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The effects of crime

Crime can affect people in many ways, and every person’s reaction is different.

At the start, you might feel shocked, fearful or angry.

A common reaction is feeling numb, and not believing that this has happened to you.

You might suffer from:

  • headaches
  • nausea
  • sleep problems or fatigue
  • jumpiness
  • repeated thoughts of the event.

You might have feelings that come and go, like:

  • guilt
  • fear
  • anger
  • sadness
  • confusion
  • helplessness.

Your day-to-day life might be affected by:

  • trouble with your concentration or memory
  • reduced performance at work or school
  • withdrawing from others
  • feeling like you’ve lost control.

Later, some people can experience depression or anxiety.

All of these feelings are a normal part of dealing with being a victim of crime.

In most cases they are temporary. With support from family and friends, most people recover from the incident in a few weeks or months. Other people find the recovery process more difficult.

It's important to know that the Victims of Crime Helpline can help you manage the effects of crime.

Tips to help you in your recovery

This video explains how your brain and body worked together at the time of the event, covers some of the feelings you may be experiencing, and has tips to help you in your recovery.

Some more tips to help in your recovery:

  • talk about how you feel with someone you trust
  • structure your life as much as possible
  • accept that you may have good days and bad days
  • eat regularly and nutritiously
  • make sure you get physical exercise
  • limit your alcohol and drug use
  • keep a journal of how you feel each day
  • defer major life decisions
  • be kind and gentle with yourself.

Supporting someone affected by crime

Family and friends can suddenly be called upon to provide support for people affected by crime.

It’s hard to know how to act, or what to say during such a traumatic time. You may also be feeling upset, knowing what has happened to someone you care about.

What you can do to provide support

  • believe them
  • spend time with them
  • listen attentively
  • tell them you’re sorry to hear about the event, and that you want to help them
  • help them feel safe
  • help them with everyday tasks, like cleaning, cooking, caring for family and childcare, to give them some private time.

What to avoid when offering support

  • don’t be afraid to ask questions and to explore the issues
  • don’t take angry outbursts personally
  • don’t say things like “lucky it wasn’t worse” or “just get on with your life”
  • don’t say things that imply it was their fault, for example “What were you doing there at that time anyway?” or “You’ll know not to do that again!”
  • don’t be impatient with them – people recover at different rates.
If you feel that you need support, contact the Victims of Crime Helpline on 1800 819 817 for a confidential discussion.

Helping a child who has been affected by crime

Like adults, children have physical and emotional reactions that they’re not always able to express.

Children often experience feelings of guilt, and find it difficult to tell anyone about the crime. They might have witnessed family violence, and are too scared to tell anyone about what’s going on at home.

If they do tell an adult and are not believed or supported, they may carry the hurt through to adult life.

Children who suffer trauma may:

  • have nightmares or problems sleeping
  • wet the bed
  • behave like they did at an earlier age
  • eat too much or too little
  • cling to adults
  • become withdrawn or fear being alone
  • have headaches
  • fight with friends
  • lose concentration.

Children often need professional help to recover after a crime. The police have specialists who deal with child sexual offences and child abuse. For a Sexual Offences and Child Abuse Unit in your local area, contact your local police station (external link).