Is Laughing at the Expense of Victims and Offenders a Red Flag? Humor and Secondary Traumatic Stress

J Child Sex Abus. 2015;24(5):592-602. doi: 10.1080/10538712.2015.1042187.


Those who work with human trauma often use humor to handle job stressors. Research has demonstrated that lighthearted humor is related to lower secondary traumatic stress scores, while gallows humor has the inverse relationship. This work explores how three types of humor relate to secondary traumatic stress: (a) humor at the expense of victims, (b) humor at the expense of offenders, and (c) humor containing sexual innuendo. Internet crimes against children taskforce personnel completed questionnaires about secondary traumatic stress and coping techniques. Humor at the expense of victims was rarely used, but when it was, it was indicative of higher secondary traumatic stress. There were no relationships between secondary traumatic stress and the use of humor at the expense of offenders or humor containing sexual innuendo.

Keywords: Internet crimes against children; gallows humor; humor; law enforcement; secondary traumatic stress.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Compassion Fatigue / psychology*
  • Crime Victims / psychology*
  • Criminals / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internet
  • Laughter / psychology*
  • Male
  • Police / psychology*
  • Wit and Humor as Topic / psychology*