Key Words

On this page, you will find basic definitions of key words that describe what investigators of internet child exploitation may be facing. We have included them to provide some context for understanding this often quite misunderstood line of work. You will also hear Cordelia discuss these terms in the training video.

Key Words

Different authors, researchers and clinicians use varying definitions of terms, with some using them synonymously and others with clear distinctions. Therefore, the definitions we use beloware not equivalent in all circles, but offer a broad context for understanding these words.


, or factors that push us physically or psychologically, in and of itself is not problematic. In fact it can be a motivator, and is simply part of life.

However, too much stress can take a toll on our relationships, our health, and how well we do our jobs. Of course, what “too much” is varies between each of us and with how much is on our plate at any given time.


refers to the exhaustion of physical and psychological resources caused by excessive striving for unrealistically high expectations.

Burnout is a grief response: grief that you aren’t as effective as you want to be.

Secondary Trauma

comes from exposure to someone else’s trauma. It is the effect of trauma on professionals, relatives and friends of victims, and others indirectly affected by a traumatic event.

Vicarious Trauma

is the cumulative transfer of the trauma effect on the professional from working with traumatic life events of others. It is a result of empathy with the client’s trauma.

Compassion Fatigue

can be thought of as what often results when burnout and secondary trauma occur together. People respond by emotionally shutting down.

For further reading on these terms and others, click here.

No matter how skilled an investigator is, exposure to child pornography is toxic. Creating ethical work structures and prevention requires we do all we can to keep those who do this important work healthy and able to manage the stress.

-Cordelia Anderson