Working with victims of crime: A manual applying research to clinical practice (Second Edition)

10.0 Victims of Terrorism (continued)

Web-based Resources

There is much on the World Wide Web that you can use to learn more about working with victims of terrorism. Using any search engine will take you to useful resources. The following sites are identified as ways of quickly getting useful information. You are encouraged to do your own search, focusing on issues specific to the needs of your client.

  • The American Psychology Association (APA) has developed facts sheets designed to help build resilience in a variety of populations after terrorist attacks, including adults, children, first responders, mental health workers, military families, older adults, people of colour, primary care providers, and the seriously mentally ill.
    http://www.apa.org/psychologists/resilience.html

  • The Canadian Psychology Association (CPA) has developed facts sheets around various problems areas, including post-traumatic stress disorder, grief and depression.
    http://www.cpa.ca/publications/yourhealthpsychologyworksfactsheets/

  • The International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies (ISTSS) is an international multidisciplinary, professional organization that focuses on severe stress and trauma. The organization explores issues such as understanding the scope and consequences of traumatic exposure, preventing traumatic events and ameliorating their consequences, and advocating for the field of traumatic stress. Their site includes a sub-section on terrorism, including links and pamphlets.
    http://www.istss.org

  • The Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism (MIPT) has a large database of articles and information around all aspects of terrorism, including links to other sites.     
    http://www.mipt.org/

  • The Office for Victims of Crime Resource Center (OVCRC) has a searchable archive on various victims’ issues and several manuals and reports that were used in this chapter.
    http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/ovc/

  • Victims Assistance Online is an information, research and networking resource focused on victimology for victim assistance workers and professionals working with victims. They have a special page for victims of terrorism.
    http://www.vaonline.org/terrorism.html

The Basics

  • Terrorists use violent criminal behaviour to meet political ends by putting pressure on decision makers and society (Ganor 2004). By focusing on political leaders and general community members, terrorists spread fear throughout society to increase attention to their political cause (Danieli, Brom and Sills 2004).
  • Terrorism strikes at the heart of viewing the world as a safe and predictable place (Davidowitz-Farkas and Hutchison-Hall 2005).
  • Victims of terrorism include:
    • Direct victims: those killed or who directly witnessed the attack.
    • Direct professional/volunteer victims: includes people who are at the scene of the terrorist attack as part of their job or as volunteers.
    • Indirect victims: direct victims family members, friends, co-workers, etc.  Direct victims often use this group for support.
    • Community victims: people in the community who are affected by the attack.
    • Re-victimized victims: people who have been victims of previous terrorist attacks, but are now re-traumatized by a new attack or report of a thwarted attack.
  • There appears to be no research directly comparing victims of terrorism with other crime victims.
  • Trauma reactions do not follow a predictable path; each person is different (Silver et al. 2004). 
  • Many victims of terrorism may feel initial distress (Lahad 2005; Schlenger 2004) but not go on to develop any major psychological problems (Friedman 2005; Galili-Weisstub and Benarroch 2004).
  • Problems workers should watch for in their clients include Post-Traumatic Stress Reaction and Acute Stress Disorder (Office for Victims of Crime 2005); complicated grief (Pivar and Prigerson 2004); and anger (Lebel and Ronel 2005), depression (Miller and Heldring 2004), survivor guilt.
  • Victims who have been held hostage may experience feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, may feel dazed, fear death/torture, be in shock, and have distorted thoughts and feelings (Hillman 1983) and can also develop Stockholm Syndrome. Stockholm Syndrome (also know as Hostage Identification Syndrome) is a condition wherein a hostage bonds with the hostage taker during the holding phase of the crime (Wilson 2003).
  • Child victims of terrorism deal with many of the same issues as adults do, but much more depends on caregiver reaction and developmental level. Caregivers need to model how to emotionally handle victimization; they also help children better manage reactions. 
  • Workers need to assess whether victims need crisis intervention, short-term emotional support, information, support in their meaning-making efforts, or grief counselling.
  • Meaning-making includes both allowing the victim to create a manageable story while also express feelings in an open manner.
  • Workers should also attend to trauma histories, as a previous history of trauma can worsen reactions to the most recent event.
  • Workers should help victims identify strengths that help them cope with their reaction, and watch for post-traumatic growth, where the person improves because of successfully overcoming the challenge of the attack.
  • Workers may need to provide or offer guidance and assistance to the victim’s support network.
  • Workers should remember that self-care habits are even more important because of the initial crisis atmosphere and later service needs (Waizer et al. 2004).
  • Workers need to pay attention to their personal views about the terrorist attack and the agenda and reaction of other governments, as these views may affect their work.
  • Workers need to watch for vicarious traumatization, for intrusive thoughts and images, and signs they are spending much time thinking about the victim’s ordeal.
  • Workers need to adjust to the “new normal” (Danieli et al. 2004). 

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