The experience of secondary traumatic stress among community violence interventionists in Chicago

David M. Hureau*, Theodore Wilson, Wayne Rivera-Cuadrado, Andrew V. Papachristos

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Community violence intervention strategies are rising in prominence as promising alternatives to traditional criminal justice responses to gun violence. Although such approaches may offer policy advantages and yield societal benefits, the costs to the practitioners of this work—owing to the intimate proximity to violence required by the job—have generally been overlooked. Using a first of its kind survey of nearly the entire population of community-based violence interventionists in Chicago, Illinois (United States), this study assesses the extent to which violence intervention workers experience Secondary Traumatic Stress (STS). Responses to a series of 17 items on a Secondary Traumatic Stress Scale revealed alarmingly high levels of STS among violence interventionists: 94% of workers reported at least one STS indicator in the past 7 days and a full 50% reported experiencing 9 out of the 17 STS items. Our analysis further showed that the STS responses of interventionists were impacted by on-the-job traumatic experiences, particularly the death of a client. These results offer an important first systematic analysis of the trauma and mental health risks associated with community violence intervention practice and suggest that policymakers and practitioners should monitor and address worker risk of traumatic stress within this important public health profession.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number107186
JournalPreventive medicine
StatePublished - Dec 2022


  • Community violence intervention
  • Gun violence
  • Secondary traumatic stress
  • Violence policy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Epidemiology


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