The Effects of Violence

Oklahoma Security Consultant

The Effects of Violence

The following is a paper I wrote about the behavioral and psychological impacts of violence and covers some of the lesser-known effects. Though it can apply to violence committed anywhere; as you read it, think about violence committed in the workplace. Remember not all workplace violence is physical and that these effects can become the financial responsibility of the employer.


The effects of violence are both physical and psychological. An act of violence against an individual is likely to affect not only the victim, but his family, his community, those who witnessed said violence, and even those who work with the victim to aid in his recovery. Once physical wounds heal, the victim may have debilitating angst and fearfulness, chronic depression, or anger. They may withdraw from loved ones, refuse help, or self-medicate with drugs and alcohol. With so much research focused on how to rehabilitate violent offenders; the recovery of their victims is often ignored. The little research that has been conducted focuses on victims who are women and children. This paper will examine the effects of violence on victims over the age of 50 (African Americans and Caucasians), the secondary impact of violence on volunteers and social workers who aid in the recovery of victims, and how the impact of victimization may lead to offending.

Criminal Victimization: Behavioral & Psychological Impact

Bartol and Bartol (2012) suggested that Americans have an inherent fear of becoming victims of violent crime. Daily news reports of violent crimes such as assault, armed robbery, rape, and even murder further feed this fear. The perception of safety or lack thereof in one’s immediate community and their belief in their capacity to defend themselves against such violence has also been known to contribute to this fear. According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (Komninos, 2017), the need for safety and security are second only to physiological needs such as food, shelter, and water. This would suggest that the perceived lack of safety and security could have a similar effect as that of actual victimization.

Many victims have reported the psychological impact of the violence endured was worse than any physical trauma or lost property. Psychological responses to violence have ranged from mild to severe. Some mild responses have included sleep deprivation, anxiety, moodiness, attention deficit, strenuous social interactions, and flare-ups of previously diagnosed medical conditions. Severe responses may be as bad as thoughts or attempts of suicide, substance abuse, chronic depression, or anxiety. One of the most severe reactions to violence is posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD has commonly been depicted as causing frequent and disturbing flashbacks of the event (Bartol & Bartol, 2012).

Victims Over 50

Reaction to victimization can vary based on many different factors of the victim; to include but not limited to gender, race, age, social status, and even prior victimization. A study conducted by DeLisi, Hochstetler, Johnson, and Jones-Johnson (2014) examined the effects of victimization in Caucasians and African Americans over the age of 50. The study observed the responses of victims who had been burglarized or robbed. The average age of the subjects studied was 54 years; 25 percent of which were older than 68 years. It was found that victimization had a potentially detrimental effect on the victim’s mental health and psychosocial functionality. It was suggested that the victimization of older adults had a greater impact because of the vulnerability of the demographic. Bartol and Bartol (2012) suggested women and children shared this similar vulnerability with older adults.

Caucasians in this age group showed little correlation between their victimization and subsequent depression. However, in feelings of resulting socioeconomic indicators and personal safety demonstrated markedly lower self-esteem and diminished self-efficacy. The Caucasians in the study tended to place the blame for their own victimization on themselves (internal attribution). African Americans experienced overall decreased self-esteem and self-efficacy as a result of victimization. They were more likely to blame the system for their victimization (external attribution). Despite the difference in coping with their victimization, both groups had a more difficult time overcoming victimization than a younger demographic (DeLisi, Hochstetler, Johnson, & Jones-Johnson, 2014).

Secondary Impact

According to Figley and Salston (2003), professionals who work with victims of violent crimes often become affected by secondary traumatic stress (STS). The act of listening to victims reiterate violent accounts of their stories day in and day out can have a similar psychological impact as actual victimization. Research has found that STS can cause “burnout, compassion fatigue, vicarious traumatization (VT), and traumatic countertransference” (p. 167).

Burnout is a common concept seen in many first responders who deal directly with victims; police officers, emergency medical personnel, and firefighters. However, it is also seen in children and social service workers, trauma councilors, emergency management volunteers, and suicide prevention hotline operators. Compassion fatigue references a condition not dissimilar to PTSD. The difference is that the traumatic experience belongs to the victim and through sharing the said experience with a professional who is by nature compassionate toward the plight of the victim, the professional experiences similar distress. Vicarious traumatization is a consequence of empathic engagement with a victim of violence and can alter the belief system and cognitions of the professional, as well as their emotional and psychological requirements (Figley & Salston, 2003). Traumatic countertransference “inhibits professionals from studying, correctly diagnosing, and treating the effects of trauma” (Danieli, 1996, p. 196). Another potential issue for trauma professionals is when they themselves have been victimized. If left unresolved, a personally traumatic event by the professional can be exacerbated; or if repressed, can be triggered by someone else’s story (Figley & Salston, 2003).

Figley and Salston (2003) have suggested the importance of trauma professionals to receive continued education, training, regulation, and consultation related to the field of trauma counseling and the potential hazards of STS. Professionals who have a colleague or superior with whom they can process any overwhelming personal feelings and distressing client information, tend to suffer less burnout. They are also less likely to experience STS.

Victims Who Become Offenders

Menard (2012) suggested victimization may cause a proclivity to become the offender. Illegal behavior has not always been a widely accepted risk factor for victimization. In fact, prior to victimization surveys, it was a given that victims and offenders denoted polar opposition in the criminal justice system. However, early data obtained from the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) showed parallel characteristics between victims of crime and those arrested for criminal behavior. Juveniles and adolescents demonstrated a higher correlation rate of victimization and offending than did adults. In adults, men were more frequently victims and offenders than females.

Research conducted by Menard (2012), agreed with previous studies that a positive correlation between victimization and offending existed for juveniles and adolescents but decoupled into early middle age. He suggested that intervening with victims of violent crimes could help to prevent them from becoming offenders later in life, especially young victims. Additionally, it could be beneficial to assess offenders to determine if a need for victim services existed.


Victimization can impact victims and others both physically and psychologically. The impact of a violent act may be as significant as the perception of the possibility of becoming a victim. The more vulnerable the demographic (elder, women, and children), the greater the impact. The race of the victim may play a part in the effect depending on the application of internal or external attributes of blame. Trauma professionals should be cognizant of secondary traumatic stress and the effects as associated. More attention should be given to the risk factor of victimization on illegal behavior and offenders should be better assessed for possible victimization which would indicate a need for victim services.


Bartol, A. M., & Bartol, C. R. (2012). Introduction to Forensic Psychology: Research and Application (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.

Danieli, Y. (1996). Who takes care of the caregiver? In R. J. Apfel & B. Simon (Eds.), Minefields in their hearts (pp. 189–205). NewHaven, CT: Yale University Press.

DeLisi, M., Hochstetler, A., Johnson, W. R., & Jones-Johnson, G. (2014). The aftermath of criminal victimization: Race, self-esteem, and self-efficacy. Crime & Delinquency, 60 (1), 85-105. doi: 10.1177/0011128709354036

Figley, C. R., & Salston, M. (2003). Secondary traumatic stress effects of working with survivors of criminal victimization. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 16 (2), 167-174.

Komninos, A. (2017). Safety: Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Interaction Design Foundation.

Retrieved from

Menard, S. (2012). Age, criminal victimization, and offending: Changing relationships from adolescence to middle adulthood. Victims and Offenders, 7, 227-254. doi: 10.1080/15564886.2012.685353


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