICAC personnel, the mean was 2.16 (SD = 0.74) and the Cronbach’s alpha was 0.94.

Other Measures: Control Variables

To provide a more comprehensive answer for research question three, we included variables that were found in previous work with this sample to be related to STS (Bourke and Craun 2014). We explored utilization of different coping styles using subscales from the COPE scale, measured on a five-point Likert scale from 1 = Strongly Disagree to 5 = Strongly Agree. Coping styles examined were: coping through denial (α = .76; M = 1.82, SD = 0.63), social support (α = .84; M = 3.36, SD = 0.84), and positive reinterpretation (α = .76; M = 3.76, SD = 0.59), (Carver et al. 1989). We also used two 4-point scales (1 = Not at All to 4 = Very Much) to measure social support from supervisors (α = .85; M = 2.86, SD = 0.93) and co-workers (α = .80; M = 2.86, SD = 0.82). Similarly, we included the Marlowe-Crowne Social Desirability Scale, Short Version, Form X2 (α = .60; M = 6.65, SD = 1.95). The inclusion of a measure of social desirability was crucial with this population as previous work with police officers has found a strong positive link between social desirability scores and self-reported ability to cope with the stressors of police work (Pole et al. 2006).

Included in the reported multivariate analyses were other variables that were noted in previous research as being influential to STS levels (Bourke and Craun 2014). The measures determined how often respondents view child pornography (1 = zero times in the past six months to 5 = every day; M = 2.83, SD = 0.70) and how difficult it was for respondents to view different types of child pornography—still still pictures, videos with sound, etc. (1 = not at all difficult to 5 = extremely difficult; M = 2.01, SD = 0.70). Respondents were also asked to indicate if they drank alcohol and if their use of alcohol had increased in the past year (“Yes, increased” = 18.7 %; “Yes, but no increase” = 60.4 %; “Do not use alcohol” = 20.9 %). Tobacco use was assessed similarly (“Yes, increased” = 10.2 %; “Yes, but no increase” = 25.3 %; “Do not use tobacco products” = 64.5 %). Finally, we included gender (Male = 72.9 %, Female = 27.1 %) as a control vari able, since previous research with this sample has illustrated that this demographic variable is related to STS scores (Bourke and Craun 2014).

Missing Data

To reduce the number of cases lost to missing data, we calculated the mean score for each scale (except the Marlowe-Crowne Social Desirability Scale; MCSDS) when at least 75 % of the scale items were answered. Utilizing the mean score eased interpretation because the scale was on the same metric system as was used by respondents when they completed their survey. We did not use this method for the MCSDS because it would have obfuscated the interpretation as a mean score from 0 to 1, compared to an additive score of 0 to 10 socially desirable responses endorsed. It is noteworthy that most scales had every item completed, and by using this method, fewer than 10 respondents were dropped from the analysis.

Data Analysis

After the answers relating to how ICAC work impacts the respondents’ relationships with family were coded, we calculated bivariate statistics to measure the relationship between the answers offered and the respondents’ STS scores. Due to the multiple comparisons, we calculated the necessary p-value needed for Bonferroni corrections (0.05/8 = p < .006). When considering the Bonferonni correction, only one variable (more irritable with friends/family) lost its significance.

To test if there was a relationship between STS and the closed-ended measures of intimacy difficulties with a spouse/significant other and children, we ran two multivariate regressions, with STS as an independent variable and the aforementioned control variables. We included an interaction term between gender and STS score due to a finding that female detectives investigating sex crimes reported less overall well-being and less sexual well-being compared to their male counterparts (Lane et al. 2010). However, the interaction term merely improved the fit of the model predicting comfort in expressing intimacy with children, as measured by AIC and BIC, so it was only included in that specific model.

Results

Research Questions One and Two: How Do Professionals Serving on ICAC Task Forces View Their Work as Impacting Their Relationships with Their Family and Friends? Do These Views Relate to Secondary Traumatic Stress Scores?

A few common themes developed after coding the open-ended responses from ICAC personnel (Table 2). When reviewing the four most frequently mentioned outcomes of working with ICAC taskforces, two were negative, one was neutral, and one was positive. The most frequent response (27.2 %) was that participants felt there was no change in their relationships. Other common answers were that respondents were more distrusting of others (24.3 %) and more withdrawn from their relationships (14.2 %). For example, one female ICAC investigator wrote:

Table 2 How ICAC Work Impacts Relationships with Family and Friends (n = 478)

“My work has caused tremendous stress on my family and relationships. It creates distrust, emotional distance, anger, fatigue, depression and overall cynicism. I have lost the majority of my hope and trust in people. Even a good deed plants a seed of doubt into my mind as to what the motive is behind it. I often feel like I have worked so hard to save the children of the ‘world’ that I neglected my own children by working on holidays, weekends, and late hours.... My work has taken away time from the two children who matter the most to me because I was out trying to save the ones I don’t even know and yet, it is my passion and I love my job. I can’t imagine doing anything else.”

