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Impact of Crime

Being a victim of a crime can be a life altering event.  We often hear how difficult it is to receive letters from our office about the potential release of the inmate.  Victims commonly tell us that they have a variety of reactions to the inmate's possible release; they feel like they are "going crazy" or like the "crime has happened all over again." Significant events, such as the possibility of the inmate's release, can evoke these feelings. Called "trauma cues," these events can be a "cue" for unexpected physical and emotional reactions in victims and survivors of crime. Much like at the time of the crime-you are having a common reaction to an uncommon event. You may find that you are experiencing emotions or physical reactions that occurred then, again. No two people have the same reaction.  Some may experience many, some may experience none.  

Examples of these significant events include:

  • Dates involving the crime - anniversary of the crime's occurrence 
  • Family events - weddings, birthdays, graduations 
  • Notifications - of the inmate's potential release 
  • Decisions - regarding parole or any other status change of the offender
  • Similar crimes - in your community or on the news

What You May Experience

Every inmate - except those serving a life sentence or sentenced to death - will eventually be released from prison.  It is important to emotionally prepare for the inmate's eventual release.  For some victims, being notified of the inmate's possible release may cause physical reactions like headaches or restless sleep.  Some people may have an emotional response and find it difficult to concentrate or they may start having nightmares. These responses are part of what is commonly called a crisis reaction and can be brought about by trauma cues like those listed above.

Some common physical and emotional reactions include:

  • Changes in your sleeping patterns
  • Sweating or chills 
  • Increased heart rate, heart palpitations, chest pains
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Muscle tension
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Changes in appetite 
  • Startle easily                      
  • Forgetfulness
  • Flashbacks
  • Anger/Rage
  • Can’t concentrate or focus
  • Agitation and Irritability
  • Questioning faith
  • Questioning fairness
  • Guilt
  • Feeling powerless, lost, abandoned
  • Withdrawing from family/friends
  • Anxiety
  • Sadness/sorrow/depression
  • Nightmares

When registered victims and survivors receive a letter about the inmate's parole review and experience some of these reactions, they often tell us it is very difficult to sit down and write a letter or give comments on their thoughts or feelings about that subject.  We encourage you to call with any questions or concerns you may have about the inmate's possible release from prison. 

It is also the reason that we offer several different methods of providing input as outlined in the Input section

  1. Above all, it is important to remember: These reactions are common among people who have been victims of crime. 
  2. Because no two people have the same life experiences. They have different reactions to the same crime or reminders of the crime. 
  3. You are not "going crazy."
  4. If you or a loved one are having difficulties preparing for the possible release of an offender, there is help available. This might be the time to consider counseling services or finding a support group in your area. Many people that have been to counseling right after the trauma they experienced find that the pending release of the inmate is when they need to go back for follow-up care. Others find that this time is a time to begin counseling.
Please feel free to use the PA Victim Services clickable map to find out who you can call and what is available in your area.

A Guide for Self-care: Put yourself first  (pdf)

A guide for family and friends of homicide victims  (pdf)

A guide for parents and loved ones of child survivors (pdf)