The effects of crime
People react to crime in many ways. Although most victims will not suffer long-term harm, both adults and children can be affected and may experience very strong emotions. The feelings which are most commonly described include: shock, upset, worry and fear. People may also feel angry about what has happened, lose confidence or experience guilt and depression.
The effects of crime can be as severe for victims of burglary as for victims of more serious crimes, such as violence. For example, burglary victims often express feelings of invasion and can find it difficult to feel at ease again in their own home - a place which should afford safety and privacy.
How an individual reacts, and their subsequent recovery, will depend on an infinite number of factors - not least that individual's personality, life experiences, the reactions of others, and whether or not they receive any support after the offence. Their recovery will also be influenced by the nature of the offence and factors like their relationship to the offender.
People often find coming to terms with a crime difficult because it has been perpetrated deliberately. It is fundamentally different from an accident or illness, because the crisis has been brought about intentionally by another person.
People may experience numerous losses, such as direct physical and financial losses, as well as loss of confidence in society, loss of self-esteem or a loss of faith.
For some people, becoming a victim of crime is an ongoing experience. Crimes like domestic violence may continue over many years and can escalate over time.
While most victims recover swiftly, a small number of individuals may experience a more severe, long-lasting reaction. These individuals are sometimes described as suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), a syndrome which can be found in a person who has been traumatised. These people may require specialist intervention to assist their recovery.
Victims may also experience great distress because of the way they are treated by others - how people react to them and their situation. People often don't know what to say and so may avoid the subject, which can leave victims feeling isolated and alone. In addition, many victims feel guilty about burdening family and friends and causing them distress by talking about the crime.
Victim Support has found that all too frequently an individual's initial reaction on becoming a victim of crime is then reinforced or intensified by their experience of the criminal justice process and the treatment they receive from other institutions/officials such as housing departments. This can be because of a lack of information or unsympathetic treatment by professionals involved.
It is important to remember that family members, children, friends, witnesses and others who surround the direct victim of crime may also be affected. They may feel concern for the victim, fear or guilt that they couldn't help, as well as an increased sense of their own vulnerability.
(c) Victim Support
This page was last revised:14/06/01
Victim Support National Office, Cranmer House, 39 Brixton Road, London SW9 6DZ.
Tel. 020 7735 9166, fax 020 7582 5712, firstname.lastname@example.org