A male ICAC investigator summarized the second and third most common responses with his statement, “I feel disconnected while being overly protective at the same time.” Finally, another male ICAC investigator encapsulated the idea of being withdrawn with his observation, “It is hard to answer the question ‘What did you do today, Daddy?’”

One out of 10 respondents provided answers that indicated they felt their work with the ICAC taskforce improved their relationships. Respondents connoted that, as a result of their current job, they realized what a positive influence their own family members are. For example, one female investigator wrote, “I appreciate my family more, and I watch out for my grandchildren in ways I didn’t with my children just because of things I have learned. I am also very grateful my children were never victims.” A male forensic computer examiner wrote that his job “has made me more loving and caring as a parent and husband.”

After coding and understanding how the ICAC personnel viewed the effect their jobs had on their relationships, the next logical step was to determine if the positive, negative, and neutral responses translated into differing STS scores. For responses with a sufficient number of respondents to compute bivariate comparisons, we examined the STS scores among those who mentioned their job effects their relationships compared to those who did not (Table 3). As expected, those who said ICAC work had no impact on their relationships (t (476) = 8.26, p < .001) or that it made their relationships better (t (476) = 3.46, p < .001) had lower STS scores; those who reported irritability (t (476) = −2.72, p < .001), marital difficulties (t (476) = −4.32, p < .001), and withdrawing from friends and family (t (476) = −6.48, p < .001) had significantly higher levels of STS. Reporting that the job made respondents more distrustful of others’ intentions (t (476) = −1.46, p = .14) or that respondents felt they could not speak with friends and family about their job (t (476) = −0.07, p = .95) had no impact on STS scores. We also ran each of the above bivariate comparisons as a multivariate regression, controlling for social desirability scores; every aforementioned relationship between the coded open-ended responses and STS scores remained significant.

Table 3 Self-Reported Themes on the Impact of ICAC Work and STS Scores (n = 478)

Research Question Three: Can STS Scores Predict Comfort Expressing Intimacy with Spouse and Children in an ICAC Taskforce Sample?

Finally, when examining if STS scores among ICAC personnel impact intimacy with children and spouses, we found the answer was split. When examining comfort expressing intimacy with children, the average score was 2.33 (SD = 1.11), suggesting that respondents generally did not believe they were having difficulty in this area. An initial model illustrated that the average STS score was related to closeness with one’s own children.

When an interaction term for gender and mean STS score was entered into the model, a significant relationship (p < .05) was found (Table 4). Namely, men with higher STS scores had steeper slopes in their discomfort in expressing intimacy with their own children as compared to female taskforce members’ interactions with their own children; women’s level of discomfort in expressing intimacy with children also increased as their STS increased, just not at the same pace as the men in this sample. Endorsing denial as a coping mechanism was related to more discomfort in expressing intimacy with one’s children (p < .05). Average frequency and average self- reported difficulty with child pornography were not re lated to difficulty expressing intimacy with one’s children (p = .12 and p = .47, respectively).

Table 4 Predictors of Comfort in Expressing Intimacy with Children (n = 475)
Table 5 Predictors of Comfort in Expressing Intimacy with Spouse/Significant Other (n = 538)

Overall, respondents reported that they felt comfortable expressing intimacy with their spouses and partners (M = 4.14, SD = 0.98). When investigating a possible relationship between STS scores and comfort level with intimacy with one’s spouse or partner, while controlling for other variables related to STS, the relationship between STS and comfort with spousal intimacy was not statistically significant (p = .07). Being male predicted more comfort with spousal intimacy (p < .001). Also, as with the results regarding intimacy with children, the average frequency where one interacts with disturbing media, such as child pornography, along with the self-reported difficulty in witnessing child pornography, were not related to intimacy difficulties with one’s spouse or partner (p = .37 and p = .56) (Table 5).

Discussion

The present study and analyses explored how ICAC personnel feel this work impacts their relationships with family and friends. While researchers previously explored the difficulties experienced by both law enforcement officers and families in navigating the work-life balance in the law enforcement field (Borum and Philpot 1993; Burke 1993, 1994; Burke and Mikkelsen 2004; Hille 2010; Mikkelsen and Burke 2004; Miller 2007; Montgomery-Drake 2008), research has only begun to examine subfields within police work with regard to their impact on family life. Some of our findings were similar to what has been previously reported by other researchers, such as the work causing officers to withdraw from family and being distrustful of others. Other items seen in previous inquiries such as concerns about shift work, were not observed with this sample.

