Myths and Facts

Myth: I don’t know anyone who has survived a violent crime.

Fact: Chances are, you do.

Statistically, chances are you know someone who has survived some type of crime or violence:

  • In 2008 in the United States, there were approximately 4.9 million violent crimes.
  • In 2007, 73 people were murdered in Oregon.
  • Each year, between 18 and 27 Oregonians are killed as a result of domestic violence. 
  • One in six Oregon women is the victim of forcible rape. 
  • At least one in 10 Oregon women aged 20-55 has been physically or sexually assaulted by an intimate partner in the last 5 years. 
  • More than a third of domestic violence assaults are witnessed by children.
  • In 2007, the Oregon Department of Human Services confirmed that 10,716 Oregon children were abused or neglected.

 

Myth: Violent crime only happens to certain types of people.

Fact: Violent crime can happen to anyone.

Anyone can be victimized by crime.  But crime survivors, like people who are incarcerated, disproportionately come from poor communities and communities of color.  Some public safety policies promote a false distinction between “crime victims” and “offenders.”  While certainly not all victims will become offenders and not all offenders were victims, many people are both, and many of our most vulnerable families include both.  Some people who were abused as children become abusive as adolescents and adults.  Some crime survivors turn to alcohol and drugs as a way to numb the pain, and their addiction leads to them committing crime. Partnership for Safety and Justice promotes public safety policies that help victims and offenders rebuild their lives (separately and, in some circumstances, the option to participate in facilitated dialogues based on restorative justice principles) so that cycles of violence can end and people can live healthy and productive lives. 

 

Myth: Most women and children are victimized by strangers.

Fact: Most women and children know the person who committed the crime against them.

  •  In 2008, 70% of women in the United States who were victims of violent crime were harmed by someone they knew.
  • Most children, adolescents, and adult women are raped by someone they know.  Almost two-thirds of women raped as adults are raped by an intimate partner.
  • Nearly 3 in 4 victims of stalking know the person stalking them.
  • In 2007, almost 75% of confirmed cases of child abuse in Oregon found that one of the child’s parents committed the abuse.


Myth: People can just get over it on their own if enough time goes by.

Fact: No one should be expected to go through this alone.

Most people who have been harmed by crime feel overwhelmed, confused, isolated, and like they don’t have control over their lives.  For some people, these reactions don’t last very long; for other people, these reactions can last a very long time.  If crime survivors don’t have a safe place to turn for external support to build internal resources, these reactions can continue and lead to serious physical, psychological, social, and financial issues.  Service providers help crime survivors to process the violence, make healthy decisions, and regain a sense of control over their lives.

Partnership for Safety and Justice supports policies that fund services to help crime survivors rebuild their lives.  To find a service provider near you, please check out the Survivor Services Links on our website.


Myth:
No one understands what I’m going through.

Fact: Although each person is unique, each crime is unique, and each person responds to crime in a unique way, there are many responses that most crime survivors experience at one point or another.

Even though everyone is different and has a different perspective of the world around them, every person’s brain is “wired” in a certain way to identify and respond to threats to personal safety.  Basically, every person’s brain works first and foremost to keep that person alive and safe.  When a person’s safety has been threatened or harmed by another person, the harmed person’s brain goes through a number of reactions to help the person try to understand what happened and to avoid other threats like that in the future.  This process can be very overwhelming and confusing.  Many people experience some of the following reactions to crime.  These reactions are a brain’s way to try to regain a sense of control.

When the crime occurs, people may experience:

  • Shock, surprise, and terror.
  • Denial or belief that “this can’t really be happening to me.”
  • Rapid heart rate, anxiety, digestive problems.
  • The desire to fight, run away, or do whatever the person says in order to stay alive.

In the first couple of weeks after the crime, people may experience:

  • Trouble sleeping and/or not wanting to sleep at all.
  • Trouble eating.
  • Fatigue.
  • Confusion.
  • Anger.
  • Sorrow.
  • Feeling guilty.
  • Feeling numb or “in a fog.”
  • Feeling “on edge” about almost everything.
  • Being very aware of all surroundings (hypervigilance).
  • Being preoccupied about the crime and having flashbacks to what happened.
  • Feeling like the world isn’t safe and wondering when the next attack will occur.
  • Fear that people won’t believe what happened or will blame you for what happened.
  • Feeling like you aren’t in control.

Some people still experience strong reactions to the crime a few weeks or months after it occurred.  These reactions may include:

  • Trouble concentrating.
  • Depression.
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
  • Anxiety disorders.
  • Sleep disorders.
  • Eating disorders – loss of appetite, anorexia, bulimia, or excessive eating.
  • Questioning religious, political, and/or social beliefs.
  • Withdrawing from social activities that once brought pleasure.
  • Thoughts of suicide.
  • Attempts to numb these feelings by using alcohol or drugs.

It is important to remember that although these reactions are very difficult to experience, there is hope!  These reactions will not last forever, especially when you get help from trained professionals who can help you be safe and work through these difficult reactions.  You are not alone.  The crime was not your fault.  Help is available.

To find help near you, please check out the Survivor Services Links on our website.


Myth: There is no hope.

Fact: Even though life may no longer be the same, it can be very, very good.

Being harmed by another person – or when a loved one is harmed – changes things.  It can change the way a person sees him/herself, the person who caused the harm, and the rest of the world.  The effects of a crime should not be minimized.  But there is hope for the future and life can be good.  People are resilient.  And there are trained professionals who can help people tap into that resilience and process the crime and its effects.  There is help.  And there is hope.

To find a service provider near you, please check out the Survivor Services Links on our website.

 

Myth: If I don’t report the crime, I can’t get help.

Fact: For many crimes, you can get help whether you report it or not.

Most violent crimes are never reported to the police.  Of the approximately 4.9 million violent crimes in the United States in 2008, less than half were reported to the police.  In communities throughout Oregon and the rest of the United States, there are programs that can help survivors of many different types of violence, whether or not the survivor ever decides to report the violence to the police.  For survivors of domestic and sexual violence, this help can include: emergency shelter; counseling; safety planning; and advocacy for long-term safety.  Counseling and advocacy can be provided to survivors who are currently being abused or who were abused a long time ago.

To find a service provider near you, please check out the Survivor Services Links on our website.


Myth:
Crime victims don’t have any rights.

Fact: Crime victims DO have rights.

The Oregon Constitution and federal statutes provide a number of rights to crime victims.  Most of these rights exist to make sure the victims are treated with dignity and respect by the criminal or juvenile justice system, and to make sure that victims have access to information about their case and referrals to community services.  For more information about victims’ rights in Oregon, please visit: http://www.oregoncrimevictimsrights.org/.


Myth:
There is nothing I can do to help a loved one who has been hurt by someone else.

Fact: You can make all the difference to a loved one in need.

Even if you aren’t a trained service provider, you can help a loved one who has survived crime.  Although you should not try to provide counseling to your loved one, you can help him or her find help in your community.  Listen to your loved one.  Be calm and patient.  And saying the following things to your loved one can make all the difference:

  • “I believe you.”
  • “I’m sorry this happened to you.”
  • “It wasn’t your fault.”
  • “How are you doing?”
  • “I can only imagine what it was like to go through that.”
  • “There are people who can help you through this better than I can.  Do you want me to help you find someone who can help?”

In addition to helping people who have experienced crime first-hand, service providers can help survivors’ loved ones.  To find a service provider near you, please check out the Survivor Services Links on our website.