Victims of crime frequently have to deal with a wide range of psychological reactions.
While most people are aware of the physical and financial harm caused by a crime, traumatic experiences and the consequences they have for the victims generally receive less attention and are less well-understood.

Any victims of crime who suffer psychological trauma frequently describe their situation with the words: “Nothing’s the same anymore”.
When someone’s physical or psychological integrity is attacked or severely threatened, they may experience trauma. They find themselves in an unexpected situation in which they feel desperate and helpless, and this feeling of helplessness may have a permanent effect on how they see themselves and their perception of the world.

People who have been the target of a crime may lose their trust in others, often permanently. Some victims may develop a strong sense of suspicion in relation to others, which may ultimately lead to total estrangement from family, friends and society.

Those subjected to crime often suffer psychosomatic consequences, i.e. physical reactions to emotional stress. Certain stimuli, such as a particular sound that reminds the victim of the crime against them, trigger not only memories but physical reactions such as a pounding heart or a rise in blood pressure.
This may lead to secondary diseases such as chronic high blood pressure.
Another common symptom developed by victims of crime is a chronic pessimistic view of the future. This can be seen in their passive behaviour or diminished self-esteem when it comes to carrying out daily tasks and obligations.


A traumatic event initially causes shock, restlessness, disorientation, sadness, an inability to take in important information, or anger or numbness, which may last from as little as one hour or up to several days.

This is followed by a symptoms stage which may last from two to four weeks. This stage is when acute stress reactions triggered by the event set in, such as feelings of profound despair, depression, helplessness and lack of hope in the future. Some victims experience feelings of guilt or, alternatively, violent and/or accusatory outbursts towards anyone who is potentially responsible.

The next stage is the recovery stage. Some people will begin to recover from the trauma at this stage, but it may still take some time to process the traumatic event and it continues to have a significant impact on how they see themselves and the world.

Post-traumatic stress disorder

According to the World Health Organisation, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is defined as a “response to a stressful event or situation (either short- or long-lasting) of an exceptionally threatening or catastrophic nature, which is likely to cause pervasive distress in almost anyone.”

Typical symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder include reliving the traumatic event and avoiding situations or places that may make people feel distressed and more irritable. Victims of crime can experience particularly strong avoidance behaviours, since most situations are viewed as threatening. There is a persistent feeling of general fear and frequent psychosomatic complaints, i.e., physical issues originating in psychological factors.

I was a victim of crime: consequences and reactions The rights of victims of crime Criminal proceedings Who’s who in criminal proceedings


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