Muskoka Victim Services

 

Victimization:

  • Who is a Victim?
  • Why do Victims need support and assistance?
  • What type of support is available
  • Common Reactions to Crisis & Trauma
  • Needs of Victims
  • Community Resources


  • Who is a Victim?
    A victim is defined as any person who is harmed, killed, or suffering as a result of an accidental or intentional act or situation. The victim may experience suffering, and loss, e.g. physical, psychological, emotional, financial, social, and medical or others. These individuals are no different from you or me, our friends, families, and coworkers. Anyone, at anytime can be a victim of a crime or tragic circumstance.

    An Act Respecting Victims' of Crime - Ontario Bill 23, 1995
    VICTIMS HAVE THE RIGHT TO...

    • Be treated with courtesy, compassion and respect
    • Be kept apprised of of the investigation
    • Participation in the judicial process
    • Request information about services and remedies
    • Know dates and places of significant proceedings
    • Be notified of offender release, parole or escape
    • Expect the prompt return of property
    • Be interviewed by gender specific investigators in the case of sexual assault
    • Make representations to the court by way of a Victim Impact Statement
    • Apply for Criminal Injuries Compensation


    Why do Victims need support and assistance?
    When faced with unexpected tragic circumstances or events, victims often experience physical, emotional or financial impacts. Victims often find themselves requiring assistance in ascertaining the supports required to cope effectively. Navigating support systems, interacting with strangers including police and emergency personnel can be overwhelming and seem impossible to manage. Focusing on self-care and preservation is often pushed aside in order to focus on caring for others including family members and friends. Healthy coping skills are often times dramatically minimized in times of crisis. When emotional support, practical assistance, information and community referrals are provided, victims can experience a sense of relief, ease the pressure and burden, assist in coping and regain a sense of control.

    What type of support is available?
    Victims of various circumstances often have common needs including the need to talk to someone who would understand how the victim feels, reassurance regarding personal safety and for practical assistance in identifying what resources and support services are available. The immediacy of the support offered is of great importance and therefore Crisis Response Volunteers are available 24 hours a day and 365 days a year. Trained volunteers can attend on scene immediately in order to provide support, practical assistance and referrals to the appropriate community agencies. Assistance can be as simple as providing transportation or personal hygiene products to as complex as supporting individuals experiencing extreme personal loss or loss after the death of a loved one. The needs of victims vary depending on the nature of the incident. There is no way to predict how people will respond to crisis, and there is no clear-cut list of 'what-to-do-or-say'. Volunteers respond to the victim, not the occurrence.

    Common Reactions to Crisis & Trauma
    Some reactions are common to people who experience traumatic stress as a result of witnessing or being involved in a traumatic event. Everyone who is exposed to such an event is affected by it and may experience some reaction.
    During the event and in the first 24 hours after a traumatic event, some people may experience some initial shock reactions that represent a wide variety of emotions from feeling anger or fear to being numb or detached from the person's feelings. One might feel somewhat disoriented or cut off from the environment around them. One may also experience a number of physical shock reactions such as nausea, perspiration, tremors, loss of body control, e.g., bladder control, uncontrollable crying or laughing, etc.
    In the days following the event you may experience any of a large number of thoughts, feelings, physical reactions, and actions that may vary in intensity and duration. Although they can be upsetting, it is important to remember that they are normal reactions to a frightening and 'abnormal' situation. These reactions are likely to become less frequent and eventually disappear within the weeks ahead.

    Possible Cognitive or Emotional reactions
    • Recurring dreams or nightmares about the event
    • Reconstructing the event in your mind, in an effort to construct a different outcome
    • Feelings of confusion or impaired judgment
    • Trouble concentrating or remembering things
    • Experiencing a sense of powerlessness
    • Questioning your spiritual or religious beliefs
    • Repeated thoughts or memories of the event which are hard to stop
    • Feeling numb, withdrawn or disconnected
    • Experiencing fear and anxiety when things remind you of the event
    • Feeling a lack of involvement in everyday activities
    • Feeling depressed, sad, or down much of the time
    • Feeling bursts of anger, rage or intense irritability
    • Experiencing a sense of injustice
    • Feeling a sense of emptiness or hopelessness about the future
    • Increased need to control everyday experiences
    • Feelings of panic or feeling out of control
    • Feelings of helplessness
    • Feeling a lack of enjoyment in usually pleasurable activities


    Possible Physical Reactions:
    • Gastro-intestinal problems, e.g., nausea, constipation, diarrhea
    • Allergies, skin rashes
    • Headaches, backaches, stomach aches
    • Vascular, cardio-vascular and muscular problems, fluctuations in blood pressure, etc.


    Possible Behavioural Reactions:
    • Being overprotective of your safety.
    • Isolating self from others.
    • Increased or decreased consumption of food, drugs, alcohol.
    • Becoming very alert at times and startling easily.
    • Change in eating behavior or sexual interest.
    • Problems getting to sleep or staying asleep; sleeping more than usual.
    • Avoiding activities that remind you of the event; avoiding places or people that bring back memories.
    • Increased conflict with family members or other people.
    • Keeping excessively busy.
    • Being tearful or crying for no apparent reason.


    Needs of Victims
    Compassion - Victims sometimes rage at the sudden, unpredictable and uncontrollable threat to their safety of lives. This rage can even be directed at the people who are trying to help them. Take things professionally Ė not personally.

    Options - What are the services and options available to the victim and their family? Given the complexity of the information itís a good idea to diagram the options on paper so they can see and hear the information.

    Non-judgmental listening - Victims need to have their feelings accepted and their story heard by non-judgmental listeners. Respect and understanding instead of judgment and blame go a long way to restoring a persons' sense of dignity.

    Time - Victims need time to process what has happened and make decisions about how to respond. This means getting through the initial reactions and processing the experience. Allow the opportunity for follow-up conversations.

    Reassurance - Victims need to feel safe. Crime often leaves them feeling helpless, vulnerable and frightened. The most common response is "I don't believe this happened to me." Reassure them. Listen to them. Support them.

    Openness and transparency in the process whether itís the criminal justice process or counselling process victims need to know ď'what happens nextĒ. Victimization is stressful and clearly knowing what happens next lessens the anxiety.

    Loneliness and shock are greater for victims of crimes that involve the abuse of power. They often have difficulty recognizing that they have been victimized. They need to know it is not their fault and that no one deserves to be abused.

    Putting the pieces of one's life together following a crime can be a complicated task. It is often an emotional process filled with ups and downs. For most victims, a new sense of equilibrium can eventually be reached but this process can be time consuming and difficult. For some victims, support groups and counseling provides healing and support.

    Community Resources
    For more information and general inquiries related to appropriate community services and referrals, please contact the Muskoka Victim Services office at 705.645.5444 and a staff member will be available to assist.