While post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD is not a new topic, it’s one with a myriad of dimensions. For victims of crimes, the anxiety felt afterwards can range from mild to terrifying, even life altering.
The crimes committed don’t have to be brutal to make an impact. When a friend’s house was robbed while she and her husband slept, her perception of home equals safety was dashed.
Although the perp ran off when her husband awoke and yelled out, she told me how it took weeks to re-gain her usual confidence. And for as many weeks she couldn’t leave home without a check and re-check of window and door locks (the person had entered through an unlocked patio door). On route to work, she had moments of breathless anxiety.
I suggested she’d suffered from a mild form of PTSD. “Talking about this with a professional might have helped at the time,” I added.
She waved her hand dismissively, saying that her story felt too “crime-light” to consider seeking support.
My friend started me thinking: sure, PTSD is recognized. But do all communities have resources to lessen its effects?
According to Canada’s Department of Justice website, an important way to assist victims is to recognize their diverse needs by “client matching.” Supports range from minor interventions – sharing information, for instance – to partnering with mental health services and making appropriate referrals of counselling and support groups.
Also, a “secondary victimization” must be avoided. Victims can be traumatized by re-telling their stories to first-responders such as police, emergency room staff and other professionals. Thorough training for those who encounter victims of crime is essential.
Where to start
Be aware of the resources available in your own city. For example, the Edmonton Police offers Victim Support. The Victim Services Unit, made up of Police Service staff and trained Victim Advocates, can initiate the process – from crisis intervention and trauma to court preparation and accompaniment, to name a few.
In Canada, victims will find hotline resources in their province through the Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime. The Government of Canada has a Victim Services link. In the US, there’s the National Center for Victims of Crime.
For isolated areas, communities that partner with healthcare and telehealth, consultation and visiting professionals are possible solutions.
My mindset has changed since honing an awareness of PTSD. If I’m ever a victim of crime, I’ll contact the supports available in my community. Everyone deserves to get back to calm and security, sooner than later.
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