Criminal Victim Trauma and Grief – How to Cope
Just few short seconds of being at the wrong place at the wrong time are enough to make you a crime victim. It is a very unfortunate event that changes one’s life forever and, in some occasions, requires big emotional effort to get the life back on track. Being a crime victim is not an easy life situation. Those who have never been part of criminal accident or incident can have all the empathy in the world for victims, but they still couldn’t fully understand what a mess fear can create on victim’s life. At the Wolfson Law Firm, our Miami crime victim compensation attorneys have helped victims of negligence and criminal acts since 1963 and we are here to help you too. Just call us at (305) 285-1115 for your free consultation.The Impact of Being a Crime Victim
Crime victims suffer three different types of injuries: physical, emotional, and financial. Physical injuries might be obvious, such as bruises, cuts, or broken limbs. The not so obvious include brain damages and internal bleeding, but can appear as decreased appetite, sleeplessness and fatigue as well. Victims suffer financially when their possessions have been taken away from them or when they have to pay for huge medical bills or even to pay for a funeral. Emotional injuries come as trauma and grief. They can last short term or long term and, unlike physical injuries, can hit family and friends of the victim, too.Victim Reactions to Criminal Acts
Crime victims react to crisis after the criminal attack in several ways. Every victim reacts differently, but the most common reactions are:
- Shock and numbness. This is usually the first reaction on the crisis. Victims’ safety has been invaded, they haven’t been able to defend it. That puts things beyond their control, which results in shock for them. They might experience the whole accident as if it never happened to them. When it all ends, they feel as if they have watched a movie. Victims hardly believe that it really happened to them. That’s a defense mechanism of human mind for coping with the tremendous stress that a criminal attack causes. In some cases, this can influence victims’ lives greatly, and make them less able to deal with other life issues after the accident.
- Denial, Disbelief, and Anger. Victims show denial by suppressing unpleasant memories of the event. As with any painful memory, human mind tries to defend by pretending it never existed. Disbelief manifests by accepting the existence of the event but thinking that this couldn’t have happened to them. Anger is a common reaction, too. It shows up as revolt against the victim’s unfortunate destiny and the criminal offender. Very often victims want to get even with him in this phase.
- Acute stress disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. Consequences on emotional and mental health sometimes last for a while. Sleeping difficulties, troubles concentrating, anger outbursts, constant flashbacks or extreme anxiety are just few of the symptoms which if they last for few days to few weeks, the victim will be diagnosed with acute stress disorder. If these symptoms last for at least a month, the diagnose changes into post-traumatic stress disorder.
Secondary injuries occur due to lack of proper support for the victim. They are usually caused by people close to the victim, like friends and family, as well as professionals who encounter the victim during procedures that follow the crime. These include mental health workers, social workers, judges, prosecutors, law enforcement officers, media, and everyone else who is in contact with the victim after the accident. Secondary injuries occur when they don’t recognize victim’s condition. They may not be trained to provide proper support, so these injuries happen accidentally, without bad intentions. However, crime victims are not in a state to determine easily whether the other person has good or bad intentions, and they need their wounds recognized and not dismissed.How Miami Crime Victims Can Cope with Trauma
As with reactions, no two people cope the same way. However, these few steps could be of use for anyone:
- Recognize it wasn’t your fault. It’s easy to think that you are guilty for what has happened to you, but you must keep in mind that it was offender’s decision to commit the crime. It wasn’t yours.
- Meet a counselor. Dealing with this difficult period of life will become easier if you engage the help of a professional. If he or she is experienced in crime victims counseling, even better for you.
- Join a support group. There are many support groups of crime victims meeting regularly. They share their experience and help each other cope with it more easily. The compassion and empathy by someone who has felt what you feel now can be invaluable on the road to your emotional recovery.
- Report the crime. Finally, if no one else has done it by now, make sure you report the crime. Don’t leave the power in offender’s hands. Not reporting crimes encourages them, prevents justice, and will make you feel powerless about the event.
Those who have lost a loved one in a criminal attack are crime victims, too. Those who mourn for a loved one, or survivors, are passing through a very difficult period of life. Death of loved person due to criminal attack is very unjust, creating an overwhelmingly painful experience for them.
No two people grieve in the same way. That depends on the person himself, his beliefs, relationship with the deceased, or coping skills. The intensity of grief can vary among people, but most of them pass through the same reactions of grieving a deceased loved one. These reactions include:
- Denial. At the first moment, people refuse to believe that their loved one is gone. It’s a coping mechanism that helps the person deal with the horrible news.
- Anger. Once the news of the death is accepted, anger follows. Survivors feel that injustice has been done to them. They are angry at the assailant - the person that caused them these hard emotions. Depending on the coping skills of the survivor, anger may lead to creating an elaborate plan for revenge against the assailant. Usually, this ends up as just a fantasy that helps grieving, and it’s rather normal. Receiving proper support will help the survivor get over these feelings and go on with their life without doing something irrational.
- Guilt. Survivors sometimes have unresolved issues with the deceased or think they could have done something to prevent the life-altering event. Although reasons for the death are always outside of survivor’s control, they still feel guilt.
- Other reactions. There are many other reactions that survivors feel, however. They may react by sleeping disorders, lethargy, fear, powerlessness, lack of focus, social withdrawal, eating disorders, reduce of expressing emotions, constant thinking about the death, and many others.
Coping with death of a loved one is very hard. Unfortunately, there is no escape from this situation. All you can do as a survivor is take steps for coping with it. You can cope by taking these steps:
- Acknowledge feelings of loss. It might sound harsh and difficult in the beginning, but every survivor should live through all the hard emotions to speed up grievance.
- Be patient with others. Again, this will be hard for you, but you have to know that people with good intentions often don’t know how to act when talking to a survivor. Just be patient with them to avoid suffering on your side.
- Commit to join a support group. Sharing your feelings with other people who have been in your shoes can be very soothing. You can find empathy and compassion in groups established in hospitals, social services, or churches.
- See a counselor. Professional help will take you through the grieving period faster and easier. A counselor experienced in counseling crime victim could be extremely helpful for survivors.
As part of your recovery from the grief and trauma of being victimized by the criminal acts of another, you should also consider speaking with a Miami crime victim attorney. At the Wolfson Law Firm, our Miami crime victim compensation lawyers can analyze the incident that led to your injuries and make a determination if some person or corporation is responsible for the damages you sustained. Simply call us at (305) 285-1115 for a free consultation and let us answer your questions.
At the Wolfson Law Firm, our Miami grief and trauma lawyers serve the good people of Florida including the communities of Miami, Miami Beach, Miami Gardens, Allapattah, Aventura, South Beach, Liberty City, Miami Lakes, Hialeah, Overtown, South Miami, Homestead, Florida City, Kendall, Fort Lauderdale, Key West and West Palm Beach.