Recovering From the Emotional Trauma of Crime

Recovering from a crime means more than healing physical injuries or replacing stolen money or goods. It also means recovering from the emotional trauma that goes hand-in-hand with being a victim.

People whose homes or apartments have been burglarized speak frequently of feeling violated, even if they weren't home when the crime was committed and even if nothing of value was taken.

That's not surprising, since most of us view our homes as safe havens. Is there a storm approaching? We run into our house or apartment. A frightening stranger coming toward us? We dash inside again.

When a burglar breaks into the place where we live, our sense of sanctity is violated, We feel vulnerable, and that makes us afraid. Maybe it could happen again, we think. Maybe we'll be home when it does.

Experts at the National Victim Center in Fort Worth , Texas , describe responses to crime that are similar to those experienced by people learning that they have a life-threatening illness: shock, then denial, then anger.

The recovery process can take years, and in extreme cases can mirror the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that afflicts some war veterans who suffer from sleep disorders, flashbacks, anxiety, or feelings of detachment.

If someone you know becomes a crime victim and appears to be traumatized, be as supportive as possible from the outset. The National Victim Center recommends that the victim talk to a trained crisis intervention counselor, who can reassure the person about their safety and advise them on whether medical attention is necessary.

Later, being pulled into the criminal justice system to testify against the suspect of a crime can be traumatic, too, especially as the victim comes to recognize that he or she has little control over the prosecution or sentencing of the criminal.

Nonetheless, the National Victim Center says participating in the process can be therapeutic if the victim is kept well-informed about the criminal proceedings and made to feel that he or she is part of a team effort to see justice done.