“I can’t sleep at night. My body shakes uncontrollably. I can’t stand to be alone but I don’t want to be around people either. Every night I scoot the chest of drawers in front of my bedroom door, but I still don’t feel safe.”
Merideth is a single, Caucasian woman in her early 30’s. Over a year ago, she was held at gunpoint and forced into a small room during a robbery at her place of work. In the recent past, Merideth was the manager of the restaurant but now she finds it difficult to even walk into the building.
Effects of Crime
Victims of crime experience physical and psychological trauma. The physical trauma is easily identified by the victim and others through cuts, bruises, or broken limbs. These wounds may heal in days, weeks, or sometimes in months. Emotional trauma comes alongside the physical injuries but may be less evident to those besides the survivor. Though victims suffer in both ways, we will focus on the psychological trauma in the aftermath of a crime.
Crisis counseling and supportive counseling are essential in helping victims recover from their traumatic event. Early on, victims need to be reassured that they are safe and that they are not to blame for the traumatic incident.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Over time, if a survivor continues to have significant difficulty recovering their symptoms may develop into post traumatic stress disorder or PTSD. Previously, most thought PTSD was reserved for combat veterans. We now know that PTSD occurs in many situations where a person feels overwhelmed and in danger.
The National Center for PTSD offers these common symptoms:
- Recurrent, involuntary, and intrusive memories or nightmares
- Dissociative reactions or flashbacks
- Persistent negative beliefs and expectations about oneself or the world
- Persistent distorted blame of self or others for causing the event
- Feeling detached or estrangement from others
- Sleep disturbance
- Problems in concentration
- Irritable or aggressive behavior
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing
While PTSD does not always occur in those who have been victimized, it is likely to occur on some level for each survivor. There are effective therapies to successfully treat PTSD and it’s symptoms. One such treatment is Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) developed by Dr. Francine Shapiro, PhD. The EMDR Institute, Inc. states that EMDR “is a psychotherapy treatment that was originally designed to alleviate the distress associated with traumatic memories.” After successful treatment with EMDR, a survivor will experience relief. Their emotional pain and reaction to triggers will be reduced, their negative beliefs will change to become positive, and their physiological reactions will lessen. Read further information on EMDR and find a trained clinician at emdr.com or emdria.org.
Carol Lozier MSW LCSW is a clinical social worker in private practice in Louisville, Kentucky. Ms. Lozier has spent over twenty-five years counseling children, adults, and families specializing in issues of trauma and adoption- including survivors of abuse, neglect, domestic violence, and child trafficking. She is the author of The Adoptive & Foster Parent Guide: How to Heal Your Child’s Trauma and Loss and Devotions of Comfort & Hope for Adoptive and Foster Moms.