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What relatives, friends, neighbours and acquaintances of the victim should know and observe

continuously suffering from of a crime. For many people, it is at first alarming to discover that things you normally read in the newspaper or see and hear on television or on the internet have suddenly become reality in their immediate vicinity. This may trigger feelings that you never had and that you - perhaps - don't want to have. These include above all fear, rage, powerlessness, thoughts of revenge and helplessness. It is understandable and normal if you have feelings of this kind. In your own interest and in the interest of the victim living in your environment, however, it is important that you come to terms with these feelings. If you fail to do so, you - with your feelings - may put an additional strain on the aggrieved person in your vicinity.

However, you need not deal with your experiences and feelings alone. You can talk confidentially about them with friends who are not affected by the crime. In many facilities and institutions which are listed in the List of Support Facilities, you will also find persons from whom you can seek advice and with whom you can talk about your situation, the situation of the aggrieved person in your environment and possibilities for your future actions.

The following paragraphs include some preliminary considerations and notes:

What does this mean for yourself?

The information that a person in your environment has suffered from or continues to suffer from of a crime, which is possible - for example - in case of domestic violence, stalking and sexual offences, frequently leads to a feeling of uncertainty.
This applies at first to the question as to whether you can believe what you have learned. There is no uniform or unambiguous answer to this question. For your further behaviour, however, it may be helpful for you if you proceed on the assumption that the information is correct. Then you can consider how you want to deal with the information, whether the aggrieved person is close to you and whether he/she perhaps wants to talk to you, expects any other assistance from you or needs immediate assistance. When making these considerations, you need not be alone. You can seek advice and assistance from the support facilities indicated in the List of Support Facilities.

Depending on your relationship to the aggrieved person, additional questions may arise.
If you have received the information confidentially, you should not communicate it widely. In addition, it may be important whether you know the accused and whether you perhaps feel in a dilemma or even threatened. There is no uniform answer to these questions. Instead, questions of this type must be considered and discussed carefully - perhaps even involving the victim. You should always get help for this purpose.

What does this mean for you as a colleague?

If the victim is a colleague, the question as to how to deal with him/her in the future may be essential for you. However, it may also be important to consider whether superiors and other colleagues have already been informed or should be informed. In this context, you should not forget that the victim perhaps does not want that other persons - particularly superiors - hear about the crime. You should try to check this carefully. Perhaps, the victim does not yet know that you are informed. Therefore, it may be helpful for the victim if you invite him/her openly to talk without undue emotion and without pressing him/her.

What does this mean for you as a friend?

If the victim is your friend, you may have to face additional questions. You must not only decide how you will deal with the accused person if you also know him/her. Your friendship may also be endangered by the consequences of the crime. Victims of a crime frequently have strong feelings of guilt and shame. This can have the effect that they become oversensitive and withdraw themselves. If your friend has been victim of a crime, he/she may lose his/her trust in you if the accused person is an acquaintance or even a friend of yours. If possible, you may try to talk openly and without undue emotion with your friend about these questions. But you may also seek advice, especially in situations of this type. Most institutions listed on the List of Support Facilities will not only provide advice to the victims, but also to the people in their environment.

What does this mean for you as a neighbour?

If the victim lives in your neighbourhood, it may be possible that he/she absolutely does not want to talk with you about your information. The reason for this may be a feeling of shame, guilt or fear. Depending on your neighbourly relationship, you may invite him/her to talk with you. You should also find out whether you yourself are afraid because of the information you received. In this case, you should seek advice as to what you can do about this.
If the victim in your neighbourhood signals that he/she needs help, you should make yourself available to provide assistance. Assistance of this type includes, but is not limited to, the offer to talk, the accompaniment to an appointment or vigilance with respect to visitors. However, you should not disclose any information to other persons without the knowledge of the victim.

What does this mean for you as a relative?

If the victim is a relative of yours, the questions are similar to the questions arising in the other relationships and depend on your closeness to the victim. Moreover, it is more probable that you have to testify as witness during criminal proceedings. In this case, it may also be possible that you have the right to refuse to give evidence. For more detailed information on your evidence as witness and on the right to refuse to give evidence, refer to Your Rights / Criminal Proceedings # Investigative Proceedings.

 

Note 1:
If, based on the information you received, you must assume that the victim in your environment has experienced a serious crime and my possibly be threatened by further crimes, you should inform the police even without the consent of the victim.

Note 2:
Independently of your relationship to the victim, you may have to testify as witness in the course of investigative proceedings. For more detailed information on your evidence as witness, refer to Your Rights / Criminal Proceedings # Investigative Proceedings.