I was a victim of a criminal offence: consequences and reactions

A victim is a person, adult or minor, who has suffered an individual or collective offence against their person or property. The harm may occur as a single event or repeatedly (when violence is repeated over a long period of time).

Being a victim of a criminal offence can have a number of consequences, such as serious physical and psychological damage, financial repercussions and disruption of professional, social and family life.

Furthermore, the intensity and symptoms of psychological distress may vary from one person to another and be influenced by many factors such as the circumstances of the crime, the relationship with the perpetrator(s), and the victim’s social situation and previous vulnerabilities. In some situations, victims are able to overcome their psychological distress on their own, while in other situations, professional support is necessary. Within France Victimes’ victim support associations, you will find people able to listen and provide support adapted to your needs.

If you are in an emergency situation or want to report an offence, do not hesitate to contact the police by dialling 17.


What is psychological trauma? Psychological trauma is an ‘invisible psychological injury’ caused when someone experiences a sudden and brutal life-threatening event (for the victim or someone else) or a serious attack on his or her physical and/or psychological and/or sexual integrity. This (potentially) traumatic event happens unpredictably, uncontrollably and unexpectedly. These traumatic experiences can, for example, occur as a result of physical assault, sexual violence, domestic violence, traffic accidents, attacks, incest, domestic abuse, etc. What are the psychological consequences? Faced with the trauma, some individuals will be able to adapt and cope with the situation or even overcome it. For others, the psychological shock will lead to extreme horror, which invades their thoughts, actions and emotions. Typical symptoms of psychological trauma include reliving the traumatic event (‘as if it had just happened’), avoidance behaviours (e.g. avoiding situations or places that may closely resemble the situation, people, places), hyper-vigilance, disturbances in mood, sleep, concentration, etc., as well as other associated disorders. How long does psychological trauma last? Whatever happens, these reactions are normal and are how your mind/brain copes with an event perceived as abnormal, extremely stressful or violent. In the first days after the offence, symptoms may appear and last for a few weeks to a month. Sometimes the symptoms appear several months after the event. During this latency period, no symptoms are observed. In some cases, these symptoms may subside and have no further consequences. Each time, the difficulties may vary in frequency and intensity. Victims should seek the advice of a professional trained in psychological trauma when these difficulties interfere with daily life. They will give you valuable advice and direct you to resources suited to your particular situation. If 30 days after the trauma happened, you are still experiencing these symptoms, it is important that you are able to approach a professional who can deal with your difficulties.


Advice for victims of a criminal offence

Talk to someone you trust When you have been a victim, talking about what you have experienced can be very helpful, liberating. Seek out a caring person who is available and will be able to accept your emotions and your words without trying to force them or question them. In a non-judgmental posture, this trusted person will welcome your statements and take them into account in their entirety, without downplaying the facts. Being able to express your pain can take time, which is perfectly normal. Take the time you need. Recognition, understanding, and consideration will make the work of rebuilding easier. Professional support When you have been a victim, you may want to talk to someone outside your friends and family. You can confide in your doctor, the national victim support platform (116 006/+33 (0)1 80 52 33 76 from abroad), other professionals, such as a lawyer, or the victim support associations of the France Victimes network. They have recognised expertise, and a multidisciplinary team of jurists, psychologists and social workers will be at your side free of charge. The professionals will inform you about your rights, provide psychological support, assess possible social interventions and direct you to other partners depending on the nature of your needs. Seeking shelter When the criminal offence is repeated on a daily basis and you fear for your life, taking shelter is imperative. By reporting your situation, you can, among other things, be referred to emergency accommodation. If you are physically injured, you can go to a hospital for treatment but also to collect evidence of the violence.


I was a victim of a criminal offence: consequences and reactions The rights of victims of a criminal offence Criminal proceedings Who is who in criminal proceedings

Useful contacts Glossary

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