Supporting someone after crime

If someone you know has been the victim of a crime, it may be an upsetting and overwhelming time for them. They may be experiencing difficult emotions, may be under a great deal of stress, and may be in pain if they sustained any injuries.

How you can help

If someone you know has experienced a crime, you may not know how to support them. You may be in shock, angry or distressed about what they’ve gone through.

That’s OK. The most important thing to remember is it was not their fault, and they are not to blame.

You can learn more about the type of crime they’ve experienced, or how a support service like Victim Support can help them to move forward.

Here are a few simple things you can do:

  • Let them speak: reassure them you’re there for them. Listen calmly if they want to talk and try not to interrupt.
  • Believe them: victims may feel ashamed, embarrassed, or worried they’ll be judged, blamed or won’t be believed. Tell them you believe them, and that it’s not their fault.
  • Reassure them: let them know whatever they’re feeling is normal. There’s no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to feel, everyone responds differently. Reassure them they’re not alone, and they don’t have to deal with this on their own.
  • Ask how they’d like to be supported: try not to be upset if they need to be alone or want time to themselves without your help.

Our online resource, My Support Space, has a number of guides designed for those supporting someone after crime or trauma. You can create a free account at any time.

How not to respond

Here are a few things you could avoid doing or saying that may help the person you’re supporting:

  • While often-kindly meant, phrases such as ‘look on the bright side’ or, ‘it could be much worse’ aren’t helpful to the person you’re supporting. It can minimise what they’ve been through and can seem dismissive of their feelings. It may discourage them from talking or opening up.
  • Don’t pressure them to talk if they don’t want to or aren’t ready to. They may open up to you in time. Or you could suggest other people or support services they might feel more comfortable with.
  • Don’t insist they seek help from a professional such as a counsellor or doctor if they don’t want to. Not everyone needs professional help. They may decide to seek help at some point in the future.
  • Don’t be afraid of talking about the crime. They’ll let you know if they don’t want to talk, but may be grateful you’re comfortable in bringing it up.
  • Try not to be angry and don’t seek revenge against the offender. Although you may feel frustrated and protective over the person, it’s important to not overwhelm them or add to their stress.
  • The effects of crime can last a long time. Try not to expect the person you’re supporting to be ‘over it’ in a set amount of time.
  • Try not to judge the emotions, behaviour or actions of the person you’re supporting. Though we can try to understand, we’ll never be able to experience exactly what a person is going through.

The support they can access

Everyone reacts differently after experiencing crime, but it can often be a confusing time. The person you’re supporting may not know what support is available to them, or what rights they have.

Anyone who has been affected by crime in England or Wales can contact us for information and support. Our support is free, confidential and independent of the police. They do not have to report to the police to get our help. Find out how we can help.

If they choose to report the crime

The person you’re supporting will need to decide whether or not they want to tell the police about what’s happened. It is their decision alone.

Try to be supportive and encouraging in whatever they decide to do.

If they do decide to tell the police, you can find out more about reporting a crime, and what happens after reporting.

Victims and witnesses deserve to be treated with respect and courtesy by all agencies within the criminal justice system. Their rights and entitlements are explained in two important documents: The Code of Practice for Victims of Crime and The Witness Charter.

Looking after yourself

We’re here to help anyone affected by crime. Not only those who experience or witness it directly, but also their friends, family and any other people involved.

If you need support or someone to talk to, you can get our help at any time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We’re independent from the police, and our support is free and confidential.

Here are some simple tips to look after yourself when you’re supporting someone after crime: