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Helping others

It is often difficult for family and friends to understand the impact a criminal act can have on a victim.

At this time, it is important that victims are supported by people they know and trust.

How can I help?

Even if they have not been physically injured or directly threatened during a criminal act, some people can have strong reactions to what may seem a relatively minor event.

Victims are often overwhelmed by strong emotions, leaving them feeling vulnerable and out of control. Their anger and fear may be misdirected at loved ones and friends at times.

It is important that you don't expect too much of them, as this may hinder their recovery and add to the pressure they are already feeling. Your friend or family member will need to heal in their own way and in their own time.

What are the common reactions?

People’s reactions vary - some reactions to traumatic situations  may include:

  • feeling helpless and having no control over one’s life
  • experiencing disturbed sleep and nightmares
  • nervousness, or feelings of anxiety or panic
  • poor concentration
  • physical symptoms like nausea and headaches
  • detachment and withdrawal from people or activities
  • increased irritability leading to angry outbursts
  • reduced sex drive
  • loss of confidence
  • impaired decision making and judgement.

How long will the reactions last?

Some people will manage their reactions within a couple of days, while others may take weeks or months before they regain control of their lives.

Watch for any strong reactions. If any of the reactions listed above last for longer than a few days, encourage the victim to contact the  Victim Support Service for assistance.

What can I do?

As a support person, you can discuss your concerns about a family member or friend with a Victim Support Service counsellor.

Some ways to provide support to a friend or family member who has been a victim of crime are to:

  • let them talk about their experience and their feelings and fears. They may need to do this over and over again
  • listen sympathetically, even if you think they are over-reacting. You do not need to offer solutions, just listen
  • be aware that telling stories about your own or someone else’s experience can make the  victim feel that their situation is trivial or that they are not managing adequately
  • provide practical support, eg help with shopping or preparing  meals
  • encourage them to establish normal routines, at a pace they can manage, and to participate  in activities with others
  • allow them to regain control of their lives. Be careful not to become too protective. Help them to carry out decisions they have made
  • be prepared for some uncharacteristic behaviour. This is due to stress and is a normal  reaction to an abnormal situation
  • be patient with them if simple decision making and tolerance seem to be affected
  • not be too harsh as they may be sensitive to criticism
  • try not to take their emotional reactions personally, even though they may be difficult on you.

You are important too

You may also have your own reactions. It may be important that you find someone to talk to as well.

In addition to supporting victims of crime, the Victim Support Service is also available to family and friends. Freecall 1800 818 988 or contact us at our nearest office for help.

Last updated: 12-Apr-2019

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