Dealing with Trauma

Traumatic events such as crime can result in many losses to survivors/victims and their families through physical injury and/or in the emotional aftermath.

The Emotional Response to Crisis

Shock, Disbelief, and/or Denial is experienced by many victims as they find it difficult to believe (or know) that they became the victim of a crime. Once some of the shock has worn off, many victims will experience a variety of strong confusing emotions. These may include:

Anger or Rage may have multiple focal points including God, the offender(s), the criminal justice system, or even oneself. Anger may become confused with revenge. The strength of the anger is often new to victims and is often disapproved of by society. Victims have the right to be angry after someone has hurt them.

Fear or Terror can result after a crime that involved a threat to one's safety or life, or to someone else a victim cares about. The fear may cause the person to experience "panic attacks" in the future if they are in situations that remind them of the original crime.

Frustration often results from feelings of helplessness and powerlessness during the crime. This is especially true if people were not able to fight off the offender or call for help. After the crime, frustration may continue if the victim is unable to obtain information or help.

Confusion often results when victims ask themselves "why did this happen to me?" Victims may be able to figure out "what" happened, but it is often impossible to explain "why" someone else wanted to cause them pain. Crimes often occur quickly and are chaotic, so confusion may also be caused when victims honestly are not clear about what actually happened.

Guilt or Self-Blame is a common feeling for victims, especially if they think they were doing something wrong at the time or acted inappropriately while the crime was happening. Some victims experience "survivor guilt," questioning why they survived while someone else was injured or even killed.

Shame or Humiliation may be felt by some victims who think that they "deserved" to be hurt, particularly if the crime was degrading and perpetrated by someone the victim knew or trusted.

Grief or Intense Sadness is often the most powerful long-term reaction to a crime. It is important for friends and service providers not to be judgmental about a victim's emotional reaction to becoming the victim of a crime.

Many of these feelings diminish over time with adequate intervention and support. However, certain "trigger" events can cause unpleasant emotions to return. Some of these triggers include: seeing the offender again, news coverage, legal proceedings associated with the incident, anniversaries and any other reminders of the incident.