Threats and intimidation in the lives of professionals employed in the child protection field

Criminology Research Council grant ; (15/01-02)

This study surveyed a wide range of Australian professionals (n=721) about their experiences of violence, threats and intimidation as they engaged in their professional role as protectors of children. It was found that more than 90 per cent of the sample had experienced these unwanted and unwarranted behaviours in the last five years and over 40 per cent reported ongoing harassment. Professionals were subjected to these behaviours from a wide range of sources: peers, line managers, other professionals and related agencies, parents of the child being protected and their supporters, the perpetrator of child abuse, and even child victims. While most respondents (69 per cent) did not think that violence had increased over time, almost 75 per cent of respondents reported that nothing in their professional training had prepared them for the experience of threats, intimidation and violence they experienced. The study, therefore, has considerable significance for professional trainers and university educators in all professions dealing with children where maltreatment has occurred or is suspected. The effects of the unwanted behaviours were reported by respondents as predominantly psychological, with fear being the most prevalent effect. Over two-thirds of the respondents reported feeling burnt out by their work, with teachers reporting burnout more frequently than other professionals. This level of burnout is well above levels previously reported and points to an urgent need to investigate the working conditions of professionals whose role includes the protection of children.