Victims of Crime - Resources
Unfortunately, becoming a victim of crime is an all too common occurrence which can be a shattering experience for some. Victims often suffer a range of psychological and social injuries long after their physical wounds have healed or their property has been replaced or repaired.
That is why it is important to know what assistance is available and how to quickly access it. You can consider yourself a victim of crime if you have suffered injury or loss as a direct result of an offence. You are also a victim of crime if an immediate member of your family has died as a direct result of an offence. In the past, victims of crime were the forgotten people in the criminal justice system. However, in recent years, there have been significant improvements and now much greater consideration is being given to the needs and interests of victims and their families.
This section of the website offers information on the effect crime can have on a person and your entitlements as a victim of crime. Other sections deal with what to do and where to find help.
Anyone affected by crime can contact the Victim Support Service for free and confidential help.
For more guidance, please download the booklet - What About Me? A Helpful Guide.
The State of Western Australia recognises the rights of victims of crime through an act of Parliament. The Victims of Crime Act 1994 offers 12 guidelines to protect and support victims through this difficult time.
- All victims should be treated with courtesy, compassion and respect
The police, court officials, hospital staff and other agencies that deal with victims should treat them with respect and understanding. You have the right to ask any WA agency you deal with for information, advice and support, and feel comfortable throughout all proceedings.
- Victims should have access to counselling
As a victim of crime, you should have access to counselling and advice about the medical and legal assistance, welfare services available to you and criminal injuries compensation you can apply for.
- Protection by law
Victims should be informed about what protection the law can offer against violence and intimidation by the offender.
- Inconvenience to victims should be minimised
The process to resolve cases may be long and complex and may involve investigations, charges, a trial, sentencing and an appeal. Some inconvenience is inevitable, but victims should expect it to be kept to a minimum. Wherever possible, victims’ needs should be addressed by the Government agency concerned.
- Privacy of victims is protected
At this vulnerable time, it is vital that the privacy of victims is protected as they deal with Government agencies and staff. Where appropriate, you should identify yourself as a victim and ask for the service that will make you feel more comfortable. For example, victims have the right to have discussions in a private interview room.
- Staying informed as a victim
As a victim of crime, you can request to be kept informed about:
- the progress of the investigation into the offence (unless the police believe that to provide that information would jeopardise the investigation)
- charges laid
- any bail application made by the accused person
- variations to the charges and the reasons for variations.
- Staying informed as a witness
As a victim who is also a witness in the trial of the offender, you should be informed about the trial process and your role as a witness in the prosecution of the offence.
Detailed information about the trial process and witness preparation is available on this web site.
- Sentence and appeals
As a victim, you can ask to be informed about any sentence or order imposed on the offender, as a result of the trial and about any appeal and the result of any appeal.
- Return of Property
A victim's property held by the State or the police for the purposes of investigation or evidence should be returned as soon as possible.
- Supervised release
Arrangements should be made so that a victim's views and concerns can be considered when a decision is being made about whether or not to release the offender from custody (except at the end of a term of imprisonment).
- Offender release
As a victim, you can ask to be informed about the impending release of the offender from custody and about the Community Justice Centre branch where the offender has to report.
You can arrange to be informed of these matters by contacting the Victim Notification Registry.
- Offender escape
As a victim, you can ask to be informed of any escape from custody by the offender. You can arrange to be informed of these matters by contacting the Victim Notification Registry.
If you believe that you have not been treated in accordance with these guidelines, you have the right to complain to any of the Government agencies that acted inappropriately.
The Ombudsman is an independent and impartial person who investigates complaints about Western Australian Government departments, statutory authorities and local governments. It is a free service. Contact the Western Australian Ombudsman(link is external) on (08) 9220 7555 or Freecall 1800 117 000.
The level of trauma you experience may be affected by the extent of the injury, loss or damage, your personal circumstances and the nature of the crime. For some, being a victim is merely an uncomfortable feeling. For others, it can be a traumatic experience, causing uncertainty and disruption to everyday life.
Typically, you might experience fear and anxiety, vulnerability, guilt, anger, loss of concentration or sleeplessness. You may also have difficulties remembering things and making decisions. This feeling of loss of control is quite normal, given the trauma you are dealing with. Sometimes, you may emotionally withdraw, even from people close to you, until you can make sense of the situation. This can lead to feeling isolated and misunderstood. Some people experience these reactions as physical pain and aching in their body, leading them to worry that they are physically ill. Some of the physical signs of stress are:
- insomnia or nightmares
- frequent crying
- weight loss or gain
Other health conditions previously under control may become problematic. It is important to recognise that these reactions are normal. We all deal with trauma differently but victims should seek help to limit the effects the trauma has on them. You may need help with children, medical assistance, financial advice, access to support networks or other assistance.
Don't be surprised if you find it hard to cope after becoming a victim of crime. Some useful tips to help you cope with this difficult time include:
- creating structure in your life
- not making any major life decisions
- talking about your feelings
- limiting the use of alcohol and drugs
- keeping a journal
- giving yourself permission to feel sad
- eating properly and increasing physical exercise.
Remember that you are reacting normally to an abnormal situation.
Being a witness to a traumatic or violent event can have a deep impact on people, especially children. Even if you were not physically hurt or involved in the traumatic event, you can still be psychologically affected by what you have seen or heard. To speak with a counsellor from the Victim Support Service, phone (08) 9425 2850 or Free call 1800 818 988.
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. Please contact your nearest office for help.
- Urgent assistance
- Support for victims
- Support for child victims
- Safety and Protection
- Reporting a crime
- Going to court
For additional information about victims' rights, coping with the effects of crime and the criminal justice system for adult and young offenders, please download the booklet below. Furthermore, you can also download the following fact sheets and guidebook that will help you decide whether you have been a victim of crime: