By Jen Thorpe
The victims of crime can experience really powerful feelings (read more about PTSD here) and as friends, family members or loved ones we often just want to fix them and make them feel better immediately. In turn they might have their own expectations about how they want to be treated (read more about a survivor’s expectations here). Trying to be the perfect person can leave us feeling traumatised because we feel so helpless to make a difference (read more about vicarious trauma here).
So what do we do?
When we hear about someone who has been a victim of crime we might not always feel that we are able to be completely supportive, or know what to say. After all, we are just ordinary people who are trying to get by ourselves.
There are simple ways to do this, things that we often forget about when we are in panic mode and trying to heal someone.
The big idea
There are four main ways that you can make someone feel empowered again. By empowered I mean experiencing that feeling of being in control of their lives again.
1. Make the person feel safe: For example, if you know that their house has been broken into, invite them to stay with you or go over there and get their security fixed, or stay with them if they are afraid.
2. Treat them with respect: This may sound obvious but sometimes respect is just listening to their story to allow them to say what they need to say. Sometimes it is respecting that they need to be alone, and sometimes it is spending time with them making them feel good about themselves. It is respecting that what happened to them was significant, and has affected their lives.
3. Help them know more about their rights by sharing information with them. Do a little bit of background reading and find out what happens when you go to the police station, or the court so that they feel informed and ready to go through with the process. There is nothing worse than not knowing what to do and you can easily help them to find out what they can do.
4. Make sure that you let them know that they have a choice whether to report or not report, and how to proceed. Sometimes we try to rush people into reporting, or into doing what we think is right. Sometimes they need us to help them because they are overwhelmed, but other times they just need us to take step back and give them some space.
It’s the little things
- Send flowers
- send chocolates
- Make a meal for them
- Send them something interesting to read
- Invite them out and about to do something fun
- Take them out for tea or coffee
- Give them a hug
- Tell them you care
- Let them talk, but know when to say ‘I’m not able to help you, what about counselling’
I’m sure we could all make this list longer. If you’ve been a victim of crime, what things do you wish people had done to make you feel better?