My health is being affected

Being a victim of crime can have a direct impact on your health.

This content has been written for children and young people. If you’re looking for information for over 18s, visit our Coping with Crime information.

Crime can affect your:

  • physical
  • emotional
  • sexual health.

It may not always be easy to do, but talking to someone you trust about what has happened and the way it has affected you is often an important first step in coping with the crime.

Worried young girl

Your physical health can suffer as a direct result of a crime. For example, you may have been hit or kicked as a result of an assault or a mugging, or may have been hurt within an abusive relationship. If this has happened to you, it’s important that you tell someone about your injuries. You may think that it’s nothing – that you can cope with a bruise or a bump – but the real extent of your injuries may not be obvious straight away. Other problems that you may not be able to see such as internal bruising, concussion and even broken bones may only become apparent hours or days after you were hurt so it’s important that you get any injuries checked out.

If you’re in pain, you need to get medical help, either through your doctor or at a walk-in centre. Getting medical evidence of your injuries may also be helpful if you decide to report the crime and the case comes to court.

It can really help to talk to an adult about your health, but if you decide you don’t want to tell anyone, and you are over 16, you have the right to confidential advice and treatment from a doctor or from NHS staff. If you’re under 16, you can still ask for a confidential consultation – so that you can talk to your doctor without your parents being informed – and in most cases doctors will agree to this. But they may have to tell other people in they think you are in danger. You can find out more about your rights as a young patient at Citizens Advice.

You may not want everyone to know that you’ve been injured, but you shouldn’t feel embarrassed about your injuries. You haven’t done anything wrong, and it’s important that you get help and any treatment you may need.

Being a victim of crime can be really upsetting, and the often the damage can be emotional or psychological, as much as physical. Crime where there is no physical contact – such as online bullying, verbal abuse, theft or fraud – can still have a negative impact on your emotional well-being. And while the physical effects of crime can be easy to see, the emotional effects can be much harder to spot, and even more difficult to understand.

People feel the impact of crime differently. You may have an immediate response to what has happened – such as being frightened, angry, or losing your confidence – or it may take days, weeks or even months before you realise just how much you have been affected.

Whatever you are feeling, it’s fine – it’s not your fault, you haven’t done anything wrong, and there are people who can help you to cope with the way you are feeling. It will get better, but the first step to talk to someone you can trust – maybe a parent, a teacher, your supporter, a youth worker, a counsellor or someone else you know well – about what has happened, and the effect it has had on you. They may be able to give you the support and advice you need; if not, they should be able to find someone who understands what you are going through, and who can help you to cope with the crime.

If you’re not comfortable talking to a parent, teacher or someone you already know, a good place to start is the Young Minds website. They can give you advice on a whole range of issues, from understanding the way you feel to what you can do to look after yourself, as well as explaining ‘who’s who’ – and what they do – in Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS).

If you’ve been the victim of a sexual offence, the experience can be traumatic. As well as having a big effect on your life physically and emotionally, the crime may also impact on your sexual health.

This is not just about issues such as whether you could have caught a sexually transmitted infection, if you could be pregnant, or whether you’ve been physically hurt – although all these things are important. Sexual health is also about having a positive and safe approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, as well as being able to enjoy sexual experiences without fear of pressure or violence. Being a victim of sexual assault can affect the way you behave in a relationship you already have, and the way you form new relationships or enjoy sexual experiences in the future.

If you’re not sure whether what happened to you was sexual assault, look at the Crime Info section of this website. The basic rule is that any form of sexual activity that you didn’t want or didn’t agree to is sexual assault.

If you have been the victim of a sexual assault, it’s important that you talk to an adult you can trust about what’s happened. That can be particularly difficult if the person who you would normally trust to talk to – such as a parent, carer, or the person you are in a relationship with – is the person who sexually assaulted you. But there are lots of people who can help.

Think about talking to a family member, teacher, youth worker or your doctor. You may prefer to talk to someone from an organisation that is there to help people in your situation – such as Victim SupportRape Crisis or a sexual assault referral centre. They’re certain to take you seriously, give you the support you need, and can discuss whether you want to tell the police.