The unthinkable has happened: you have been the victim of a crime. Regardless of what the crime was or how it happened, you are left with the aftermath of the incident and now need to pick up the pieces and move forward. But what do you do when a crime has been committed against you? What is the first step you need to take to get over this terrible ordeal and get back to your life? We hope the following tips help you find the focus you need to be able to deal with what has just occurred and get the justice you deserve.
Call the Police- Chances are you have already completed this step, or a bystander took it upon himself or herself to make the call for you. Calling the police immediately after a crime has taken place increases their chances of catching the criminal, since the evidence at the scene of the crime is intact, fresh and undisturbed.
Go to the Hospital– If the crime was a violent one, you need to be assessed by a medical professional without delay. In the case of assault, battery, rape or other type of violent crime, not only do you need to be treated for your injuries, but an official medical report needs to be filed as evidence to be used in court proceedings. Note: in the event of a nonviolent crime such as theft, this step is not necessary.
Contact an Attorney– Once you have spoken with the police and sought medical attention if necessary, it is important to find a lawyer to represent you in court. Your attorney should be experienced in the area of criminal law that pertains to the crime you just experienced. You should be able to explain the next steps of the legal process, as well as inform you of your rights and advise you about further actions to take.
Go to Court– Your attorney will inform you of your court date and prepare you for what to expect ahead of time. Be ready to arrive on time at the courthouse in appropriate attire. Be mentally prepared as you will most likely have to be in the same room with, the person who committed the crime. Your first court appearance may also be your last, depending on the nature and severity of the crime. However, in the case of a serious or violent crime, there will be a trial and an impartial jury will be selected. Keep in mind that you are not the one on trial- this can help keep nerves at bay.
Testify in Court– Your testimony is crucial to the outcome of your case, as it is your opportunity to give a true statement under oath about the crime that was committed against you. The judge and/or jury can use your testimony to make a decision about the punishment the criminal will face.
The Outcome– No matter what the judge and/or jury decide, you are likely to experience a variety of conflicting emotions. In addition to the happiness you may experience from the outcome of your case, you may also feel anger, sadness, guilt and fear. These are all perfectly normal emotions. Consider seeking help and support from a therapist in the aftermath of a crime, so you can talk through these feelings and get the closure you need to help the healing process truly begin.
Being a victim of a crime can cause lasting physical, mental and emotional effects that go on for years. By seeking support from an attorney, family, friends and mental health professionals, you can begin to heal and put the ordeal behind you, so you can get back to the life you love!