Types of Reactions

Physical Trauma

Crime victims may experience physical trauma - serious injury or shock to the body, as from a major accident. Victims may have cuts, bruises, fractured arms or legs, or internal injuries. They may have intense stress reactions: Their breathing, blood pressure and heart rate may increase, and their muscles may tighten. They may feel exhausted but unable to sleep, and they may have headaches, increased or decreased appetites, or digestive problems  

Emotional Trauma

Victims may experience emotional trauma - emotional wounds or shocks that may have long-lasting effects. Emotional trauma may take many different forms.

Acute Stress Disorder

For days or weeks following a trauma some crime victims may experience:

  • Extreme Tension or Anxiety
  • Flashbacks
  • Memory Problems
  • Outbursts of Anger
  • Trouble Concentrating
  • Trouble Sleeping
  • Other Symptoms of Distress

A person may be diagnosed as having acute stress disorder if these or other mental disorders continue for a minimum of two days to up to four weeks within a month of the trauma. If these symptoms persist after a month, the diagnosis becomes post-traumatic stress disorder.

Denial, Disbelief & Anger

Victims may experience:

  • Anger and a desire to get even with the offender
  • Denial - An unconscious defense against painful or unbearable memories and feelings about the crime
  • Disbelief - Telling themselves “this just could not have happened to me!”

Secondary Injuries

When victims do not receive the support and help they need after the crime, they may suffer secondary injuries.

Victims may be hurt by a lack of understanding from friends, family, and the professionals they come into contact with - particularly if others seem to blame the victim for the crime (suggesting they should have been able to prevent or avoid it). Potential contributing parties to such secondary injuries:

  • Coroners
  • Clergy
  • Judges
  • The Media
  • Mental Health Professionals
  • Police
  • Prosecutors
  • Social Service Providers

Shock or Numbness

Victims may feel “frozen” and cut off from their own emotions. Some victims say they feel as if they are “watching a movie” rather than having their own experiences. Victims may not be able to make decisions or conduct their lives as they did before the crime.