Typical Responses After a Crime

Although every victim is different, there are some typical responses:

Shock or numbness

Victims may feel “frozen” and cut off from their own emotions. Some victims say they feel as if they are “watching a movie” rather than having their own experiences. Victims may not be able to make decisions or conduct their lives as they did before the crime.

Denial, disbelief and anger

Victims may experience “denial,” an unconscious defense against painful or unbearable memories and feelings about the crime. Or, they may experience disbelief, telling themselves, “This could not be happening.” They may feel intense anger and a desire to get even with the person who committed the crime.


Quite often, victims struggle with confusion about what has happened, and what is going on around them. They may repeat themselves several times, unaware of who they have previously said things to.


Feelings of guilt are very common. Victims frequently think that they should have been able to do something to prevent the crime. They often think “If only I had . . . this wouldn't have happened.”

A desire to become active and “do” something

It is very typical for some victims or family members to feel as though they need to “get busy” right away and make sure things are handled. This could be a way of coping for some.
Other Typical Responses:

  • trouble sleeping or excessive sleeping
  • continual sadness with frequent crying
  • flashbacks
  • extreme tension or anxiety
  • lack of motivation and energy
  • outbursts of anger
  • memory problems
  • trouble concentrating
  • other symptoms of distress for days or weeks following a trauma

Secondary injuries: When victims do not receive the support and help they need after the crime, they may suffer “secondary” injuries. They may be hurt by a lack of understanding from friends, family, and the professionals they come in contact with – particularly if others seem to blame the victim for the crime (suggesting they should have been able to prevent or avoid it).