The moments following a crime are chaotic and surreal. The victim may be in shock or paralyzed with fear. Anxiety may have taken over, making it hard to think clearly. But it’s those moments right after a crime occurs that are some of the most crucial, especially for the victim.

Being involved in a crime, whether you are a witness or a victim, can be terrifying, but it is important to keep your head straight. Having a plan can help you avoid knee-jerk reactions and responding in panic. Documentation of the crime can help with the prosecution, if there is a criminal trial, any civil suits that arise from the situation, and even for your own healing. Here’s how to do it.

Make sure you are safe. Before you do anything, make sure you are safe. Get to a place of safety. If you need help, ask someone.

Take care of your injuries. If you have been hurt, go to the nearest hospital to be treated or checked out. When you check in at the desk, tell them that you have been injured as the result of a crime. If necessary, tell the triage nurse as well as the doctors and nurses who treat you. That needs to be documented in your file. You are now officially building a case.

Call the police. You may do this before going to the hospital or when you get there, if you need to go to the hospital at all.

Leave the crime scene intact. Whatever the case, do not touch anything; leave the crime scene intact. There may be vital evidence at the scene and the police need to gather it. Do not take a shower or change your clothing no matter how badly you may want to. There may be evidence on you and the police will need to collect it.

Document the details of the crime. This may be exceedingly difficult and painful, but it is extremely necessary. As soon as you can after the incident, sit down and write out everything that happened in intricate detail. Begin with the moments before the incident and describe everything that happened until the incident was over. Be as detailed and specific as possible.

Things to note include:

  • Appearance
  • Height of the person or persons
  • Weight
  • Build
  • Hair color
  • Eye color
  • Any unusual marks like tattoos or birthmarks Quality of the voice
  • Odors or scents
  • Description of any vehicles

Being the victim of a crime can have a significant impact on your life and the effects can last for years. Documentation is so important because it can help in prosecution, any lawsuits, and it can help you heal.

If you have been the victim of a crime, we have the connections to help you. Visit the VCCVR website to get connected to the help that you need.