What happens after experiencing a traumatic incident?

If you, or someone you know has been the victim of a crime, here are some important things to remember.

  • Each person's reaction to a criminal incident is unique.
  • Witnessing or being harmed by any type of criminal incident is a difficult and stressful experience. Your experience and response is individual and unique to you. You may experience many traumatic effects, few impacts or none at all. You may notice impacts immediately, or experience delayed reactions. The impacts you experience may last hours, days, months or years. The way you feel will likely change over time and your response can vary from day to day. At times, you may feel like you are "falling to pieces", when, in fact, you are having a normal reaction to an abnormal and distressing event.
  • Please remember that there is not a "right way" to react or respond. Your response is unique to you. Healing after a criminal event can and does happen. Help and support is available.

The following are some potential (and normal) responses to a criminal incident:

  • Physical
    You may have sustained physical injuries due to the crime. You may also be experiencing impacts such as fatigue, shaking, dizziness, disrupted sleep, nausea, change in appetite, heart palpitations, headaches, and/or an increase in startle responses.
  • Emotional
    You may experience strong emotions such as anger, anxiety, fear, frustration, guilt, grief, and/or sadness. You may experience sudden crying spells. You may find yourself feeling numb with a sense of disbelief and helplessness. You may feel a desire to withdraw, or experience increased impatience. You may be struggling with feelings of vulnerability and find that you are constantly on guard. You may feel a persistent sense of loss of safety and control.
  • Cognitive/Mental
    You may experience disorientation, slowed thinking, confusion, memory problems, nightmares, intrusive thoughts, and difficulty concentrating. You may find it difficult to make decisions and feel like your mind has "shut down". You may find that your thoughts repeatedly return to the event in an attempt to make sense of your experience. You may begin to doubt, or second-guess yourself, wondering if you could have responded in a way that would have led to a different outcome.

Taking action to support yourself (some things to consider):

  • Report the Crime
    It may be helpful to keep a folder to hold information related to the crime and the associated impacts in one place (ie. preserve photos, texts, receipts/bills documenting loss). These documents may be helpful to law enforcement and in requesting restitution, if it applies in your case.
    Due to common impacts mentioned above you may remember more details with greater clarity in the days following the crime. Reach out to law enforcement with any additional information, or if there is an open criminal case you can contact the District Attorney’s Office directly.
  • Care for your well-being
    Practice empathy and patience with yourself. Allow for good and bad moments.
    Choose to do activities that bring peace and support healing. Some ideas include talking with a friend, meditation, reciting positive affirmations, relaxation exercise or creative outlets like painting, drawing, writing, and keeping a journal.
    Engage in physical self care. This may include going for a walk, taking a shower, exercising, sleeping well, eating nourishing foods, and limiting the use of alcohol and drugs.
    Know and communicate your boundaries.
  • Ask for help
    Understand that identifying what you "should have done" or "blaming yourself" is a common response after a traumatic event. You are almost certainly overstating your responsibility for the traumatic event. Reassure yourself that you did what you needed to do to survive. Support groups can offer an opportunity for education, peer support and validation.
  • Consider Counseling
    Victims of certain crimes, may be eligible to receive Crime Victim’s Compensation, which can help cover the costs of counseling, medical expenses or other crime related losses. You can apply for Crime Victims Compensation by completing this online application.