Your loved one may be very concerned about his or her safety.
Your loved one knows that bad things can happen because something bad did happen. Your loved one may be afraid that something bad will happen again.
Sometimes this fear is directed at the person who caused the harm. Sometimes, crime survivors feel afraid of people in general.
It is important for your loved one to be safe and to feel safe. One way to help do this is for your loved one to develop a safety plan. Safety plans help crime survivors identify ways they can increase their safety, even if they’re living in dangerous situations.
Domestic and sexual violence service providers are skilled at helping survivors create safety plans. You may want to ask your loved one if he or she would like to get in touch with a domestic and sexual violence service provider who can help.
Check out http://www.ocadsv.org/find-help/by-county to find a domestic and sexual violence services program that serves your area.
Your loved one’s needs and feelings may not be the same as your needs and feelings—or what you think your loved one’s needs or feelings should be.
Although it is important to be honest about your feelings, do not turn to your loved one to make you feel better. You may want to talk with someone about your reactions to the harm done to your loved one. Be sure to respect your love one’s confidentiality (your loved one might not want people to know what happened or how he or she is responding to what happened). Check out the Resources section of this website for some organizations that might be able to provide free, confidential support if you want to talk about your reactions.
It is unfair to expect your loved one to be exactly the same as he or she was before the victimization. Your loved one may grieve the way that life changed after he or she was harmed. You might want to grieve the changes too.
Your loved one can learn to process the victimization into other life experiences. This can only happen at your loved one’s own pace.
Our life experiences shape us. Most of us remember the big experiences in our lives, whether they were good or bad. Surviving crime can be a bad experience that changes the way the survivor sees things. When a loved one has survived crime, you may want him or her—and yourself—to stop hurting. It’s okay to want the pain to stop. But the pain is there for a reason as a sign that your loved one has been harmed. It does not mean that the pain will be as strong as it is now or that it will last forever.
The best way for the pain to diminish or stop is for your loved one to have the support and time needed to be safe, process the victimization into other life experiences, and feel more in control. This is very different than “getting over it.” Pressure to “get over it” denies your loved one’s feelings and minimizes the way the victimization has changed his or her life. If you feel like you want your loved one to “get over it,” it might be good for you to look at your own feelings of frustration. The Self Care section of this website suggests ways you can reduce your stress. This may help you and your loved one.
Helpful Things to Know
You can’t change what happened to your loved one.
Many times, friends and family members feel like they could have prevented the victimization. People may feel a personal responsibility for what happened, even if they weren’t there when the crime occurred and weren’t responsible for what happened.
Although it is natural to feel this way, it is not your fault. Someone else chose to harm your loved one. Hopefully, recognizing this will take a little bit of weight off your shoulders.
Even though you can’t go back in time to change what happened, you can provide support now and give your loved one hope for the future. What will help your loved one now is for you to provide loving, non-judgmental support.
You may have strong feelings of anger and want to physically hurt the person who harmed your loved one.
You may want to physically hurt the person who committed the crime. Many people feel this way after their loved one was hurt. This is normal, but acting on these feelings will only make the situation worse.
Even though you won’t act on your feelings to physically harm someone, you may feel like you should tell your loved one how angry you are at the person who caused the harm. You may think that expressing your anger will help your loved one feel believed and supported. Sometimes this does help your loved one; however, repeatedly expressing your anger may make your loved one feel responsible for the way you feel. This may put a burden on your loved one.
If your loved one was harmed by a family member or intimate partner, recognize that he or she may love the person who caused the harm. The more you say how angry you are, the more your loved one may feel the need to defend the abusive person. After a while, your loved one may not want to confide in you at all.
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Your loved one may ask questions that don’t make sense to you.
Your loved one may be trying to get a better understanding of what happened during (and after) the victimization. Your loved one may be searching for answers about why he or she was harmed. Seeking answers to these questions can help your loved one regain a sense of control.
The questions might not make sense to you. That’s okay. You can still listen to your loved one and be there as he or she struggles with the questions. If your loved one seems to be struggling with questions for a long time, consider letting your loved one know about some resources that might be able to help. Check out the Resources section of this website for more information.
Your goal is to support your loved one, not have your loved one feel like he or she needs to support you.
Many crime survivors want to make lifestyle changes during the first year after the victimization (like getting a dog, moving, starting a new job, not going out at night, etc.).
Your loved one has experienced a significant traumatic event. For some people, the victimization told him or her that the world isn’t the safe place he or she thought it was. For some people, the victimization reinforced that the violence is a “normal” part of life. Lifestyle changes may be part of your loved one’s attempts to create a stronger sense of safety and control over his or her life.
These changes may cause you some inconvenience, but to your loved one, these steps probably don’t seem small or inconvenient at all. They may be important to help your loved one rebuild his or her life. As long as the changes aren’t harming your loved one or someone else, try to respect the changes, even if you don’t understand them.