Put the Focus on Victims
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Ease Recovery

Responding to Victims

This section provides a few tips to keep in mind when working with victims:

  • Be aware that victims may know little about the criminal justice system and may find it intimidating, confusing, or frightening.
  • Understand that trauma may cause victims to make incomplete, inconsistent, and untrue statements and know how to address the problems that may arise as a result of this.
  • Encourage victims to take control.
  • Foster victims' resilience.

Encourage Victims To Take Control

Allowing victims to make informed decisions and to take charge of their next steps goes a long way toward helping victims heal.

Start by asking simple questions:

  • What would you like to be called?
  • Where do you prefer to sit?
  • Is there anything that I can get for you?
  • Would you prefer the door open or closed?

Continue by determining other ways to help victims regain control:3

  • Help identify and address the victim's safety needs.
  • Make suggestions that can increase safety—for example, ask if victims feel safe being alone and if there is anything that would increase their sense of safety.
  • Give victims as much control as possible, such as letting victims decide when and where they want to talk and in what order to do things.
  • Give victims information to help them make informed decisions.
  • The Right Tool

    Gaining Insight, Taking Action: Basic Skills for Serving Victims with Disabilities (Video and Guidebook)
    Highlights how to communicate effectively with crime victims, the challenges faced by underserved victim populations, and the relationship between substance abuse and victimization.

  • Explain processes (e.g., examinations, interviews, investigations) and who or what will be involved before beginning them.
  • Maintain a nonjudgmental attitude to help victims regain power and control—individuals who perceive judgment may immediately relinquish control to others to avoid further judgments.
  • Help victims identify their strengths.
  • Treat victims as individuals rather than as cases.

Foster Resilience

Resilience is "the capacity to bounce back: to withstand hardship and repair oneself."4 There is no one way for a person to build resilience because there is an array of behaviors, thoughts, and actions associated with recovery.5 Victims can bolster their resilience by setting aside adequate time for sleep, staying connected with people who care, and taking time to do things they enjoy, such as reading, watching a movie, talking with a friend, listening to music, or going for a walk.6

Encourage victims to—

  • Establish or reestablish routines.
  • Avoid major life decisions such as switching careers or jobs in the acute crisis stage.
  • Develop realistic goals and do something regularly to advance the goals.
  • Find ways to measure and acknowledge personal growth.
  • Talk with others who have similar experiences (through forums such as support groups).