Everyone is affected differently by the trauma of being a victim of crime or other antisocial behaviours – whether it be property offences, stealing, assault, violent offences, fraud, traffic (road rage, drink driving etc), sexual, or domestic violence.
It is your right to feel safe in the community and at home, but this right is often felt to be missing (or stolen) by victims of crime, or family members of perpetrators of crime.
There are a wide range of normal responses you may experience, and your feelings may differ from day to day. Some days you may feel like you can cope and other days you may feel like you have difficulty doing everyday things.
It is also normal for people who have witnessed the incident, and family and friends of the victim, to experience similar reactions.
Victims of Crime: the Impacts
Here are some common emotional and physical reactions to a traumatic event such as a violent, substance related, or property crime.
Common emotional reactions:
- emptiness or numbness;
- grief and loss;
- shock and disbelief;
- fear or anxiety;
- feelings of self blame, shame or guilt;
- outbursts of anger or feeling irritable;
- feelings of helplessness or panic;
- feeling detached and isolated from others;
- tiredness and lethargy;
- denial or trying to avoid anything to do with the trauma;
- sadness, depression or loss of self-esteem;
- difficulty concentrating or remembering;
- concern over burdening others with your problems.
Common physical reactions:
- aches and pains like headaches, back aches and stomach aches;
- nightmares or problems sleeping;
- sudden sweating or heart palpitations;
- changes in appetite;
- constipation or diarrhea;
- becoming easily startled by noise or unexpected touch;
- becoming more susceptible to colds and illnesses.
You may find you have some or all of these symptoms – or even none of them. Be assured that your reactions are a normal, natural part of dealing with a trauma. It is important to look after yourself and seek help and support from others. In many cases the symptoms may not go away over time.
You have the right to feel safe and to live a happy life. You do not need to be seen as a victim, but as a survivor.
Support for Victims of Crime
Therefore, if you have been a victim of crime you may require additional support such as counselling, therapy or someone to just listen to you and provide you with information about certain offending behaviour/s. You may feel this is something you want to do very soon after the incident, or you may feel the need after some time has passed, for example leading up to and during a court proceeding.
Families of Perpetrators
It can be a real challenge for the family of the perpetrator, as trust can be disrupted and you may feel you are not equipped with the right information and skills to help.
After being convicted of an offence/s it is important for members of the person’s family or other support people from the community, to understand offending behaviour and offence cycles, and to form part of the circle of support around an ex-offender.
As part of that circle you should receive support and information from professionals, who form the outer part of the support circle. This enables you, to facilitate the person’s reintegration into the community (if coming from imprisonment), provide emotional support without enabling poor behaviours, and support them to achieve positive, practical goals (ie access to medical services, social assistance, attainment of employment/affordable housing, etc).
The ideas is to work to support the person to develop constructive and pro-social strategies to address everyday problems, and to challenge the behaviors and attitudes that may be associated with their offending cycle.
If you have a family member in trouble with the law, as a psychologist I can help you to understand offence specific risk factors; common cognitions of offenders; enabling behaviours (what not to do); best practice support strategies; relapse prevention (to avoid re-offending); and also provide valuable support for you as a person who cares for or supports a perpetrator of some form of crime.
Author: Trudy Sheffield, B Beh Sc (1st Class Hons).
Trudy Sheffield has 17 years’ experience working in the field of psychology of forensics/ offending behaviour, with a focus on addressing risk of re-offending, protecting the community, and stopping the cycle of offending. You will be assured of a professional, confidential and informed counselling experience by undertaking sessions with Trudy.
To make an appointment with Brisbane Psychologist Trudy Sheffield, freecall 1800 877 924 or try online booking – Mt Gravatt today!