The Effects of Internal and External Risk Factors in Forensic Social Workers’ Experience of Secondary Traumatic Stress




expert witness, forensic social worker, secondary traumatic stress, trauma narratives


Forensic social workers are vulnerable to secondary traumatic stress due to their direct exposure to trauma narratives from sexually abused children. They face the unique challenge of distinguishing between their roles as expert witnesses and therapists. However, research on the risk factors for secondary traumatic stress in forensic social workers is frequently disregarded both internationally and in South Africa. The purpose of this study was to look at the effect of internal and external risk factors on secondary traumatic stress symptoms among forensic social workers. An all-inclusive voluntary sample method was used to include all trained forensic social workers with a master’s degree in forensic practice who graduated from a recognised South African university between 2006 and 2019. The study used a quantitative cross-sectional descriptive design and data was collected using Google Forms, which was distributed via email. IBM SPSS version 27 was used to analyse the data. Internal factors such as race and relationship status as well as external factors such as clinical supervision, social support, and exposure to traumatic experiences were found to have varied effects on secondary traumatic stress symptoms in the study.


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Author Biographies

Baatseba Mashego, North-West University

Postgraduate student, COMPRES, School of Psychosocial Health, North-West University

Erika Fourie, North-West University

Research Design, statistical analysis and interpretation: Pure and Applied Analytics, School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences


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How to Cite

Mashego, Baatseba Babra, Pieter Boshoff, and Erika Fourie. 2023. “The Effects of Internal and External Risk Factors in Forensic Social Workers’ Experience of Secondary Traumatic Stress”. Southern African Journal of Social Work and Social Development 35 (3):22 pages.



Received 2023-03-08
Accepted 2023-07-04
Published 2023-09-08