Behavioral and Psychological Impact of Criminal Victimization

Behavioraland Psychological Impact of Criminal Victimization

Behavioraland Psychological Impact of Criminal Victimization


Criminalvictimization can be a very traumatic experience for any person. Itleads to psychological and behavioral changes in the victims,therefore affecting their normal lives. This paper addresses thepsychological and behavioral impacts of criminal victimization. Ithighlights the psychological changes that a victim goes through afterexperiencing crime. Additionally, the paper highlights the behavioralchanges that criminal victims of crime may experience. The extents ofthe behavioral and psychological impact differ depending on theseverity of the crime and previous experiences of the individualsinvolved. The aim of the essay is to enhance the understanding of thereactions of individuals that have been affected by different typesof crime.

Keywords:Behavioral Impact, Psychological Impact, Criminal Victimization,Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Criminalvictimization is an unsettling as well as frightening experience forall victims of crime, regardless of where they are. Personalexperiences with crime lead to either behavioral or psychologicaleffects on the victims, in most cases, victims experience bothpsychological and behavioral effects (Lorencet al., 2015).Criminal victimization is unpreventable and unpredictable therefore,many victims have trouble coming to terms with the realities ofcrime.

Nobodywelcomes nor seeks victimization because the experience isdemoralizing and debilitating. Victims are not necessarily theindividuals that suffer directly from crime since they may alsoinclude family members as well as close friends that care about thevictims (Lorencet al., 2015).Criminal victimization causes varying behavioral and psychologicalimpacts depending on the level of trauma that they have experiencedbefore the latest incident. Criminal victimization affects people ona physical, social, behavioral and psychological level (Massaro,2015).

Thepsychological impact of criminal victimization

Differentcrimes have varying psychological effects on the victims. Similarly,different people react differently from similar experiences withcrime. Therefore, it is almost impossible to predetermine how peoplewill react to certain experiences with crime (Massaro,2015).The psychological impacts are often among the most difficult to copewith and overcome. Victims of crime suffer long-term psychologicaltrauma because it is always difficult to accept that one has sufferedinjury or loss because of the deliberate actions of another person(Lillyet al., 2014).Primary, as well as secondary victims, may experience limited orextreme psychological effects from crime. The most important strategyin helping victims overcome their experiences is to understand theextent of the psychological damage in to restore psychologicalstability (Dutton,2011).

Whenconsidering the psychological impacts of crime, it is possible tosplit the initial reactions to crime into four stages. At the initialstate, victims will experience hopelessness, shock, guilt, disbelief,fear and anger (Lillyet al., 2014).However, this is not conclusive since some victims may experience theabove reactions during later stages. For example, when a victim seeksmedical treatment or attends the trail of a perpetrator of the crime,it is possible to experience some psychological symptoms mentionedabove even though they might have never experienced them before.

Violentcrime presents the most detrimental effects on the victims. Forexample, victims of rape have trouble recovering from the feeling ofshame and humiliation (Dutton,2011).Victims of a violent robbery on the other hand experience long stintsof anger because of loss of property as well as suffering physicalinjury (Barton&amp Bartol, 2011).The negative feelings of shame and humiliation, combined with angercan lead to depression. Moreover, victims suffer from anxiety becauseof fear and mistrust. This affects the quality of life they becomeoverly conscious regarding their surrounding environment. This isfurther exacerbated by constant worry because of the traumaticexperiences and tendencies of having flashbacks from theirexperiences (Massaro,2015).

Inadults, fear drives anger. Victims may direct their rage tothemselves, the justice system, family members, the assailants oreven God (Lillyet al., 2014).Where victims experience extraordinary brutality, they may not onlyhave feelings of revenge and anger but also they may want to executethe revenge personally. In this regard, it very likely those victimswill have stints of frustration especially when it is impossible toidentify the perpetrators of criminal acts or in circumstances wherecourt cases take too long, therefore delaying justice for the victims(Cook,2011).

Confusion,self-blame, sorrow, humiliation and shame may lead to post-traumaticstress disorder. It may be difficult to tell the difference betweenvictims suffering from depression from those that suffer frompost-traumatic stress disorder. This may further complicate therelationship between the victim, the family members and friends(Cook,2011).Without a proper understanding of PTSD, victims will take a long timeto recover from psychological trauma. In some cases, they may neverrecover at all and suffer from depression for a long period. Familymembers may avoid the victim and at the same time exhibit symptomssimilar to those of the victim. Some families disintegrate because ofthe psychological strain of living with persons suffering from PTSD(Lorencet al., 2015).Posttraumatic disorders are common among victims of robbery, sexualassault, kidnapping, child sexual attack, mugging and death of afamily member. Victims who respond to these traumatic experienceswith hopelessness, fear and horror are likely to develop PTSD (Lorencet al., 2015).

