Keeping safe after the incident
There are many different ways in which a person can respond after becoming a victim of crime or a witness to a crime. Sometimes this depends on the nature and intensity of the crime and who the perpetrator was, sometimes it depends on your own state of mind at the time (if you were already experiencing problems with family, friends, work, relationships or finances etc. this could be the ‘last straw’), and sometimes the impact of the crime is delayed and shock may actually not set in until later, and can be set off by something very small, like the words of comfort and support from a friend.
This can, at minimum, be an uncomfortable and distressing time and it is important to make yourself feel as safe as possible. These are some things you can consider which may help (the list is not in any order because different situations require different responses):
- Find a safe place as soon as possible. Your safety (and that of anyone else involved) is of prime importance. This can be a police station, a parent or friend’s or neighbour’s home, your own home, a refuge or any other place where you will feel safe.
- Find someone to “hold your hand”, confide in and help and support you through this – a friend, parent, relative, a friendly police person or anyone else you want to be with (sometimes this will be someone you have never met before, for example, a victim support worker or a professional counsellor). Get in touch with that person as soon as possible, or ask someone else to do it for you, and tell them you need them.
- Check yourself, or anyone else involved, for injuries and get medical assistance or an ambulance (especially if it is an emergency situation). The person who is supporting you can help.
- Call the police, if this has not already been done. Your support person can also do this for you.
- Make your own decisions as much as is possible, and communicate these to a person who will act for you and make sure your decisions are carried out.
- If there are problems, people, places or anything else that you can’t face at the moment, discuss these with the person who is supporting you. It may be really difficult trying to work out solutions to these problems, especially at a time like this when they can often seem insurmountable. Others can help you focus, but the decisions are still yours.
- Are there practical issues that need to be taken care of? Perhaps write a list or dictate one to someone else, for example, children to be looked after, funeral arrangements, family and workplace to be informed, bankcards and credit cards to be cancelled, house to be made secure, money for immediate needs or to meet future needs, or informing your insurance company.
- Who can help you? What do you need? What steps do you need to take? Don’t try to do everything yourself, get help as much as possible, even if it means that someone goes with you or checks with you from time to time to see how you are. Tell people what you need from them. This will ensure that you keep control over your life, but also that others who are there to help know what you want them to do.
- Don’t ignore the emotional issues. These need to be dealt with too. Sometimes people are too shocked or traumatised in the early stages and do not want to talk too much about these as they prefer to focus on the practical. But there will come a time when the emotional issues demand attention.
- If you are in continuing or unpredictable danger, for example with domestic violence, think about a safety plan for yourself and any children. This is about planning ahead. For example, keep a small bag hidden if you can with a store of money for taxis, a spare set of keys, copies of important papers, and perhaps a change of clothes. Perhaps approach a neighbour to check if you could use their phone in an emergency.