Supporting Survivors

If You Are a Survivor of Crime

Everyday, people are impacted by felony-level violent crimes such as robbery, assault, hate crimes, domestic violence and child abuse. These events often leave people with multiple needs that go beyond bringing a suspect to justice. Crime survivors often find themselves grappling with difficult questions: How will I pay for expensive emergency medical care? What will happen next? How can I feel safe again? Where can I get information? What are my rights? Who will simply listen to me and respect my feelings and decisions?

How to Support a Survivor of Crime

  • Let them talk about the event and listen. Do not offer opinions, judgements or advice about what you hear. Allow your loved one to describe what they:
    • Saw
    • Heard
    • Thought
    • Smelled
    • Felt
  • Tell them that you accept them and your caring for them has not changed. Tell them how much you appreciate them.
  • Simply listen: Listen to his or her emotions as well as the story. Respond to their feelings.
  • Understand that people communicate in other ways than with their words. Try to understand and take cues from your loved one's expressions and body language.
  • Encourage them to set priorities and problem-solve with input from family and close friends.
  • Discourage them from making life changing decisions in the immediate aftermath.
  • Allow time to heal. Don't tell them to "get over it." Remember that every day they may be re-experiencing the event through memories, emotions or injuries that take time to heal. no one expects a broken bone to heal over night, but often people expect loved ones to "get over" trauma after a day or two.
  • Think of healing as a group issue, not an individual one. As a caring person, you are impacted too. Take time for yourself, be gentle with yourself and with others.
  • Facilitate support from family members, friends and the community.
  • Laugh. Use humor (preferably not about the event.) Try to lighten up if you can.
  • Maintain crucial standards with children but be more flexible with less important expectations.
  • Be flexible with roles and chores.
  • Give each other space.
  • Ask the survivor how to support them, don't assume they want what you want.
  • After some time has passed, review what has happened. Concentrate on how each person has changed or grown.
  • Take time to do fun things.
  • Encourage them to have control over daily decisions, like what they want to eat.
  • Offer praise without patronizing. Surviving a violent crime takes courage and inner strength.
  • Encourage your loved one to get up and move, and exercise with them. Recent studies have shown that exercise can impact depression as well as some medications do. A doctor can help set limits and describe the best activities.