Thesecond period usually involves disorganization because of thepsychological reactions in the first stage. The stage manifest itselfin forms such as distressing thoughts about the events surroundingthe experience, depression, fear, nightmares, guilt and loss ofconfidence/self-esteem (Cook,2011). At this stage, life may seem to slow down because of the subsequentdisorganization. It is challenging to deal with all the psychologicalstrains at this stage especially when they manifest in combinations.For example, victims undergoing depression will likely suffer fromlow self-esteem (Lorencet al., 2015).Similarly, a person filled with fear is likely to experiencenightmares. Therefore, life becomes very difficult for the victims,and it is difficult to regain normal quality of life. It is commonfor victims to be distrustful, for example, previously held faith orbeliefs may not provide solace (Lorencet al., 2015).

Thethird stage involves reconstruction and acceptance of the fact thatone has been a victim of a criminal act. Every victim of crime longsfor everything to return to normal, however, the psychological traumamakes it very difficult to achieve this desire. However, at thisstage, victims attempt to regain psychological normalcy, often withthe help of family, friends and counselling sessions (Massaro,2015).It is a very crucial stage of recovery since it sets the foundationof transitioning from denial to acceptance. This stage leads to thefourth and final stage where the victim recovers psychologically fromthe effects of crime and life goes back to normal.

TheBehavioral Impact of Criminal Victimization

Criminalvictimization may have differing behavioral effects on the victimsdepending on their experiences and subsequent psychological support(Royet al., 2014).The changes in behavior reflect the psychological interactions in thevictims’ mind as they try to come to terms the reality. Change inthe eating habits is one such behavioral impact (Royet al., 2014).Victims may adopt unhealthy eating habits depending on thepsychological trauma that they experience. For example, victimsundergoing depression are likely to reduce the amount of food thatthey eat because of denial (Royet al., 2014).On the other hand, individuals suffering from stress and relatedcomplications may start eating too much to cope with the stress. Thisis, therefore, a very common behavioral change, which commonly occursamong female victims.

Socialwithdrawal is another common behavioral change. Criminalvictimization may cause individuals to have feelings of shame, guiltand self-hate (Barton&amp Bartol, 2011). Moreover, the victims develop mistrust against the society and evenfriends and family. This is very common among victims of rape andviolent robbery (Royet al., 2014).This will eventually lead to social withdrawal, where victims preferto lock themselves in solace and stay away from the rest of thesociety. This behavioral change may slow down the healing processsince it may become extremely difficult to understand what they aregoing through to offer them the right counselling and support(Ochberg,2013).

Victimsmay also exhibit recklessness in their daily activities. For example,individuals may be involved in reckless driving because ofhopelessness, depression, and suicidal reasons. The recklessness mayalso extend to their places of work where victims carry out theirwork without attention to detail and operational standards (Lorencet al., 2015).In this regard, they may resort either to work holism or absenteeism.Individuals who have experienced violent robbery in their homes mayfeel safe spending more time at their place of work, thereby leadingto work holism. On the other hand, victims who have social withdrawalsymptoms may be unwilling to go to work. Moreover, they may neglectthemselves in aspects such as personal hygiene and grooming (Royet al., 2014).

Depressionmay lead to increased sleeping since individuals do not want toconfront the reality of life (Royet al., 2014).Victims may sleep for long hours especially during stages of socialwithdrawal. On the other hand, symptoms such as fear and nightmaremay make it difficult for individuals to sleep, therefore reducingtheir amount of sleep (Lilly et al., 2014) drastically. Finally,criminal victimization may lead to increased smoking and drinking asa way of coping with the traumatic effects of crime, especially whenthe crime leads to financial losses and loss of a close familymember.


Criminalvictimization is an unsettling as well as frightening experience thatneeds to be addressed with the seriousness it deserves. Morespecifically, victims of rape and violent crime need propercounselling to regain psychological and behavioral stability withinthe shortest time possible (Royet al., 2014).It is important to mitigate the negative effects of behavioral andpsychological turbulence by taking victims through programs thataddress their worries and assure them of their safety. Nobodywelcomes nor seeks victimization because the experience isdemoralizing and debilitating. People should have the psychologicaland behavioral impact of crime. Having this knowledge enables them tounderstand whatever they are going through whenever they becomevictims of crime. This will thus enable them to prevent furtherpsychological and behavioral instability.


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