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.


Initially, the traumatic event causes a reaction of shock, agitation, disorientation, sadness, inability to receive or process crucial information, express anger, or numbness, which can last from an hour to several days.

This is followed by a phase where symptoms manifest, which can last two to four weeks. In this phase, victims exhibit acute stress reactions triggered by the event, such as strong feelings of despair, depression, helplessness, and lack of hope for the future. Some victims experience feelings of guilt or, conversely, violent outbursts and/or accusatory reactions against potentially responsible parties.

Some individuals will start recovering from the trauma in the subsequent recovery phase. However, processing the traumatic event might still take some time, and it continues to significantly weigh on how the victim perceives themselves and the world.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

According to the World Health Organization, PTSD is “exposure to a short-term or long-term event or situation of an exceptionally threatening or catastrophic nature, which is likely to cause pervasive distress in anyone.”

The key symptoms of PTSD may include reliving the traumatic event, avoiding certain situations or places likely to cause distress, and increased irritability. For crime victims, there might be particularly intense avoidance, as most situations are perceived as threatening. There's a persistent feeling of generalised fear and frequent psychosomatic complaints, that is, physical disturbances originating from psychological factors.

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

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