The Psychological Effects of Crime on Victims & How to Seek Help

Crime can be frightening to experience, which makes it difficult to cope after knowing that someone deliberately targeted you. Though we are all different, and we might react differently, there are some psychological effects that victims are likely to experience. Therefore, it is also crucial that the victims of crime know how to seek help to deal with these psychological effects.

Psychological Effects of Crime

The effects of crime can be long-lasting, and they are not influenced by how severe the crime was. The crime will have psychological consequences, which include:

1. Strong Emotions

After the crime, victims will sometimes experience intense emotions – especially anger. The strong emotions can be surprising and can even make the victim feel confused or unsettled. The intense emotions can also be because the victim keeps thinking about what could have happened. There might be feelings of resentment – causing them to be filled with thoughts of revenge.

2. Fear and Anxiety

The victim might experience anxiety as they were placed in a situation they did not believe they would ever end up in. Being a victim of crime might feel like a nightmare and even unreal, which could fuel anxiety.

3. Guilt and Shame

Guilt is common after being a victim of a crime as the victim feels guilty about what has occurred to them, and they might even believe that they might have caused or enabled the crime in the first place. They might think, “If I had not gone there…”. These thoughts of guilt might also bring about shame as they blame themselves for what happened to them. The shame might also prevent them from telling anyone about what happened to them.

4. Depression or Self-Destructive Behaviors

Depression is also common after a crime, as well as self-destructive behaviours. The victim of the crime may feel isolated and powerless as they might struggle to think of their future which causes them to avoid engaging in everyday interactions. The victim might also have suicidal thoughts and, in some instances, suicide attempts.

5. Inability to Act or Think Rationally

The trauma related to the crime might weaken the victim’s ability to act or think rationally. The trauma will affect how they remember details surrounding the crime, as they might be confused or struggle with remembering any details regarding what has happened to them. They might also struggle with concentrating and might lose interest in everyday tasks such as working or studying.

How to Seek Help After Being a Victim of Crime

Being a victim of crime can be an extremely stressful and challenging experience. In order to cope and deal with the effects of the trauma, you might need to seek help. Below are some of the strategies that you can use to seek help:

  • You must have counseling after becoming a victim of crime, especially if it took a violent nature. There are so many organizations in South Africa that provide counselling, whether it is over the phone or in person. Organizations you can reach out to include People Opposed to Woman Abuse (POWA), Families South Africa (Famsa), Tears Foundation and The Trauma Centre.
  • You should also find someone you can talk with about how you are feeling and what you are going through. Call someone you feel comfortable with when you are feeling overwhelmed or panicked.
  • Ensure that you take the time to process what you have gone to, but you should also spend time with others.
  • Create a normal routine for yourself as soon as possible, but ensure that you do not overdo anything.
  • Make it a priority to undertake your daily tasks with extra precaution as there is a high possibility that accidents will occur if you are under a lot of stress.
  • Be extra careful about using alcohol or drugs to relieve the pain you might be going through, as it might do more harm than good.
  • Take small steps daily by making decisions. However, you should avoid making decisions that are life-changing after the crime occurs, as the trauma might temporarily impair your judgement.
  • You might be experiencing intense emotions, and these emotions need to be expressed. Therefore, you should avoid bottling up your feelings.
  •  =Most importantly, you should not blame yourself for what happened as it was not your fault.


Becoming a victim of a crime is something that can be incredibly traumatic and scary. Some psychological effects can arise after the trauma. However, you must seek help so that you do not go through the process on your own.

See too How Women Can Keep Safe as GBV Reports Spike Up During Lockdown.

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