Co-Victims and the Criminal Justice System: How Involvement and Outcome Impact Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms in those who have Lost a Loved one to Homicide
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The primary aim of this study was to investigate whether co-victim’s, i.e. those who have lost a loved one to murder, prevalence of Post-Traumatic Stress (PTSD) symptom severity is different during different stages of involvement with the criminal justice system, whilst adjusting for age and gender. Participants referred to ASSIST trauma care, a specialist trauma therapy centre, were grouped according to their stage of involvement with the criminal justice system at the time of intake. 593 of the 1106 participants were able to be put into one of four groups according the their stage of involvement: No body release; investigation; trial; and end of involvement. The Impact of Event Scale (IES) was used to measure PTSD symptom severity in participants. Contrary to expectations, there was no significant difference in the frequency of trauma symptoms between any of the groups. A secondary aim of this study was to assess in verdict outcome could predict PTSD symptom severity. Consistent with expectations, no verdict outcome could predict PTSD symptom severity. Findings suggest that psychological consequences of Criminal Justice involvement on co-victims have little variability between stages of involvement. Findings also suggest that the verdicts effect to co-victims PTSD symptom severity is overestimated and acquiring justice is not an effective tool for symptom reduction. Recommendations for future research are made.