Coping with Crime

Crimes may have very adverse effects on a victim. These effects can occur in violent as well as non-violent crimes. They may occur during the crime, but often continue to pop up after the crime is over. Some victims experience symptoms of this trauma exposure for years after the crime has occurred. This is completely normal.

During a Crime

Many of a victim’s reactions during a crime will be automatic. This reactions do not occur by choice, but they are a natural product of the body’s response to trauma. A victim may not be conscious of what they are doing. Events may seem to be in slow motion. Several minutes may seem like an hour. A victim may focus exclusively on one or two aspects of what is happening and not notice other events which are occurring.

Common Reactions Include: 

  • Fear for one’s personal safety or the safety of witnesses
  • Feelings of helplessness
  • Confusion about what to do or how to respond to the criminal’s demands
  • Anger at having to surrender money or goods
  • Concern that the criminal may remember them
  • Physical reactions such as trembling, fighting, or inability to move

In the Immediate Aftermath

After the crime is over, a common immediate reaction is one of relief. This may be followed by feelings of: 


  • At having been victimized 
  • At a system which allowed it to happen 
  • At the criminals because they got away 
  • At possibly having to give up belongings 
  • At the police for not arriving earlier 


  • That nothing could stop the crime 
  • That victimization can occur at work, at home, or on the street
  • That anything can happen, at any time  


  • For not behaving properly during the crime 
  • For not preventing the crime
  • For not being able to remember details of the crime


  • Because of answering so many questions 
  • Because the memory may not be clear or reliable 
  • Because employers, friends, or family may not be sympathetic 

Later That Day

The time shortly after a crime can be particularly difficult. The stress and emotions resulting from the crime can result in tiredness or fatigue. 

It Is Common To:

  • Feel alone and frightened, especially for those living alone
  • Want to talk about the crime at great length
  • Not want to talk about it at all 
  • Worry that the criminals may come after you
  • Experience loss of appetite
  • Lose interest in being affectionate with loved ones
  • Not want to listen to the problems of others
  • Experience restlessness and sleeplessness 
  • Wake up suddenly after falling asleep

The Next Few Days

The effects of a crime may not disappear immediately. In the first few days following a crime, unusual feelings may continue such as: 

  • Apprehension and vulnerability
  • Fear and overreacting to sudden movements or loud noises 
  • Diminished self worth
  • Uncertainty, irritability, forgetfulness or unsociable tendencies
  • Preoccupation with the crime, such as re-living the crime through recurring thoughts or identifying people that look like the criminal

One Week to One Month

During this time period, reactions begin to diminish for many victims. However, it is not unusual for feelings and physical signs of trauma to continue for some time. A brief relapse after a difficult day or a stressful event is normal, but recovery will likely continue. 

It is not uncommon to continue to: 

  • Dream about the event 
  • Suffer from sleeplessness 
  • Have periods of depression or irritability 
  • Withdraw from people


  • Victims can do some things which will help to recover from a crime, such as: 
  • Refrain from excessive use of alcohol 
  • Exercise regularly 
  • Maintain a proper diet 
  • Rest regularly 
  • Continue contact with people who provide support 
  • Discuss the event with colleagues, supervisors, friends and family – people who will listen and not judge you 
  • Pay attention to stress levels and ability to cope

If you have concerns about your recovery from trauma, call and ask to speak with victim advocate 540-372-1040. 

Elizabeth K. Humphries

Commonwealth’s Attorney

PO Box 886

Fredericksburg, VA 22404

Ph: 540-372-1040

Fx: 540-372-1181


8:30 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Monday - Friday

After Hours Circuit Court Informational Line

Ph: 540-310-0675 after 5 p.m. 

Victim Witness Assistance Program 

Ph: 540-993-1660 

Police Department (non-emergency)


General District Court Case Information

Circuit Court Case Information

Fredericksburg Police Department

Stafford County Sheriff’s Office

Spotsylvania County Sheriff’s Office 

Spotsylvania County Commonwealth’s Attorney

Stafford County Commonwealth’s Attorney