Coping with Crime
Being a victim of any type of crime is an upsetting experience. There are certain effects that are commonly felt by people regardless of the nature of the crime. For example, most people experience a sense of shock, and a feeling of disbelief that such an incident could happen to them. There is often a feeling of unreality, as if you might wake up and find it has all been a bad dream. Other emotions can seem overwhelming– feelings of sadness, grief, anger, fear, anxiety, and many others. Whether you were directly involved in the event or not, your reaction will be personal and individual to you.
You may immediately feel strongly affected by what has happened. Or you may feel initially that you are coping fine, and it may be some time before you notice any of these effects. Everyone is different and there are no rules about what you ‘should’ feel and how you ‘should’ cope. You may experience some, or all, of the following:
- disbelief that this could happen to you
- denial that it happened – the event may seem unreal, like a nightmare, or something that has not really happened
- numbness – it may feel as if this has happened to someone else, not you.
- you may have no feelings
- of the same thing or something similar happening again
- of being alone, or of going out
- of returning to the place where the event occurred
- of being further victimised because you reported the crime
- of strangers, because anyone could be the perpetrator of the crime
- of breaking down
- of losing control
- of being judged by others
- of the changed world
Loss of Confidence
- you may feel vulnerable. Something you thought could never happen to you has now happened
- you may feel helpless because you could not control the situation and prevent this happening
- you may believe that you don’t have control over important areas of your life any more
- you may think that everyone knows what happened and is talking about it
- you may feel that the world is not the safe, comfortable place you thought it was
- at what has happened and at whoever caused or allowed it to happen
- at the injustice and senselessness of it all
- at the lack of proper understanding by others, such as family members or friends
- at the slow pace of the justice system in investigating the crime, or charging someone with the crime
- at yourself for being in this situation, or for not coping better with the situation
- at the perpetrator for being unaffected by your suffering and by what has happened
- at others, for not being affected in the same way as you are
- that the same thing or something similar could happen again
- that you will never get back your former sense of well-being
- about your safety and the safety of loved ones
- about any contact with strangers
- about people approaching you from behind on the street, or even at home
- about any sudden noise or unexpected movement
- because you feel you might have avoided or prevented the crime had you acted differently
- “if only I had ….” or “I should have …” thoughts and feelings
- for surviving the event, or for not seeming as badly affected as others involved
People also may feel sadness, self-doubt, shame, confusion, panic, feelings of irritation, short-tempered with family and friends, and other painful emotions.
Frustration with the Criminal Justice System
- you do not understand how the criminal justice system works
- it seems to take so long for anything to happen
- you feel you don’t know what is going on with the case
- you have difficulty in contacting the investigating Garda
- the person you have identified to the Gardaí is still free and enjoying life
- nobody is caught for the offence
- the case is not prosecuted in court
- the court does not convict the person
- the court does not give what you feel is an appropriate sanction to the offender
- the system seems to protect the rights of the suspect rather than the rights of the victim
In addition you may experience physical symptoms. Many people suffer headaches, backache, nausea, faintness, sleeplessness, flashbacks, disturbed dreams and nightmares, difficulty eating normally, stomach upsets, and other physical problems.
If you have been injured in the crime, you will also be coping with the effects of the injuries.
You may have financial concerns – such as repairs to broken doors or windows, damage to your car, loss of cash, loss of valuables, medical costs, loss of wages, cost of replacement of stolen items, raised insurance costs, etc. These can add to the frustration or helplessness that you are feeling, and to the sense of injustice and unfairness that this has happened to you.
If you are concerned about the effects of crime on your children, please ask us for our leaflet ‘Helping your child who has been a victim of crime’.