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What to expect if you are a victim of campus crime

  • Victims of campus violence, like all victims of crime, react to their victimizations in many different ways. Immediately after the crime, victims often struggle with feelings of fear, helplessness, confusion, guilt, self-blame, shock, disbelief, denial, anger, shame and numerous other emotions.
  • Victims may also have physical injuries and suffer damage to, or loss of, personal property. Since the perpetrator in a campus crime may be known to the victim, feelings of confusion, betrayal and guilt may be intensified by the incorrect belief that the victim could have prevented the assault.
  • In the long term, victims may experience anxiety, a lack of faith in family, friends, the criminal justice system or religion. They may also experience suicidal thoughts, depression and many psycho-physical responses such as sleeping/eating disorders, drug/alcohol abuse and others.
  • Just as the circumstances of every crime differ, every victim responds to his or her own victimization differently. In the immediate aftermath of a traumatic experience such as a crime, a victim may not necessarily be able to think clearly.

Guidelines for the aftermath of a victimization

Find a safe place

  • The most important single act a victim of violent crime can engage in immediately after the crime is getting to a safe place. A victim of crime should find a place where she or he can feel secure and comfortable. Good examples are a friend's apartment, a resident advisor's room, the local or campus police, or a crowded place.

Seek medical attention

  • Victims injured in a crime should seek immediate medical help. Victims should call an ambulance or have a friend take them to the hospital, campus clinic, or private doctor.
  • Victims should not wait. Medical attention will help in their physical healing and may be useful for evidentiary purposes during any legal action, or during a criminal investigation.

Report the crime to authorities

  • Victims are encouraged to report the crime to authorities for many reasons, including:
    • Many crime victim compensation programs (the government agencies that provide financial assistance to victims to aid in their recovery from violent crime) require immediate reporting to police
    • Statistics show that crimes reported sooner, rather than later, have higher arrest rates
    • Authorities may be able to direct victims to further assistance.
  • Please note that although all crime victims are encouraged to report the crime, not everyone will feel comfortable entering the criminal justice process. The choice about whether or not to report belongs to the victim. Reporting is not required to receive crisis counseling or medical care.
  • Depending on the location of the crime (on or off campus), and any special circumstances surrounding the crime, campus crime victims may report an incident or crime to:
    • Campus police
    • Local police
    • Resident/hall advisors or, in the case of fraternal organizations, alumni advisors
    • Crisis or counseling centers
    • Victim assistance programs.

Seek support

  • Because being a crime victim can be both physically and psychologically traumatic in the short and long term, many victims seek the support of family, friends or professionals throughout their recovery. Professional assistance or referrals to assistance may be available through the following resources:
    • Campus/residence hall staff
    • On/off campus crisis centers
    • University counseling services
    • Victim/witness programs
    • Community mental health agencies (check local telephone listings)
    • National Center for Victims of Crime's FYI program (800-FYI-CALL)

Financial recovery

  • Victims may be able to obtain financial recovery from their victimization through their state victim compensation program. To obtain more information about the type of compensation available, or to obtain the phone number of a particular state's compensation program, contact the local prosecuting attorney, or call the Center's FYI program.

Criminal or civil action

  • Perpetrators may be punished for their crime either with criminal penalties, or by paying civil (monetary) damages. Police will work with prosecuting attorneys to bring about criminal action against perpetrators.
  • Victims have many rights within the criminal justice system. Although those rights differ from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, victims' rights often include the rights to be informed of and present at critical stages of the criminal justice process and the right to some amount of input into the trial and/or sentencing. For an explanation of those rights available to you, please contact your local police or your prosecutor's office.