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The ordeal goes on as victims are left with psychological scars

VICTIMS of street crime can develop severe psychological disorders which can potentially scar their lives for lengthy periods, top Dublin experts have warned.

While many victims can overcome the trauma, some end up feeling anxious and powerless and can constantly feel in danger.

Victims' helplines are seeing record numbers of calls from distressed members of the public -- with one organisation expected to receive more than 3,000 calls this year alone.

Experienced therapists and counsellors today detail the devastating effects that muggings, assaults and thefts can have on victims' lives.

Dr Irene Lowry, a psychotherapist at Fine Counselling in Rush, said even minor crimes can be life changing.

"A person's regular function can completely change. If your house is burgled you might become hyper-vigilant; you might put extra locks on your doors and windows, and have to double or triple check them before you leave the house or go to bed at night.

"People who experience a mugging may take taxis because they are afraid to walk anywhere."

She explained that victims of crime often lose their sense of independence as they try to avoid situations where they feel in danger.

The counsellor described one woman whose handbag was mugged in the city centre on the same day that her house and car in the suburbs were burgled.

"Her life became a military operation. To do her Christmas shopping she went to a shopping centre and parked on the first floor, left her engine running and ran inside to buy things from the shops on that floor. She had to get back to her car as quickly as possible. And then she drove up to the second and third level to do the same."

The comments come as the Herald reveals that one organisation -- Crime Victims Helpline -- is seeing record numbers of calls this year.

"In 2011 Crime Victims Helpline received more than 3,000 calls. The number of calls has risen again in 2012, as awareness of the helpline has grown among gardai and the general public," according to coordinator Maeve Ryan.

"The effects of crime are different for everybody. Some people will seek immediate help in dealing with the shock and trauma of what has happened, and with the anxiety, stress and fear that frequently follow.

Frustration

"Others may cope initially and find that as the criminal investigation process goes on, they experience feelings of frustration, alienation and powerlessness that can affect how they are living their lives."

Clinical Psychologist Dr David Carey of Connolly Counselling in Stillorgan explained that typical symptoms experienced by victims of crime included anxiety, worry, loss of sleep, nightmares and feeling unsafe in public or open spaces.

Dr Carey, who has 30 years' experience in counselling, said that many victims of crime actually blame themselves for what happened to them. "There's a general feeling of stupidity, 'I should not have walked down O'Connell Street at 3am to get the Nitelink. I should have just hopped in a taxi.'

"But this self-criticism is misguided. They are not responsible for what happened to them."

hnews@herald.ie


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