With the ever increasing number of crimes reported each year, it is not unusual if you encounter crime incidents. In most situations, victims of crime find themselves in a difficult situation. Usually, these victims are in a state of shock and do not know what to do right after the incident. Others may have even sustained injuries that require first aid treatment. If you are a trained first aider, you may instinctively want to help the person. However, there are few things you have to consider before extending a helping hand.
As in all aspects of emergency care and first aid, your topmost concern is to ensure your own safety. If the crime is still in progress or the perpetrator is still active at the scene, never attempt to provide care. Report the incident to the police and wait for them to secure the area. Usually, the police will tell bystanders to stay away from the crime scene. However, in case there are no emergency rescue providers at the scene, the help of trained first aiders who are present at the scene may be sought.
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Once the scene is safe, the police will give you a permission to provide emergency care for the victim. While doing so, you should avoid ‘contaminating’ the crime scene by preserving the chain of evidence that is essential in legal work later on. As much as possible, avoid touching or moving anything. Move the victim only if you have permission from the police or when there is a clear danger or when moving is necessary to provide proper emergency care (such as providing CPR on a hard surface).
When approaching the person, clearly identify yourself and your intention to help. State your name and that you are a trained first aider who will provide help. This is very important especially if you are the first person to arrive at the scene. Most victims are fearful and disoriented, mistaking you as the criminal.
Try to calm the victim and avoid burdening him with questions about the crime. Quickly assess the condition of the victim and prioritize his or her emergency needs. Make sure to provide emotional support and reassurance which are the heart of psychological first aid. Some victims may vent out extreme emotions (anger, aggression, rage, or hysteria) so be ready to protect yourself.
If the case is rape, do not allow the victim to wash nor wash the victim. Instruct the victim not to change clothes, take fluids or foods, or use the bathroom. These actions may destroy the evidence. Although you cannot physically prevent someone from doing these, you can calmly explain to them why it is needed in preserving the chain of evidence. Most rape victims would cooperate and follow instructions given to them. In addition, the victim also needs emotional support. The comfort, dignity and privacy of the victim should be considered throughout emergency care.
Take note that the degree of emotional problems a crime victim may develop in the future may well depend on how he or she has been initially treated.