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Keywords:

  • traumatic stress responses;
  • violence;
  • police

Abstract

A study was undertaken with 55 Internal Stability Unit (ISU) members of the South African Police (SAP) to establish whether the situations under which they work, continuous and current, as opposed to prior traumatic exposure, would result in a particular type of traumatic symptom constellation. The results indicated that the traumatic stressor of witnessing a traumatic event was predictive of the symptoms of intrusion. However, symptoms of intrusion were correlated with symptoms of avoidance, suggesting that avoidance may be a defensive response to intrusive phenomena which are a direct effect of exposure to violence. Various hypotheses were suggested to explain this phenomenon, focusing on the need for denial within a macho police culture and the particular features of the South African scenario.