Victims of violence and their families and friends experience crisis reactions; the levels of extremes will differ from person to person based on their personal situation at the time of the crime, the impact of the crime, and resulting injuries. As each person is unique, so are victim reactions, responses, and recovery. It is impossible to compare one experience, response, or recovery to another.
How the victim of a crime and their loved ones are treated immediately following the crime can impact their ability to cope and recover. They will need to know what comes next by way of the crime investigation and the resulting criminal justice process.
In times of crisis, friends, acquaintances, and loved ones willingly provide support. But support wanes along with the months, and it is easy to lose patience as time passes. You can play a pivotal role in the recovery process by remaining a presence in their life—no matter how long it takes. As Walter Winchell once said, “A real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out.”
What to say and do:
- Express sympathy and sorrow for what has happened.
- Anyone who has lost a loved one to a violent crime will need your caring patience. It takes a long time to heal, and they will need your support during the process.
- Anger is a natural response to a violent crime. Listen with patience; the victim of crime is not looking for answers but an opportunity to vent their anger.
- Recognize that they will grieve in their own way.
- Do communicate your willingness to support the victim of crime in whatever ways you can. Individuals who have someone to lean on increase their chances of healing from the trauma.
- Offer to help with basic necessities—grocery shopping, cleaning, laundry, food preparation, child care, and carpooling—as they might find it impossible to resume their normal housekeeping and caregiver tasks.
- Encourage them to participate in the judicial process to restore a sense of control.
- Offer to listen. The individual will need to tell their story over and over again to process what has happened.
- Allow them to grieve in their own way.
- Encourage them to express their grief and sorrow for as long as they need.
- Do continue to keep in touch with them and remember them during significant dates and difficult periods, such as the anniversary of the crime, a birthday, or holidays.
- I am here for you when you need me.
- I care about you and will support you however you might need me.
- I have never experienced this before; please let me know how I can help you.
- I will always be your friend; nothing can change that.
- I will miss him (her), too.
- I’d like to help in any way I can.
- It’s not your fault.
- This was a terrible crime, and I am sorry it happened to you.
- What you are feeling is normal.
- You can talk to me at any time.
- You did the best you could.
- You were in no way to blame for what happened.