Making a Victim Feel Better

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

If you know someone that has just been the victim of a crime, and is feeling overwhelmed or down in the dumps, there are other simple things that we can do.

  • 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?

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Filed under HOW TO

6 responses to “Making a Victim Feel Better

  1. georgina jones

    this is brilliant, thanks so much.

  2. I used to worked for a non-profit victim assistance agency here in the city I live in. Reading your post brings back to memory so many people, so many stories and so many wounds. Thank God for people like you still in the trenches of a never ending battle with apparently no light at the end of the tunnel.

  3. Very interesting article, thanks. Keep up the good work.

  4. Pam Sykes

    Great list, thanks! I know from my own experience that little things like sending flowers or a card can make a big difference. I have one more thing to add: Don’t make it about you. Statements like “I feel so upset about what happened to you” or other obvious signs of your own vicarious trauma can make things worse by making the victim feel guilty. I feel very blessed than when I was the victim of a crime, my friends responded by sharing their strength. If you are feeling traumatised yourself by what has happened to a friend of yours, maybe consider more hands-off ways of showing your support until you are feeling strong again.

  5. Cary

    I think the subject of this post is so important– sometimes when someone close to us experiences trauma, we unconsciously shy away from them because we’re scared of saying or doing the wrong thing and making it worse. Sometimes it’s easier to tell ourselves that they’d rather just be alone. I think the best thing to remember is that no one expects you to say the “perfect” thing, and sometimes there is no “perfect” thing to say to a friend who has been victimised. Being supportive and available to a friend in these situations will help them most.

  6. This is really great. It’s nice to have simple achievable ways to make someone feel better. Especially when you’re not sure what to say.

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