I was a victim of a crime, an epidemic, a public calamity, or a natural disaster: consequences or reactions

A victim is anyone who has suffered harm. Namely physical, material, moral, psychological, institutional, or sexual harm - or direct material losses caused by a crime, public calamity, epidemic or natural disaster.

Individuals who maintain an affectionate relationship or kinship up to the third degree with the victim of the traumatic event - or the directly impacted collective - are also considered victims.

Being a victim of a crime or traumatic event can have a range of negative consequences: physical injuries or complications, psychological reactions, financial losses, and disturbances in the family, social and work spheres. However, the intensity of the impact and how it manifests is a distinctive matter that can be influenced by various factors, including the type of crime or event suffered, the circumstances in which it occurred, the relationship with the perpetrator, the victim's family and social situation, and their unique personality characteristics. Many victims overcome the impact of victimisation on their own, while others require support.

Here, you can find a brief description of the consequences of crime, as well as the most commonly experienced emotional and behavioural reactions by those who suffer a crime. At the Pró Vítima Institute, you will find someone willing to listen and help.

Reactions of Victims of Crimes, Epidemics, Public Calamities and Natural Disasters

Being a victim of a crime or traumatic event can trigger a range of physical and behavioural responses. The victim might experience a mix of emotions and thoughts that can be difficult to cope with. Even though these emotions are completely normal reactions, you may feel like you're falling apart and losing control, which can be pretty frightening. It's important to remember that in most situations, this will pass, and, over time, you will gradually regain a sense of control over your life. You may identify with many of the reactions described here or not recognise any of them. The key is understanding that there is no predefined way of feeling and reacting. When we are victims of a crime or another traumatic event, we can be affected in many different ways. We all have our strategies for dealing with life's challenges. Usually, these strategies work well and assist us in many circumstances. But when you're a victim of a crime, you might react differently than usual, and the system you typically employ may not suffice. We often feel that our personal integrity has been violated and are shocked. Additionally, we might suffer from issues like difficulties sleeping, depression, anxiety and guilt. We may feel guilty even when we know we are not to blame for what happened. This phenomenon of not recognising or understanding our reactions is very unsettling for most people. What is, in reality, a normal reaction to an abnormal situation can make us feel like we have completely lost control, and the world becomes an unsafe place. For most people, these symptoms disappear over time. Sometimes, memories of the incident might linger, triggered by an image, a certain smell, or another reminder, which can temporarily provoke the same reactions again. If these reactions do not fade after a few months, it is crucial to seek help.


The Trauma

Victims of crime or unpredictable events often deal with a wide variety of psychological reactions. While the physical and financial damages caused by a crime are well-known and publicised, the traumatic experiences themselves and their consequences for victims usually receive less attention and understanding. Victims of crime who suffer psychological trauma often describe their situation with the words: “Nothing is as it was.” When a person's physical or psychological integrity is attacked or severely threatened, they may experience a traumatic event. The individual finds themselves in an unexpected situation where they feel desperate and powerless, and this feeling of helplessness contributes to permanent distress in their self-image and understanding of the world. Victims of crime often lose trust in others, sometimes permanently. Some develop a strong distrust towards others, which may lead to complete withdrawal from family, friends, and society. In contrast, victims of epidemics or pandemics start to see others as potential enemies, while victims of public calamities and natural disasters also experience feelings of isolation and disconnection. Victims of crime often suffer psychosomatic consequences, meaning physical reactions to emotional stress. Certain stimuli, like a sound that reminds the victim of the crime they suffered, not only trigger memories but also physical reactions like palpitations or increased blood pressure. This can lead to secondary diseases like chronic high blood pressure. Another typical symptom developed by crime victims is a chronic pessimistic outlook on the future. This can be evidenced by their passive behaviour or diminished self-esteem in carrying out daily tasks and responsibilities.


I was a victim of a crime, an epidemic, a public calamity, or a natural disaster: consequences or reactions

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