The effect crime can have on victims

A crime can have a range of physical, psychological and economic effects on a victim.

What is trauma? If you are the victim of a crime, it can have a very strong emotional and psychological effect on you. Trauma is how a person responds to a distressing experience like this.

What is Post-traumatic stress disorder or “PTSD”? If you have been the victim of a stressful, frightening or distressing event like a crime, you might experience this. PTSD can cause you to relive the traumatic event through nightmares and flashbacks. It can have a serious effect on your mental health.

Trauma or PTSD may result from a single crime. Complex trauma or complex PTSD may result from a series of traumatic events or crimes that took place over a long period of time, like months or years.

Reactions to trauma vary from person to person and can last for hours, days, weeks, months or years.

You may experience a combination of emotions and thoughts that are difficult to deal with due to the trauma of being a victim of a crime.

Even though these emotions are completely normal, you may feel that you are not coping or that you are losing control, which can be quite frightening.

It is important to understand that this type of reaction is normal and there is no one way that you ‘should’ feel or react.

Some useful tips for victims of crime:

Talk about how you feel
Try to explain what happened and what impact it has had on you to those who are close to you. You might find it stressful to talk about it, but it may help if you talk to someone you trust. Talking can also make your friends and family realise what you have been through and they may respond to you in a more understanding and sensitive manner.


Contact a support organisation

You can get help free of charge. Support organisations will keep information about you and the crime confidential. Even if you don’t want to report a crime, you can still access these supports for free. If you would rather talk to someone outside your family or friends, it is a good idea to get professional help.

You can find details of support organisations on this website under Support Services.

Remember: Try to remember that the impact of the stress and strain you feel will ease over time. In most cases, people who were victims of crime recover and return to their normal lives.


Understanding emotions

We are all different, and we all react differently. As a victim of a crime or the family member of a victim, your emotional response may be very different.

Sometimes it can be hard to understand what has happened and why it happened to you.

It is important to know that these are all valid and normal thoughts to have.

It is also important to understand that everyone experiences things in different ways. The way you are feeling is okay.

You may feel like you are losing control. You may want to forget what happened.

There is support for you and your family. It is okay to ask for help. You may experience some of the following:

  • Flashbacks: You might suddenly remember what happened to you at different times.
  • Anger: You might feel very annoyed and frustrated or think what gave the person the right to target you.
  • Confusion: You might wonder why did it happen to you.
  • Anxiety: You might feel very nervous all the time or all of a sudden.
  • Insomnia or sleep problems: You might not be able to sleep because of anxiety or because you are having nightmares about what happened.
  • Fear: You might be afraid to go outside in case it happens again.
  • Intimidation: You might be afraid to tell anyone in case you get in more trouble. Or in case the person does not believe you.
  • Guilt: You might feel guilty. Remember that it is not your fault.
  • Depression and/or low mood: You might feel sad, hopeless or lose interest in things you used to enjoy. You might have low moods and become irritable.

These are all normal reactions to an abnormal situation.

Feeling overwhelmed?

What if I have strong emotions of fear, sadness, stress, worry, shame or anger that I feel I cannot manage on my own?

If this is the case, please contact your doctor for medical support or get in touch with the nearest victim support organisation.

There are supports available to you to understand these emotions and responses to trauma. See the support services section of our website for more information.

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