Information for Crime Victims and Witnesses
A crime victim is anyone who suffers as a result of ruthless design by another person. A pickpocket, mugger, con artist or rapist can make you a victim. So can the person who breaks into your car. Each victimizes in a different way. The suffering that the victim experiences is generally the result of physical and/or psychological loss.
People who witness crimes can also experience difficulties because their sense of safety and security is affected as well.
Common Reactions of Crime Victims and Witnesses
experience the event in memories, or in dreams or nightmares. You may feel detached from others and withdraw from activities in which you previously participated, especially those activities related to the crime. Other responses include sleep disturbances, guilt or blaming yourself for the crime, and memory and concentration problems. Sometimes the crime victim experiences intense fear, helplessness, terror or horror, numbness (not feeling anything at all) and being out of control. Sometimes, you may not realize that you have been traumatized. You may be in shock or unaware of the impact of the event. You are not alone in these feelings. They are experienced in some form by all crime victims.
It is important to recognize that you have been exposed to a traumatic event and that it is bound to affect you in some way. Remember that there is no right or wrong way to think or feel about the traumatic event. Any reaction you have is valid. Be accepting of your own feelings and reactions as well as those of others. Different people may react in very different ways.
Steps to Take to Help Recover From This Experience
Reporting the crime can be an important first step in taking control again of your own life. Contact your local police precinct. (Precinct phones are listed in the New York government listings blue pages section of your phone directory.) If the crime took place on campus, notify the Office of Campus and Community Safety Services, 0202 Ingersoll Hall, 718.951.5511. The NYPD Sexual Victims Liaison Unit is 212.267.7273.
Talking to Others
Talking to others about the event can be very helpful. Tell sympathetic family or friends about your experience. Don't feel over-responsible: Try to understand what your limitations were at the time of the event. People tend to feel that they should have reacted differently or done something to prevent or to lessen the impact of the incident. Be aware that in traumatic situations, most people react in the best way that they can based on their ability and their awareness at that exact moment in time.
Sometimes the trauma has affected your friends and family, and they may not be able to help you or even listen to you. In fact, they may also need someone to talk to.
Self-help groups are a good place to start and provide a good support system. Hearing others recount their experiences will not only validate your own feelings (which may be confused), but will give you a help in resolving some of these conflicting feelings. The Victims Services Agency has offices at several locations:
- 3021 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn, N.Y., 718.827.4700
- 6013 Fifth Avenue, Brooklyn, N.Y., 718.439.1010
- 50 Court Street, Brooklyn, N.Y., 718.858.9070
- 285 Bainbridge Avenue, Brooklyn, N.Y., 718.574.6330
Another organization, Victims for Victims, is located at 68 Vesey Street in Manhattan, 212.431.1200.
Counseling can help people to recognize that the responses they have are normal and can assist them to begin to take charge of their life again. Counseling provides support and teaches how to cope with fears guilt, and all the emotions that go along with being a crime victim.
If you or someone you care about has been the victim or the witness of a crime and have been experiencing any of the above responses, or if you would like more information, come in and speak with a professional counselor in 0203 James Hall, 718.951.5363. All services are free and confidential.
Reading may be a helpful way for you to get information. Especially recommended are Invisible Wounds: Crime Victims Speak by Shelley Neiderbach (Haworth Press) and The Crime Victim's Book by Morton Bard (Brunner Mazel). Both are available in the counseling center library.