Implications

By categorizing the responses and comparing STS scores, we were able to develop a benchmark to inform those working in the child exploitation field about which ICAC-related thoughts are normal and which may be signs of deeper troubles. For example, respondents who stated that their job made them more distrustful of others or indicated they could not talk to friends and family about their time in the ICAC did not have higher STS scores; more compelling predictors of symptoms of STS included irritability, social withdrawal, and marital difficulties. We do not suggest that distrust and internalizing stress are unrelated to other areas of personal difficulty outside the scope of STS. However, our findings lead to the suggestion that those staff members who exhibit more potent markers for STS reactions should be responded to with greater concern for reducing secondary trauma (e.g., mobilizing social support networks).

ICAC taskforce members who described their job as positively affecting their relationships with family had lower STS scores than those who did not mention any positive aspects. This was a similar finding to the research done by Shakespeare-Finch et al. (2005) on this topic as it relates to emergency ambulance personnel; they found that those who effectively cope with occupational trauma are more likely to report an increase in post-traumatic growth (e.g., relating to others, appreciation of life, new personal strength). However, this finding does not imply that ICAC task force members should try to see the silver lining to ensure that the job does not impact their personal lives, as, in the current study, the control variable, which quantitatively measured the coping strategy of reinterpreting stressful events into positive situations, was not related to increased comfort in expressing intimacy with children or partners. The apparent discrepancy in the findings may be due to a bivariate comparison of open-ended responses to STS scores. It is possible that when controlling for other types of coping in a multivariate analysis, the relationship between positive reinterpretation and comfort in expressing intimacy with children and spouses dissipates. Additionally, it could be that the positive reinterpretation subscale of the COPE scale measures a different underlying construct than what respondents meant when they said the work has improved their relationships with their families.

An interaction term between gender and STS score was found to be significant in predicting comfort in expressing intimacy with one’s own children. STS appeared to increase the discomfort in expressing intimacy with one’s own children more in males than in females. This finding was consistent with anecdotal reports from investigators in the field who had informed the second author that, after they started working in the field of child exploitation, they engaged in physical touching, such as hugging and tickling, with their children much less than in the past. Several taskforce members felt their perspective toward expressing intimacy with their own children changed after they viewed offenders engaging in the same acts in order to groom children.

A positive finding that implies better outcomes for ICAC personnel is that STS was not related to comfort expressing intimacy with one’s spouse or partner. Additionally, neither the frequency nor self-reported difficulty interacting with disturbing media was related to difficulty expressing intimacy with a spouse or children. It was noted that male ICAC members expressed higher comfort express ing intimacy with spouses as compared to female taskforce members.

Limitations and Future Research

This work has some limitations that should be considered. The study is based on a methodology that only examines the perspective of those in the ICAC, and only those ICAC members whose taskforce commanders forwarded the survey. When looking at 142 police couples, Jackson and Maslach (1982) found “the police officers’ experienced emotional exhaustion was significantly related to their wives’ reports of family interactions but not to the officers’ own reports of family life” (Jackson and Maslach 1982); p. 68). In other words, the wives saw the effects of the emotional stress on family life, but the officers did not. Therefore, utilizing convenience sampling and self-report questionnaires completed only by the officers may not be the best way to accurately assess if ICAC work is impacting family life or STS; cross-referencing answers with those of spouses or partners could help validate how this work impacts family life. Additionally, little work has been done to determine if STS can transfer to spouses or significant others. For example, do spouses begin to have trouble sleeping, difficulty concentrating, or experience other symptoms of STS when their partners have symptoms? Further, we had no control group of law enforcement in other areas to determine if the findings we obtained were specific to ICAC work. Future study should consider expanding research into these areas.

It is also important to note that we have focused our attention on the potentially harmful effects of ICAC work on involved personnel. The specific population targeted precludes the study from being generalized to other populations. However, such a focus on ICAC task force members is appropriately placed, since any endeavor that attempts to learn how to best prevent harm within a group of people must necessarily examine those who may be most affected. Still, we would be remiss if we did not remind the reader of the overall picture, namely, the finding that most ICAC personnel reported they are handling the stressors of their jobs quite well. For example, 86 % of respondents indicated they had not withdrawn from their relationships, and three-fourths did not feel they had become more distrusting of others as a result of their work. Further, of those subjects who did endorse such difficulties, it is unknown whether, and to what degree, they may have experienced relationship problems or trust issues regardless of the area of policing they chose to enter.

In light of the issues addressed in the current study, there are important implications to be examined in order to protect those who devote their careers to protecting others. It does little to combat sexual exploitation of children if we cannot keep highly trained staff in place. Since, by the nature of the job, we cannot remove what these men and women investigate, we have an obligation to try to prevent the emergence of STS. Future work should continue to study how this work affects ICAC staff so that we might develop effective coping strategies that will maintain balance and build resiliency.