Anyone can become a victim of a crime. If it happens to you or someone you love, here are some important points to remember:
Being a victim of a crime can be a very difficult and stressful experience. While most people are naturally resilient and over time will find ways to cope and adjust, there can be a wide range of after effects to a trauma. Victims of crime can be affected physically, emotionally, and/or financially by criminal victimization. Many of the physical and emotional reactions to victimization are normal reactions to an abnormal situation, but they can cause the victim to feel as if they are “going crazy”. One person may experience many of the reactions, a few, or none at all. In some people the reaction may be delayed days, weeks, or even months. Not everyone has the same reaction.
Victims and survivors can also suffer financially when their money or jewelry is taken, when their property is damaged, when their medical insurance does not cover all expenses, if they lose their ability to support themselves, and when they must pay unanticipated funeral costs. The stress of these financial injuries can also cause physical and emotional problems.
Dealing with the criminal justice system, when an offender is apprehended and prosecuted, can be very frustrating. The Camden County Prosecutor’s Office’s Victim/Witness staff is available to provide psychological first aid, information about the criminal justice process, case status, restitution, compensation, referrals to counseling and other appropriate services for victims and witnesses of crime, to lessen the trauma of victimization.
Getting back to normal can be a difficult process after a personal experience of this kind, especially for victims of violent crime and families of murder victims. Learning to understand and feel more at ease with the intense feelings and reactions can help victims and their families better cope with what happened.
Potential Effects of Trauma
Some people who have been victims of crime may experience some of these symptoms. Seek medical advice if the symptoms persist beyond thirty days.
- Chills or sweating
- Lack of coordination
- Heart palpitations or chest pains
- High blood pressure
- Sleep disturbances
- Stomach upset
- Loss of appetite
- Exaggerated startle response
- Feeling lost, abandoned, and isolated
- Wanting to withdraw or hide
- Mood swings
- Loss of interest in physical and sexual intimacy
- Decreased ability to trust
- Lowered self-esteem
- Faltering faith
- Slowed thinking
- Memory problems
- Intrusive memories or flashbacks
- Inability to concentrate
- Difficulty in making decisions
Tips for coping
These are some ideas that may help you cope with the trauma or loss:
- Find someone to talk with about how you feel and what you are going through. Keep the phone number of a good friend nearby to call when you feel overwhelmed or feel panicked.
- Allow yourself to feel the pain. It will not last forever.
- Keep a journal.
- Spend time with others, but make time to spend time alone.
- Take care of your mind and body. Rest, sleep, and eat regular, healthy meals.
- Re-establish a normal routine as soon as possible, but don’t over-do.
- Make daily decisions, which will help to bring back a feeling of control over your life.
- Exercise, though not excessively and alternate with periods of relaxation.
- Undertake daily tasks with care. Accidents are more likely to happen after severe stress.
- Recall the things that helped you cope during trying times and loss in the past and think about the
- things that give you hope. Turn to them on bad days.
These are things to avoid:
- Be careful about using alcohol or drugs to relieve emotional pain. Becoming addicted not only postpones healing, but also creates new problems.
- Make daily decisions, but avoid making life changing decisions in the immediate aftermath, since judgment may be temporarily impaired.
- Don’t blame yourself—it wasn’t your fault.
- Your emotions need to be expressed. Try not to bottle them up.
For some victims and families of victims, life is forever changed. Life may feel empty and hollow. Life doesn’t “mean” what it used to. Part of coping and adjusting is redefining the future. What seemed important before may not be important now. Many victims find new meaning in their lives as a result of their experience. It is important to remember that emotional pain is not endless and that it will eventually ease. It is impossible to undo what has happened, but life can be good again in time.
For Family and Friends of a Victim of Crime:
- Listen carefully.
- Spend time with the victim.
- Offer your assistance, even if they haven’t asked for help.
- Help with everyday tasks like cleaning, cooking, caring for the family, minding the children.
- Give them private time.
- Don’t take their anger or other feelings personally.
- Don’t tell them they are “lucky it wasn’t worse”—traumatized people are not consoled by such statements.
- Tell them that you are sorry such an event has occurred to them and you want to understand and help them.
The Victim Witness Unit has specially trained victim advocates and administrative staff that can help victims and witnesses by providing:
- Assistance in coping with the aftermath of criminal victimization;
- Information about the criminal justice system and the status of their particular case;
- Court accompaniment;
- Assistance in applying for compensation from the NJ Victims of Crime Compensation Office to help pay for out-of-pocket, uninsured medical, counseling, crime-scene clean-up, re-location and funeral expenses and lost wages related to the crime;
- Assistance in submitting Victim Impact Statements to let the Prosecutor and Court know how the crime has affected them;
- Assistance in registering with VINE, an automated victim notification system, that alerts victims of any change in custody status of the offender; and
- Referrals for counseling and other appropriate social services.
Resources for victims
Camden County Prosecutor’s Office Victim Witness Unit – (856) 225-8440
Victims of Crime Compensation Office
National Organization for Victims of Crime
National Center for Victims of Crime
VINE (Victim Information and Notification Everyday)