Vicarious Trauma Toolkit (VTT):
Evidence-Based Support for Victim Assistance Providers, Law Enforcement Officers,
Firefighters and Emergency Medical Services Providers

Victim assistance and first responder organizations know vicarious trauma (and the related constructs of compassion fatigue and burnout) are all too real and can seriously impact the physical and emotional well-being of staff.  Vicarious trauma also has serious implications for the delivery of quality services and staff turnover.  This project’s goal is to fill this gap by delivering a nationally pilot-tested training and technical assistance toolkit.


The Vicarious Trauma Toolkit (VTT) Project has made excellent progress through the active engagement and leadership of national partner organizations and experts in vicarious trauma and their respective fields. Our critical next step is to select four pilot sites throughout the country that will benefit from expertly designed training and technical assistance while playing a hands on and leadership role in shaping the final toolkit — a monumental contribution to the field.

Find out how you can become a pilot site by clicking on the image to the right!

It takes courage to help victims of violence, to run towards an active shooter, into a burning building hit by a plane, or to the side of a victim of gang-violence. Helping victims also puts responders at risk of harm themselves, not from bullets or fire, but from vicarious trauma. While prevalence studies of vicarious trauma and its effects are rare, those that have been reported focus on individual sectors of responders and suffer from inconsistent definitions across studies. However, several findings have consistently reported that between 40% and 80% of helping professionals have experienced compassion, fatigue and/or high rates of secondary trauma.

A global analysis of firefighters, ambulance personnel, police officers, search/rescue teams pooled 28 worldwide prevalence studies of PTSD, finding an overall prevalence of 10%, with ambulance personnel having the highest (14.6%). Among providers of psychosocial services to traumatized clients, a review of 15 studies found evidence of traumatic stress symptoms, disrupted cognitive schema, and general psychological distress. Organizations know vicarious trauma hurts and are aware of the related constructs of compassion fatigue and burnout as risk factors for turnover. This project’s goal is to fill this gap by delivering a nationally pilot-tested training and technical assistance toolkit. Agencies can use this toolkit to address vicarious trauma in victim assistance professionals, law enforcement and other first responders. Our anticipated outcome is that the Vicarious Trauma Toolkit lessens the impact of vicarious trauma and sustains first responders to help the next victim who needs them.

What We’ve Done So Far:

    An extensive search and review of literature and internet resources;
    A national survey of the field to assess existing policies, procedures, practices and programs;
    A gap analysis to determine what is lacking in the identification, prevention, and treatment of the effects of vicarious trauma;
    A compilation of training and technical assistance resources for the pilot toolkit.

Associated IUHRP Staff

Beth Molnar

Beth Molnar

Principal Investigator
Domenic Corey

Domenic Corey

Graduate Research Fellow