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Crime victimization and trauma

Learn more about how crime victimization and trauma affects adults and children with tips to help. Information from Victim Services - Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.

Crime victimization

Becoming a victim of a crime can be a very difficult, disturbing, and stressful experience. Victimization is largely unexpected and traumatic, and not within the realm of control of the victim to prevent. Anyone can become a victim of a crime. It is violating, demoralizing, and in many ways debilitating for many who have suffered victimization. Though most humans are naturally resilient and can identify ways to cope and find ways to adjust, for many crime victims the effects of victimization can often be long term and difficult to overcome. Please know there are and support services available to assist towards recovery.

Many crime victims want to understand why this happened, and more specifically why it happened to them. Some victims may know the perpetrator who victimized them, while others may not, or may never know who caused them harm. Regardless of the victim’s relationship to the perpetrator the effects of the harm can be complex and difficult to understand.

Navigating the criminal justice system

In addition to the physical, emotional, psychological, and financial impacts of crime, crime victims are also burdened with navigating the complexities of the criminal justice system. Although crime victims are afforded to assure them fairness, dignity, and respect throughout the criminal justice system, the criminal justice system is centered around the constitutionally afforded rights of the defendant. Subsequently, many crime victims and survivors find the system to be adversarial (for example the weight of defendant’s rights verses the rights of a crime victim) and re-traumatizing. Our office is committed to treating victims with fairness and respect by acknowledging victim agency, and autonomy, while working towards a criminal justice system that better values and respects victim’s voice. We strive to do this by clearly communicating what the Prosecuting Attorney's Office (PAO) can and cannot do within the scope of our role and identifying services and supports in the system and within the community.

Learn more about the criminal justice process

Understanding trauma

Trauma is exposure to an event or a series of events that is frightening, dangerous, or violent and poses a threat to one’s life or physical and emotional safety. Exposure to traumatic events can have lasting impacts on an individual’s functioning and their mental, physical, social, emotional and/or spiritual well-being. Trauma is defined by the individual, and both the physical and psychological reactions demonstrate how trauma may be impacting their well-being.

To learn more about trauma visit:

Potential trauma reactions and victimization

All victims react and respond differently to trauma and harm. All reactions, responses, and impacts to trauma and harm are unique to the individual experiencing it. Trauma also prompts reactions that are often beyond any individual’s control.

Below are some potential reactions and impacts experienced and shared by crime victims. This list is not exhaustive, and your experience may not be described here, however, that does not mean that your experience is invalid. If you are experiencing 1 or more of these reactions, there may be resources available to support you. Please visit our community contacts page for assistance.

Potential impacts

  • Physical anxiety symptoms (e.g., rapid heart rate, hyperventilation, stomach distress)
  • Physical injuries (e.g., gunshot wounds, lacerations, broken bones, sprains, and burns)
  • Physical injuries that lead to other health conditions such as heart attack, stroke, or fractures from falling.
  • Permanent disability
  • Disfigurement
  • Immune disorders that increase the potential for infectious diseases
  • Lethargy and body fatigue
  • Sleep disorders
  • Loss of appetite, excessive appetite, or eating disorders
  • For sexual assault victims: possible exposure to sexually transmitted diseases, exposure to HIV, and unwanted pregnancy
  • Death
  • Suicide

  • Shock, terror, fear
  • Anger or rage
  • Feelings of numbness
  • Confusion
  • Helplessness
  • Grief or intense sorrow
  • Anxiety (including terror, helplessness, and feeling out of control)
  • Difficulty trusting self or others
  • Depression
  • Panic symptoms
  • Loss of memory
  • Anxiety disorders such as panic disorder or obsessive-compulsive disorder.
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Guilt and self-blame
  • Shame
  • Preoccupation with the crime
  • Concerns about personal safety
  • Social withdrawal
  • Isolation
  • Persistent avoidance of things associated with the traumatic event

  • Medical bills (e.g., emergency transportation, hospital stays, inpatient and outpatient physical care)
  • Medication and prescription drugs
  • Replacement of eyeglasses, hearing aids, or other damaged/destroyed/stolen personal property
  • Rental and related costs for physical mobility equipment
  • Physical and Occupational therapy
  • Job retraining
  • Mental health counseling and therapy
  • Loss of wages due to incapacitation or rehabilitation
  • Crime scene cleanup
  • Costs of replacing locks and changing security devices
  • Fees incurred in changing banking or credit card accounts
  • Relocation expenses
  • Funeral and burial expenses and loss of income

Tips for coping with trauma

Learning effective strategies to cope with trauma can sometimes be challenging – and for many takes time and practice. It is not easy to work through trauma and may be difficult to do alone. Identifying a mental health professional can help. A mental health professional can assist you in identifying ways to learn to cope and process the trauma you may be experiencing. Additionally, some self-help strategies might also be affective.

Below is a list of ideas that may help:

  • Talk with others about how you feel. Avoiding isolation can support healing.
  • Identifying ways to calm or ground yourself when you feel symptoms.
  • Try meditation and breathing apps
  • Physical activities: walking, yoga, running, gardening
  • Take breaks
  • Care for your body
  • Get plenty of sleep
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Work towards getting back to a regular/daily routine
  • Avoid using alcohol, drugs, and tobacco
  • Get involved in your community – volunteer
  • Take it a day (and a moment) at a time
  • Journal
  • Reach out for help


Children and trauma

Although trauma can occur at any age, exposure to trauma as a child can have lasting impacts on their health and well-being. Research has shown that exposure to trauma as a child can adversely impact a child’s brain development and increase their risk for long-term health consequences. However, research has also shown effective that through effective interventions and therapeutic supports, children are resilient and can recover.

To learn more about trauma with children visit

Tips for children coping with trauma

Trauma and victimization can be especially difficult for children and teenagers to cope with. Parents and caregivers play an important role in the recovery process.

Recommended resources:

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