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Victims of Violent Crime Can Suffer Psychological Consequences for Years

Discussion in 'News, Politics & Debates' started by goingonhope, Aug 1, 2007.

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  1. goingonhope

    goingonhope Member Premium Member


    Crime Victims Live with Pain

    Victims of Violent Crime Can Suffer Psychological Consequences for Years

    Jul 30, 2007

    Peering into a mirror, Deborah Winter uses both hands to trace the damage on her face done by one gunshot fired through her front door three years ago. The physical wounds have healed – though some shrapnel remains – but the emotional trauma lingers.

    Winter's life changed just before midnight on May 12, 2004. Her son Mark, then 20, had arrived home earlier that night, after a confrontation at a park near their townhouse in Brampton. A group of teens followed him.

    As Winter was answering the doorbell, someone sprayed the door with bullets. Glass shattered, hitting Winter in the face. The force of the shot made her face look as if it had holes all over: fragments of shotgun pellets and shattered glass dug into her scalp and forehead, around her eyes, down the bridge of her nose and cheekbones toward her chin.

    "We've gone through hell, our family. There are times I wish he would've killed me," Winter says in her first interview about the shooting. "My life is ruined."

    Without the six-figure salary she had been earning as a 30-year sales representative at Bell Canada, emotionally exhausted and faced with few financial options, she was forced to sell her house. Her whole family, she says, has been traumatized by the attack.

    Joe Wamback, whose then-15-year-old son Jonathan was beaten into a coma in 1999, founded the Canadian Crime Victims Foundation. He says Winter is one of thousands of forgotten victims of crime across Canada. And, he adds, family members never got the counselling or support they needed.

    While there are agencies working with crime survivors – the most recent Statistics Canada report on crime victim services says 606 agencies across Canada were assisting nearly 360,000 survivors in 2002-2003 – there doesn't seem to be a strong link connecting victims to these services providing emotional support and court assistance.

    • The disconnect between crime survivors and the services available to them apparently lies in the debilitating effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (or PTSD), and the absence of a national strategy to assist victims of violent crime.

    Dr. Bill Jacyk of Homewood Health Centre in Guelph, one of the few facilities in Canada specializing in PTSD, addictions and trauma, says, "PTSD is an anxiety disorder that continues to happen long after the trauma."

    Jacyk says that "normally, people, right after a crime, might have all of this prevented by going to victim services and getting some psychological debriefing. For a majority of people that probably works, but for other people, that doesn't bring closure."

    Among the symptoms are avoidance, emotional numbness, nightmares or flashbacks and heightened feelings of anxiety and fear. Winter says she has experienced them all.
    According to Jacyk, "40 per cent of those with addictions are likely to have PTSD."

    Winter developed a short-term gambling and alcohol addiction to numb her feelings about the attack and twice overdosed on painkillers. She also cashed in her stocks and RRSPs and borrowed money to buy food, pay the bills and try to keep her $350,000 debt at bay. But, unable to work, she says she can't pay it all back.

    After six years of waiting, Wamback says he gave up on his own application for money from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board, the provincial body that compensates victims of violent crime in Ontario.

    According to the board, compensation usually comes after the trial is over, although victims can apply for emergency funding. But Winter says she could be waiting for years, as the criminal trial of the accused in her shooting only starts this October.

    A scathing report by the Ontario Ombudsman in February called the board a "colossal failure" in its delivery of compensation to crime victims. The McGuinty government has since ordered a review of the board.

    Brendan Crawley, a spokesperson for Ontario's Ministry of the Attorney General, says three new victims services programs have been introduced, including those dealing with counselling and financial assistance for emergency and funeral expenses. The government is also spending $56.4 million of the $80 million in the Victims' Justice Fund this year on programs to help victims of crime, he says.

    Gary Rosenfeldt also became a crime victim advocate due to personal tragedy. In 1981, his 16-year-old son Daryn was one of the 11 victims of serial killer Clifford Olsen.

    Rosenfeldt says support for victims of crime has seen a "dramatic improvement" over the years. But, "What's really frustrating as far as victims are concerned is the sporadic way it exists out there and lack of co-ordination and communication between victim services."

    Back in her living room, Winter sighs. Her voice breaking, she says it took her two years to seek help.

    Bills piled up. The illness was paralyzing and she didn't know where to turn. The follow-up by victim services wasn't frequent enough, she adds.

    More important, she didn't know she had PTSD or even what it was.

    "If you can't see if there's anything wrong," Winter says, "people expect you to go on."

    Now, she is preparing to return to Homewood in Guelph for another four-month therapy session.

    She's also regaining some of the confidence and control she says the shooting destroyed.

    - - - - - -

    • Most Canadians associate post-traumatic stress disorder, also known as PTSD, with the trauma of war.

    • Yet it is estimated 2.5 million Canadians, many of whom have not been engaged in military combat, will suffer from PTSD in their lifetime.

    • Although there is no known cure for PTSD, antidepressants and cognitive therapy are used to treat the symptoms, which include anxiety, anger, flashbacks and depression.

    • If left untreated, severe cases of PTSD can lead to suicide.

    A three-part Star series looks at the journey of three PTSD survivors and how they're coping with an illness some label a "silent killer."

    Source: The Star, Canada
    Sheila Dabu
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    BREAULT New Member

    Thank you, how many others out there with gambling or other addictions never made the connection to PTSD.
  4. Beautiful Butterfly

    Beautiful Butterfly New Member

    Wow! Very good article, touched on many different subjects, and I strongly believe that if PTSD is ignored the end result could be suicide. I made a mistake when I was 15 and thought that dieing would be better than living with the horrible crime that happened to me. The pain was so unbearable and after reading this article I feel like I got to the suicide because I had went years without being medically treated by a professional.

    There is a misunderstanding about PTSD, and many people see this as a military war time issue only. When it is not entirely, and I am glad this article pointed out this misconception.
    Srain likes this.
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