Psychological first aid and compassionate support
What can I do, if I know someone who has experienced a violent incident?
Contact the victim, and remain in their company. Compassion is in and of itself very healing.
Provide relevant information for the victim, so they can gain an overview of what has happened. Repeat important information. Victims of crises may experience difficulties remembering what they have been told, due to general impairment of their concentration.
Keep an open mind and accept the victim’s relay of the events. Listen to their accounts of what happened repeatedly. Avoid trivialising, dramatising or diverting the victim’s thoughts and experiences. Avoid using empty phrases such as “time heals all wounds” or “it isn’t as bad as you think”, as these are unhelpful to the victim.
Ask direct, concrete and elaborating questions, that help the victim process and grasp what has happened. Examples include “Try to tell me what first happened. What did you do/think when it occurred? Who else was present? Where were you? What happened afterwards? What did you then think/do? How did you react? How are you feeling presently? What are you currently thinking about? What is going to happen now/and later? Do you need help or support?“
Avoid asking why
“Why” questions assume “because” answers. Providing explanations is difficult for the victim, as they are often very confused about what has occurred.
Do not dismiss feelings of guilt
When feelings of guilt are received with respectful attention and impartial information, it can have a calming effect. Conversely, telling the victim to be realistic, and dismissing speculations about things beyond their control, may result in the victim no longer finding it beneficial to speak to others.
Gently insist on maintaining contact
The victim may not wish to speak about the incident. If you are turned away, you can say that talking about the incident would be beneficial for them. If they continue to decline, try again later.
Offer practical help
Help the victim with tasks of a practical nature, if they require it. The practical help should exclusively function as a support for the victim. Assuming responsibility may increase the victim’s sense of helplessness.