Crime victims: recovery
If you're a victim of a crime, it may take a while to get your head round what happened. Here are some common feelings many people experience after the trauma of a robbery or assault.
Everyone is an individual and is affected by crime in a different way. It partly depends upon someone's psychological makeup before the incident, and their perception of their own vulnerability. But according to Garry Williams, Victim Supportline Co-ordinator, a person's response also "depends on the experience itself. For example is it a one-off, or is it an ongoing situation such as domestic violence?"
What emotions do you go through after a crime?
The emotional process of coming to terms with being a victim of crime has much in common with the way people recover from other types of trauma. Most people go through three stages:
1. Shock: there may be feelings of disbelief, anger, confusion, or depression. There may be a period of denial, where people say they're not that badly affected, but really they can't admit that they're upset about what happened.
2. Acceptance: what has happened slowly starts to 'sink in'.
3. Readjustment: where the person gets back to their usual life or makes changes to it, often to prevent similar events happening again.
These feelings can vary in intensity. Recovery often depends upon the type and severity of the crime, and may take days or even years to get over. It may be a case of 'one step forwards, two steps back' with some people.
During the adjustment process, people are trying to make sense of what has happened to them. Strange or negative thoughts are common, and people often blame themselves in some way for what has happened. When coming to terms with being a victim of crime, it's not unusual to experience intense emotions such as fear and anger, or obsessive thoughts and flashbacks.
Negative thoughts may include:
- Somehow I brought this on myself, it's my fault
- I'm probably overreacting
- Why am I feeling like this? I don't understand
- I could have prevented it
- Now I feel weak, or less of a man
- Should have fought back or been able to do more
- It might happen again, I'm vulnerable
- I want to hurt or kill the people who did this to me
Why do we react differently?
The way we feel we're expected to behave by society can affect the way we deal with trauma. Women sometimes need to give themselves permission to feel angry, and men sometimes need to give themselves permission to admit that they felt afraid or weak. Most people can also benefit from practical advice as well as a listening ear and emotional support.
Where can I get help for how I'm feeling?
Victim Support gives free advice to anyone who is a victim of a crime. They can speak to you confidentially about anything you're worried about, including expert advice on giving evidence and claiming compensation.
Also, don't be afraid to talk to friends and families about how you feel. And, if you're feeling really freaked out, there's no shame in talking to your GP.
The most important thing to remember is that you didn't ask this to happen to you. It wasn't your fault in any way, and you're dealing with it as best you can.
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