What is Criminal Victimization/Community Violence
Criminal victimization or community violence is an intentional attempt to hurt a single person or group of people.
If you have experienced, or witnessed, any of the following – you have experienced criminal victimization or community violence:
- Robbery, mugging, kidnapping, carjacking (involving or not involving a weapon
- Physical assault, shooting, stabbing, other assault involving a weapon
- Harassment, stalking, bullying
- Growing up with family involved in criminal activity or being personally involved in criminal activity
- Sexual violence is also a form of criminal victimization. You can learn more about it by visiting the Sexual Assault and Rape page.
Due to the intentional nature of these traumas, survivors of criminal victimization are at a heightened risk of trauma related difficulties such as post-traumatic stress disorder, complex trauma, anxiety, depression, and traumatic grief.
How does Criminal Victimization/Community Violence impact survivors?
It’s hard to live your life when you’re worried about survival.
Surviving criminal victimization such as an assault, robbery, or shooting can leave a permanent impact on the survivor. The same can be said for living in a community where criminal activity is common.
Both criminal victimization and community violence is associated with changes in one’s thinking, emotions, behaviour, and nervous system.
For children who were raised where criminal activity and violence were common, their sense of safety and stability was disrupted. Consequently, they may find themselves living as teens and adults who are stuck in survival mode and notice that their outlook on life and sense of control has been challenged.
Here’s an in-depth look at common effects of criminal victimization/community violence:
- The world is unsafe
- People and others cannot be trusted
- They are responsible for what happened – could have stopped it
- They were being punished for something they previously did
- Intense anger, worry, and fear
- Strong reactions to small triggers
- Sadness, grief, shame and guilt
- More safety focused behaviours (checking doors and locks, sleeping in the day, changing routes, etc.)
- Withdrawing from daily activities and people
- Jumpy, easily startled
- fight-flight-freeze-fawn response
- Difficult concentrating and resting
- Intrusive and unwanted memories and thoughts about the event
- Feeling you are back in the moment – able to see and feel as you did when it was happening (flashbacks)
- Common forms of avoidance are: drugs, alcohol, self-harm, or disordered eating
- Changing behaviour to avoid going back to where it happened, the activities that trigger flashbacks, and the people who were involved
- For example, someone who was driving when they were car jacked, may avoid driving, someone who was mugged when walking through a park may avoid green spaces, and someone who was bullied or assaulted at school may skip regularly or drop out altogether.
Children and teens who have experienced community violence or criminal victimization are often mislabeled as lazy or unmotivated, and believed to have behavioral difficulties. In realty, they are stuck in survival mode.
It’s impossible to thrive when your body and mind sense danger
Survivors often feel that they are alone – either that what they experienced cannot be understood by others or that there isn’t anything that can help them. This is the trauma speaking. Trauma is isolating and healing involves taking the challenging step of being vulnerable and speaking to someone about what happened and how it impacted you.
For survivors who have been involved in criminal activities themselves, there is further fear of betrayal or judgment. Everyone deserves to find freedom from trauma symptoms.
How can New Moon Psychotherapy help?
While trauma is devastating, isolating, and wide reaching, it doesn’t have to be. Criminal victimization and community violence is all around us and we know that more people go on to resolve their trauma symptoms than those who go on to develop long-term complications. This is fantastic news because it means that it is possible to heal from your trauma, stabilize your emotions, think logically, regain control of your behaviours, and be able to live a meaningful and fulfilling life filled with connection and safety.
At New Moon Psychotherapy, we are committed to guiding you through each step of your healing journey and use evidence-based therapies (the ones that research suggest work) to treat the difficulties that you’re experiencing.
Prolonged Exposure Therapy (PE)
Dialectical Behaviour Therapy for PTSD (DBT-PTSD)
Group therapy allows survivors to learn and form community with other survivors as well as groups for loved ones who might be struggling with effectively supporting the survivor in their life. For teens, it’s important that the adults in their life also receive support so that they can reinforce a safety and create stability in the teen’s life.