Editor’s note: The following article is written by the Los Alamos Police Department’s Victim Assistant who can provide support and service referrals for victims of any crime. Victim survivors can reach out to her even if a police report has not been filed. Call (505) 663-3511. In an emergency, please call 911.
A victim is a person who suffers direct or threatened physical, emotional, or financial harm as a result of an act by someone else.
If you are unsure you have been a victim here are different types of victimization:
- Sexual Misconduct
- Sexual Touching
- Sexual Harassment
- Physical Assault/Battery
- Dating/Relationship/Domestic Violence
- Threat of Harm
Anyone can become a victim of a crime and at any time in their life. While most people are naturally resilient and over time will find ways to cope and adjust, there can be a wide range of effects a victim can experience and effects victims very differently. One person may experience severe effects while another may experience mild effects to none at all. Here are some potential effects of trauma.
- Lack of coordination
- Heart palpitations or chest pains
- High blood pressure
- Sleep disturbances
- Stomach upset
- Loss of appetite
- Startled responses
- Feeling lost, abandoned, and isolated
- Wanting to withdraw from family, friends, and work
- Slowed thinking
- Memory problems
- Intrusive memories or flashbacks
- Inability to concentrate
- Difficulty in making decisions
Being a victim of a crime can disrupt everyday life, getting back to normal can be a difficult process and stressful, especially for victims of a violent crime. Victims may need to seek help from friends, family, a counselor, or a victim assistance professional. Here is a list of coping techniques that may help with the trauma.
- Find a trusted someone to talk with about how you feel and what you are going through. (Talking is healing)
- Keep a journal.
- Spend time with others
- Take care of your mind and body. Rest, sleep, and eat regular, healthy meals.
- Re-establish a normal routine as soon as possible, but don’t overdo it.
- Make daily decisions, which will help to bring back a feeling of control over your life.
- Exercise, though not excessively, and alternate with periods of relaxation.
- Undertake daily tasks with care. Accidents are more likely to happen after severe stress.
- Recall the things that helped you cope during trying times and loss in the past
These are things to avoid:
- Be careful about using alcohol or drugs to relieve emotional pain. Becoming addicted not only postpones healing but also creates new problems.
- Make daily decisions but avoid making life-changing decisions in the immediate aftermath, since judgment may be temporarily impaired.
- Don’t blame yourself—it wasn’t your fault.
- Your emotions need to be expressed. Try not to bottle them up. ( cry, scream, it’s ok! )
- For some victims and families of victims, life is forever changed. Life may feel empty and hollow. Life doesn’t “mean” what it used to. Part of coping and adjusting is redefining the future. What seemed important before may not be important now. Many victims find new meaning in their lives as a result of their experiences. It is important to remember that emotional pain is not endless and that it will eventually ease. It is impossible to undo what has happened, but life can be good again in time.
For Family and Friends of a Victim of Crime
- Listen carefully.
- Spend time with the victim.
- Offer your assistance, even if they haven’t asked for help.
- Help with everyday tasks like cleaning, cooking, caring for the family, minding the children.
- Give them their space, sometimes victims just need to be alone.
- Don’t take their anger or other feelings personally.
- Tell them that you are sorry such an event has occurred to them and you want to understand and help them.
If you have been a victim of a crime notify local police as soon as possible. Cooperate and provide as much information as you can. Remember that you are not alone there are resources and assistance to assist you during this difficult time.
Los Alamos Police Department: (505) 662-8222
Los Alamos Victim Assistant: (505) 663-3511
NM Crisis Access line: 1-855-NMCRISIS (662-7474)
National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-4673