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Coping with Crime
Personal Reaction to Crime

Crimes may have very adverse effects on a victim. These effects can occur in violent as well as non-violent crimes. Many of your reactions during a crime will be automatic. You may not be conscious of what you are doing. Events may seem to be in slow motion. Several minutes may seem like an hour. You may focus exclusively on one or two aspects of what is happening and not notice other events which are occurring.

Common Reactions Include:
  • Fear for one’s personal safety or the safety of witnesses
  • Feelings of helplessness
  • Confusion about what to do or how to respond to the criminal’s demands
  • Anger at having to surrender money or goods
  • Concern that the criminal may remember who you are
  • Physical reactions such as trembling or inability to move

The Immediate Aftermath
After the criminal has fled, the most immediate reactions is one of relief that:
The crisis is over
You survived it
You were not more severely hurt

This May Be Followed By Feelings Of:

At having been victimized 
At a system which allowed it to happen
At the criminals because they got away
At possibly having to give up your belongings
At the police for not arriving earlier

That you could do nothing during the crime
That if you can be victimized at work, at home, or on the street, then anything can happen to you

That you did not behave properly during the crime
That you could have prevented it
That you should have remembered details of the crime

Because you had to answer many questions
Because you could not remember more details of the crime
Because your employer or family may not be sympathetic

Later That Day
The time shortly after a crime can be particularly difficult. The stress and emotions resulting from the crime may leave you tired and fatigued.

It Is Common To:
Feel alone and frightened, especially if you do not live with anyone
Want to talk about the crime at great length
Not want to talk about it at all
Worry that the criminals may come to your home because you are a witness
Lose your appetite
Lose interest in being affectionate with your partner or children
Not want to listen to the problems of others
Experience restlessness and sleeplessness
Wake up suddenly after falling asleep

The Next Few Days
The effects of a crime may not disappear immediately. In the first few days following a crime, you may continue to experience unusual feelings such as:

Apprehension and vulnerability. If it happened once, it can happen again.
Being unsafe. Your “guard” may be up. You may overreact to sudden movements or loud noises.
Diminished self worth. You may be uncertain, irritable, forgetful or unsociable.
Being preoccupied with the crime. You may re-live it through recurring thoughts. You may identify people who you think look like the criminal.

One Week to One Month
During this time period, most of the reactions will begin to diminish for many victims. You may have a brief relapse after a difficult day or a stressful event, but your recovery will likely continue.

It is not uncommon to continue to:
Dream about the event
Suffer from sleeplessness
Have periods of depression or irritability
Withdraw from people

Victims can do some things which will help to recover from a crime. You should:

Refrain from excessive use of alcohol
Exercise regularly
Maintain a proper diet
Rest regularly
Continue contact with people who provide support
Discuss the event with colleagues, supervisors, friends and family – people who will listen and not judge you
Be honest with yourself regarding your stress levels and ability to cope