When we are victims of a crime, all may seem unreal at first.
We know what happened and, yet, it is hard to believe.
Many people feel a kind of emotional emptiness and may have difficulty remembering in detail what happened.
We may find it hard to talk about the incident and to take in any information.
This is also when strong reactions can occur, for example, crying attacks, shock or anger towards the offender.
However, after a while, everything becomes clearer and it gets easier to talk about what happened.
After being subjected to a crime, some people constantly think about what happened.
In most cases, these symptoms disappear over time. In some cases, memories of the incident remain for longer, triggered by a certain image, smell or another memory, and that may cause the same reactions as the crime.
The images can be so clear and strong that we feel as if the crime is being committed again.
These recurrent memories, known as flashbacks, can be very distressing.
If the crime was reported to the police and led to the prosecution and trial of the suspect, it could have taken quite a long time between the crime and the trial. Many crime victims find it distressing to have to rake up the memory of the incident again in order to tell the court about it.
If these reactions do not disappear after a few months, it is important to seek help.
Being a victim of crime can make us feel anxious and vulnerable.
Often our reactions become more marked when we relive what happened through memories and flashbacks.
This anxiety can result in difficulty concentrating and being easily irritated.
After being subjected to a crime, many victims have difficulty going to sleep because they lay thinking about what happened and, even after they have gone to sleep, it is not uncommon to have nightmares about the incident.
It is also common for people to wake up several times during the night.
Difficulty sleeping may make us easily irritated.
It is common for victims to feel guilty about what happened.
"Why did this happen to me?" is a question many people ask themselves as they try to find a way of explaining the crime.
Often victims question their own actions to avoid something similar happening in the future.
For instance, they might think: "If only I hadn't…" "If I had only done that instead…" "I should have…".
It is important to remember that it is never the victim's fault if he or she is subjected to crime.
It is only the perpetrator who is responsible for the crime.
Sometimes victims can feel great anger and even hatred towards the offender.
This often provokes thoughts of revenge, bringing out sides of ourselves that we perhaps don't recognize.
Of course, it's important to distinguish between fantasy and reality but it's also important that we don't burden ourselves with guilt for thinking such thoughts.
This is a completely normal reaction, which usually subsides as we become more distanced from what we went through.
It's not unusual for crime victims to deny or try to repress what happened.
This allows them to be able to cope with the distress they feel after having been subjected to a crime.
Beginning to remember what we previously "had to forget" is a demanding process, which can take some time.
This is why it is not unusual for people in crisis to continue to feel angry as they are getting over the incident.
Many victims of crime feel fear.
They may, for instance, be afraid to go out, go past the crime scene or be at home alone.
Many people are afraid of situations that remind them of the circumstances of the crime.
We may also feel that our basic sense of security has been harmed and then feel more suspicious towards other people, which leads to us not being able to live the way we did before.
Some people are afflicted by mood swings.
One minute they can feel completely normal; the next they can get into a fit of rage or crying attacks.
These are completely normal reactions.
Different types of depression and anxiety may also occur.
Sometimes psychological reactions to crime can lead to physical problems too.
For instance, problems with eating, chest pain, dizziness, headache, back and neck pain, stomach problems or sweating.
Sometimes people close to the victim may blame him/her for what happened.
This may be due to the fear they feel because someone close to them has suffered a crime, and to thinking that it could have happened to them.
Unfortunately this can make the victim of crime burden himself/herself with guilt and shame, with no reason.
People can blame the victim unconsciously as a way of explaining why the incident took place..