Crime Victim Support
Victims of crime are often left with many questions: “Why did this happen? What do I do now? Who can I turn to for help?” With all of the questions, emotions, and confusion, it is possible to forget that there are programs in place to offer support. Crimes can include rape, drunk driving, domestic violence, abuse or neglect of children, human trafficking, and more. Often, the crime has effects that are felt far beyond the individuals involved. Support can take the form of financial, physical, emotional, or legal.
In 1984, the Victims of Crime Act was amended. This act, in combination with the hard work of many advocates, has helped to make sure that victims of crime can receive help, and can continue to work toward positive change in the community. Like every citizen, victims have rights. In many states, the state constitution guarantees certain rights, including:
What to Expect
Since each experience and person is different, recovering from being a victim of crime can be difficult and takes time. It is important that victims are provided support right after the incident, and ongoing support to help with healing and working through any other processes that arise. Beneficial support to offer includes assuring physical safety, helping with emotional responses, and understanding financial and legal implications.
Being a victim of a crime is not a normal experience. It can happen to anyone and there is no “normal” way to respond. Emotional reactions to crime can include: shock or feeling numb, denial or disbelief, anger, depression, anxiety, or stress. In addition to these emotional states, it is possible that there are other mental or physical symptoms, often associated with the trauma of the crime.
Physical symptoms might include:
Mental symptoms might include:
Most people will experience some of these. If these symptoms last longer than a month and cause significant problems in your daily life, it is possible that may you have Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. Some people who are victims of crime will develop PTSD, and others will have other long-term effects of a crisis.
Tips for Coping
If you or a loved one has been a victim of a crime, the following tips can help to provide a direction for coping in a healthy way.
Remind yourself that this is just a part of your life. Much like a roller coaster or the changing of the seasons, this period of your life will not last forever. While you may have memories or symptoms from the event that last, you can and will move forward from this event if you find healthy and helpful ways to cope.
Programs are available to help offer support and to help cover expenses incurred from the after effects of crime. These programs are often either state-funded, or non-profit organizations. Expenses might include hospital bills, therapy, funeral costs, or lost wages. It is also common for programs to provide support services such as crisis intervention, emergency shelter, transportation, advocacy for criminal justice, or counseling. The Office for Victims of Crime is run by the U.S. Office of Justice. On its website are resources for victims, headlines, and other valuable information. It also has a national listing of service providers that is regularly evaluated and updated. This can be found at: http://ovc.ncjrs.gov/findvictimservices.