If you have been the victim of a crime it is likely that you are experiencing a range of reactions and feelings. Although this may be worrying for you, they are normal reactions to such a traumatic event (Please click here for further information about how to cope with witnessing a traumatic event). Your reactions may be physical (e.g. headaches/nausea), emotional (e.g. depression/anger) or social (e.g. unable to work/withdrawn). Common reaction to witnessing a traumatic event include:
- Prolonged crying and sadness
- Sleep disturbance
- Difficulty concentrating
- Disorientation and confusion
- Suicide of a loved one
It is important to understand that your reactions are normal after a stressful event, and they will decrease over time.
Some ways to reduce the impact of your experience are:
- Spend time with people who love and care about you – talk about the event and the past experiences you are recalling;
- Expect your mood and feelings to be intense and constantly changing - you may be more irritable than usual or more easily upset by things. Your mood may change from day to day or hour to hour;
- Try to maintain a regular eating and sleeping pattern – a traumatic experience may disturb your eating and sleeping habits so making an effort to rest and eat well will help you cope with stress;
- Don’t be too hard on yourself – acknowledge that you have been traumatised by the experience and your body and emotions are trying to deal with it; and
- Don’t expect yourself to be back to normal immediately – recovery will take time.
Here are some other suggestions to help you cope:
Take Care of Yourself
- Don’t be too hard on yourself and give yourself permission to take time to recover
- Treat yourself (e.g. have your hair done or do something you enjoy)
- Take time out for yourself
- Pamper yourself (e.g. soak in a bubble bath and eat well balanced, regular meals)
- Try to avoid excessive alcohol and/or drug intake
- Try exercise (e.g. go for a walk), it helps to relieve stress and is good for you
- Treat yourself to your favourite food
- Cry if you need to
- Write down how you feel in a journal or as poetry
- Read self-help books
- Maintain regular routines if possible (e.g. work or study)
- Feeling angry is a normal reaction to crime – you have the right to feel angry
- Express your anger in a way that is not hurtful to yourself or others
- Talk to someone you trust
- Write about your anger
- Walk or exercise
- Listen to loud music
- Take time out
- Be assertive
- Tell people what you need from them
- Scream in the shower or where no-one can hear you
- Support is the key to recovery
- Talk to friends or family you can trust
- Tell others how you are feeling
- Speak to a counsellor
- Join a support group
- Try to rest.
- Find a peaceful place and try to relax
- Listen to a relaxation tape
- Play your favourite music
- Take deep breaths – control your breathing
- Try aromatherapy (e.g. lavender oil is calming and relaxing)
- Have a bath with bubbles or lavender oil
- Do something you enjoy (e.g. gardening or walking)
- Watch TV
- Read a good book
- Drink herbal tea (e.g. Chamomile tea)
- Drink warm milk
- Have a massage
If negative reactions to your experience continue for a long period, or if they are severe or getting worse, you may benefit from professional support. Counselling can provide you with an opportunity to talk in a safe and confidential environment and may help you find ways of coping with your feelings. Counsellors can also refer you to other agencies for different types of assistance.
Children are also likely to need care and support if they witness a traumatic event. Children often react differently to adults, so parents need to be understanding and patient.
Information on helping children cope with trauma is available from another Victim Support and Child Witness Service information sheet, available at www.justice.wa.gov.au(link is external), or by calling the service on the numbers below.
- You need to feel safe
- You should not do anything that makes you feel uncomfortable or if it increases your stress levels excessively (e.g. return to the scene of the crime)
- You know what feels right for you and therefore, you need to make your own decisions
- It is not a good time to make dramatic changes in your life
- You will have good days and bad days
- The reactions will become less intense and they are temporary
Below is a brief list of terminologies of coping strategies:
- Cry: this is your body’s natural reaction and releases stress and anxiety.
- Writing: is a great way to record your thoughts and feelings and clear your head for day to day tasks. Ripping up the paper afterwards is very cathartic.
- Talking: if and when you feel comfortable, try talking to a friend, family member or professional counsellor about your experience and what you need.
- Positivism: surround yourself with positive people who you trust. Set goals and rewards: which are achievable to help you keep focused.
- Routines: keep to your usual routines as much as possible. Keeping busy does not mean that you forget, it just gives you room to breathe.
- Prayer: whether it be to a religious god or invisible protector this has been known to be very beneficial to the recovery process.
- Keep fit and healthy: exercise releases stress and anxiety and provides you with endorphins (the body’s natural feel good chemicals). Healthy eating raises your energy levels.
- Psychotherapy and counselling: is beneficial if you find someone you feel comfortable and safe with, someone who empowers you.
- Victim-offender mediation: is often initiated by the offender after a plea of guilty but prior to sentencing. It can be seen as a therapeutic session in which the offender apologises for his/her actions and you have the opportunity to express your own feelings. The process is voluntary and run by a Victim- Mediator service attached to most courts in Australia.
The Victim Support and Child Witness Service can assist victims of crime with professional counsellors, trained volunteers, and a network of information and service providers.
For further information about coping strategies, please click on links below to access information on how to cope from a traumatic event.