Victim Witness

When Bank Employees Become Victims of a Robbery

Information, Referral, and Support for Victims, their Families, and Witnesses of Crime.

You've all seen a pebble drop into a pool of water and noticed the ripples which are produced by the impact of that pebble. A similar ripple occurs from person to person when a crime occurs.

As an employee, you have been exposed to a crime in your work setting. Even if you were not directly confronted during the incident, you may experience reactions from your exposure to the robbery or attempted robbery.

How people react to these events varies from person to person and is affected by individual factors such as how you usually handle stressful situations and what kind of support you have both inside and outside of work.

Your reaction may be immediate or may be delayed. You may experience symptoms that are physical, emotional, or cognitive (involving your thinking ability).

IT IS IMPORTANT TO REALIZE THAT THESE ARE NORMAL FEELINGS, BEHAVIORS AND REACTIONS TO AN ABNORMAL EVENT.

Employees who have been through a robbery or an attempted robbery report having a variety of experiences.

FEAR. They are afraid of leaving the bank, being in public, or being re-victimized. They are afraid the robber will find them or will come back.

HYPER-ALERTNESS. They find that they startle easily: They "jump" when suddenly approached by customers or when they hear loud sounds.

GUILT. They feel that they could have done something differently; they wonder if they could have prevented the incident, or if they didn't do something they should have.

ANGER. They are enraged that their life has been disrupted and that they no longer feel safe or in control.

ISOLATION. They feel that they are the only ones who are having reactions to the event; they feel isolated from family and friends, and they feel no one can understand what they have been through.

COMMON EMOTIONAL & PHYSICAL RESPONSES

Irritability, which may be directed at family and friends;
Loss of motivation - feeling blue or depressed;
Apathy and indifference;
Chronic fatigue and flashbacks.

COPING WITH THE AFTERMATH OF CRIME VICTIMIZATION

Awareness and understanding are crucial in beginning to deal effectively with this event in your life. You can begin by being aware that you MAY react in some of the ways we have discussed. Remember that your reactions are normal.

1. You may find that you react to sights, sounds, smells, and textures that were present at the time of the crime and which remind you of the incident.

2. Sometimes being exposed to a traumatic event may trigger memories of past events in your life. Perhaps you have been victimized before, or have lost someone close to you. You may once again find yourself experiencing feelings related to these earlier events.

3. Feelings of vulnerability and helplessness are frequent after victimization. One of the first things to pay attention to is your need to feel safe again. Take any precaution which will make you feel safer. Some examples might include:

Having someone drive you to work and pick you up at the end of the day.

Following procedures that will protect you from as much risk as possible at work or at home.

Making your daily schedule as predictable and routine as possible for awhile to return some control and stability in your life.

EVERYONE REACTS DIFFERENTLY TO TRAGIC EVENTS. BE PREPARED FOR A VARIETY OF REACTIONS AT A VARIETY OF TIMES.

Support from all sources is especially important at this time to help the victim function normally after the incident. Typically, the levels of support include:

1. Your work group:
Often, the people you work with have gone through the trauma with you and know how you feel. Talk to each other about your feelings and support each other. Also, share the following with your co-workers:

Don't startle, surprise, or pretend to aim a real or imaginary gun at the victim.
Don't feel rejected when victims want time alone.
Healing takes an enormous amount of psychic energy. Be prepared for mood swings that include anger, depression, and the feeling that "nothing good ever happens to me."

2. Your community:
You may find this support in friends, professional counselors, the clergy, or other significant people in your life. And you can get help from the Victim-Witness Assistance Unit of the United States Attorney's Office.

3. Your family:
They will need to know what has happened and what to expect. They will react to your experience, but may not have the information needed to deal with it as you do. Please remember that children are very perceptive. Do not underestimate their ability to understand and deal with life's trauma. Let your child know that you are all right.

THE MEDIA. Although a spokesperson may have been designated to speak at your institution, you may also be contacted by the media. You have the right to decline comment.

PREPARING TO TESTIFY. If the robber is apprehended, you may need to attend a line-up and you may be needed as a witness to testify in court. A member of the Victim/Witness Unit of the United States Attorney's Office will keep you informed of the progress of your case and will help you through the criminal justice system. If you have any questions during this process, contact the Victim-Witness Assistance Unit of the United States Attorney's Office at 973-645-2893 or 973-297-2073.

SUMMARY. It is important to allow yourself time to heal at your own pace. It is important that you actively seek support from your family, friends, co-workers, and possibly professional counseling and victim support groups.

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