First Steps for Victims of Crime
Are you in a safe place?
If not, please consider calling 9-1-1 for emergency assistance
Are you concerned that you may harm yourself or someone else?
Please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
Resources for Victims of Crime
As a victim of crime, you may be entitled to victim advocacy. Advocates, both professional and volunteer, work to affirm your rights, give information and provide services to victims of crime. Victim advocates are organized locally, within the jurisdiction of the crime. Because of the many jurisdictions in our nation, it is not possible to list all the agencies providing victim advocacy and assistance. To search, use key words “Victim Assistance” (County) (State).
To find information about legal assistance, please visit the National Crime Victim Law Institute.
To learn more about victim’s rights law, please visit VictimLaw, a resource from the U.S. Department of Justice.
A restraining order, or protective order, is a legal order issued by a state court which requires one person to stop harming another person. It is also sometimes called a protection order, an injunction, an order of protection, or some other similar name. Visit The National Network to End Domestic Violence for more information.
As a victim of crime, you might qualify for financial assistance for a variety of needs resulting from your victimization. Qualifying uses vary from state to state but commonly medical bills, funeral costs or counseling expenses are covered. Compensation is managed on a state level and many states have applications for assistance available online. Visit the National Association of Crime Victim Compensation Board for more information.
Emotional trauma is a common element for nearly every victim, and all people experience trauma in unique ways. Some traumas you never ‘get over’ but you can learn ways to cope.
The US system of justice is not a speedy process. The investigation (if you get one), prosecution, and incarceration of the perpetrator all take time. The Justice System is deliberately slow at nearly every level. This commonly surprises victims and can add layers to the existing trauma.
It is typical for victims to experience secondary trauma. Secondary trauma is emotional pain caused by the people and processes involved in the system and aftermath of crime.
Some people around you will not understand your struggle and frustration. This can include family and close friends. As a result, some find it helpful to seek support from trauma-informed professionals and groups with others who have experienced a traumatic event.
To find someone you can talk to, ask your Victim Advocate for recommendations. Here is a list of questions you can use when choosing a trauma-informed counselor (from the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape.)
For information about stalking, please visit the National Stalking Resource Center.
Victims of Crisis
For more information for and about victims of crisis, please visit the U.S. Department of Justice’s webpage on Domestic Terrorism and Mass Violence.
Tips for Helping Victims of Mass Casualty
Rushing to give immediately, even money, isn’t necessarily best. In the immediate aftermath, communities aren’t ready to receive funds. Each state has a crime victim compensation fund that can support qualifying immediate expenses, including funeral and medical aid. A host of financial needs will emerge in the following weeks and months after media interest fades. Giving time for a community to establish equitable ways to collect and distribute funds is important to supporting all the needs in a community after loss.
While it might be therapeutic for you, sending food, toys, clothes and handmade crafts isn’t usually very helpful to victims. In some natural disasters, food, water and shelter can be crucial but there are organizations equipped to provide these needs (e.g., The Salvation Army). Donating items can actually create more organizational issues for victims and community leaders. Handling and storing mass amounts of donated goods can create serious challenges.
Financial donations are the best and most prudent assistance. Once trustworthy and reputable mechanisms are established for donating, save the cash you would spend on items and donate it instead. Gift cards are a great solution as well. They are easy to distribute and work like cash for victims to pay the expenses that follow crisis.
Victims and communities desire control after crisis. Regaining control is part of the recovery process. Unless requested by the community, state and federal officials taking control of decisions represents a lack of respect for victims’ agency and the ability to determine what is best for their recovery. While community individuals might disagree with one another about decisions, they are still the central stakeholders in the aftermath of a tragic event and deserve the liberty to work out solutions.
While we are careful not to speak for victims, the National Organization for Victim Assistance (NOVA) has been training people to respond to mass casualty crime scenes and natural disasters for over twenty-five years. This has provided insights into the needs of victims of crime and crisis.
If you need additional information or referrals, please contact us:
firstname.lastname@example.org | 800-TRY-NOVA