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Common Reactions to Community Violence

It takes time and support to heal from a traumatic event. Meeting with a counselor or joining a support group is often very helpful in the healing processCommunity violence is a violent crime that has a traumatic impact on victims, significant others, and the wider community. Although each person reacts differently in a crisis, it is normal to experience a wide range of emotions. Some common reactions to traumatic loss are listed below.

If you have been affected by community violence, we encourage you to be gentle with yourself, and to reach out to those who care about you for support. These feelings do not disappear immediately.

Shock, numbness, confusion: Comprehending the reality of the loss may be impossible: you may avoid full awareness of a reality too painful to absorb.

Excessive vigilance: You are constantly watchful and on guard, as if you are expecting a sudden attack and do not want to be caught unaware.

Increased reactivity: You are easily startled, others perceive you as "jumpy", you may lose your temper over relatively minor matters, or you may be unable to concentrate.

Intrusive recollections: Distressing images, thoughts, and memories of the traumatic events arise spontaneously and get in your way as you try to focus on daily tasks.

Reliving the experience: You act or feel as if you are back in the time and place you were when the incident happened or when you first learned of your loss.

Anger, resentment: Rage toward those who committed these crimes is normal; however, you may find yourself taking out the anger on others, such as your friends, relatives, or strangers.

Guilt: You may feel responsible for being unable to control the situation better, or simply for having survived.

Physical complaints: You may experience headaches, sleep and digestive disturbance, nausea, fatigue, and lowered immune function.

Withdrawal, isolation, avoidance: You may feel reluctant to go out, or unable to participate in activities you used to enjoy; you may seek to avoid reminders of the event(s).

Fear, anxiety, panic: You may feel that the world is no longer safe or predictable.

Pessimism: You may have a sense of a foreshortened future; for example, you may not expect to have a full life span or to reach normal milestones such as graduation.

Disorganized, distracted: You may be unable to perform routine activities, such as making shopping lists or paying bills.

Sudden temporary upsurges of grief: Suddenly you are overwhelmed by intense sorrow and anguish, even months or years after your loss, when there are "triggers" such as anniversaries, certain places or people, seeing something on TV, etc.

If you have been the victim of community violence —not related to domestic violence—live in the Richmond area, and would like to talk to someone about it, please contact the Bridging the Gap Coordinator, Julie Bivins, at 804-316-2769, or you can email at jabivins@vcu.edu.

* If you are having a mental health emergency or feel like you may harm yourself, please call 911 *