Assistance for victims is crucial

THE recent incidents of violent robberies and sexual assaults on the Northern Rivers reflect the escalating nature of crime in our society according to one expert.

Howard Brown, the vice-president of NSW support group, VOCAL (Victims of Crime Assistance League), said such crimes would have a devastating effect on victims and seeking assistance within the first few days was critical.

“When you are the subject of any violent crime it’s crucial to address it early. It’s not a sign of weakness,” said Mr Brown, himself the victim of a violent crime.

Mr Brown explained the trauma experienced could destroy your confidence and change your personality.

“It can make you introspective and introverted which will isolate you, magnifying the stress to which you’ve been exposed. People need to understand this is a normal reaction to an abnormal situation – not the other way around,” he said.

“People can think they are going crazy but really that is normal. Once people realise this then we can start to deal with it.”

VOCAL assists victims through the recovery process, helping them access support from the NSW Department of Justice and Attorney General’s Victim Services.

“It is a great service and the first 20 hours of counselling is free,” he said.

“Everyone is different. Some people only need a couple of hours counselling whereas others can have much more complex reactions – but the longer you leave it the harder it is to recover.

“It can also be a long time between the crime and court so it is important to be able to de-brief away from the police and legal system. As a victim of crime you have a role in the justice system but you also have a responsibility to yourself.

Mr Brown said hidden forms of violence such as bullying and domestic violence were just as debilitating.

“Again, the earlier you intervene the greater the chance of preventing it escalating.”

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