American Journal of Criminal Justice

, Volume 43, Issue 3, pp 433–447 | Cite as

The Hazards of Investigating Internet Crimes Against Children: Digital Evidence Handlers’ Experiences with Vicarious Trauma and Coping Behaviors

  • George W. Burruss
  • Thomas J. HoltEmail author
  • April Wall-Parker


Over the last two decades there has been a substantive increase in the number of cybercrime and digital forensic units in local and state police agencies across the US. There is, however, little research on the occupational responses of individuals serving in specialized roles within criminal justice agencies. Individuals tasked to these units are likely to encounter psychologically harmful materials on a regular basis due to the number of child pornography and sexual exploitation cases they are assigned. As a result, this study examined the experiences of vicarious trauma and coping behaviors of digital forensic examiners in a sample culled from across the country. The findings suggest that exposure to content involving crimes against children directly and indirectly increases the likelihood of trauma and incidence of coping strategies employed.


Vicarious trauma Occupational responses Policing Digital forensic investigation Child pornography Cybercrime 


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Copyright information

© Southern Criminal Justice Association 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • George W. Burruss
    • 1
  • Thomas J. Holt
    • 2
    Email author
  • April Wall-Parker
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Criminology, The Florida Center for Cybersecurity (FC2)University of South FloridaTampaUSA
  2. 2.Department of Criminal JusticeMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA
  3. 3.The National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C)RichmondUSA

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