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Violence, threats and intimidation in the lives of professionals whose work involves child protection

Abstract

This is a report on a project partially funded by the Criminology Research Council. The original title of the research project, in the name of Professor Freda Briggs, was 'Threats and intimidation in the lives of professionals employed in the child protection field'. The study involved the investigation of the occurrence of violence, threats and intimidation in the lives of professionals while engaged in their duties to protect children from abuse and neglect. It examined the effects of violence on the health, work and well-being of these professionals. The study was based on a survey of 721 participants from a variety of professions involved in child protection. Findings indicate the extremely stressful nature of working in situations that involve child protection, with over 90% of respondents reporting that they were subjected to intimidating experiences in the course of their child protection duties within the last five years, while nearly a quarter had been physically assaulted. Of concern was the perception by almost three-quarters of respondents that nothing in their training had prepared them for exposure to threats and violence in the workplace. The effects of intimidation, threats and violence were reported as predominantly psychological, with the majority of respondents (74%) reporting emotional and/or health effects as a result of experiencing abusive behaviours. Over two thirds of respondents reported feeling burnt out by their work. The study has considerable significance for professional trainers and university educators in all professions involving children. It also poses a significant challenge to employers to improve management response to workers who encounter abuse and intimidation.

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