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A mass violence event can take many forms but can generally be defined as an intentional violent criminal act that results in physical, emotional, or psychological injury to a large number of people.
What does Mass Violence look like?
Mass violence can look a variety of ways. Although one of the most common ways mass violence can manifest is through mass shootings, other ways individuals can perpetuate mass violence are:
- Terrorist bombs
- Mass riots
- Aircraft/transportation hijackings
- Bioterrorism attacks
Mass violence is unpredictable and is not as common as other crimes so when it happens, it is possible for victims to feel extremely emotionally distressed. Feelings such as overwhelming anxiety, trouble sleeping, and other depression-like symptoms are common responses to incidents of mass violence. And these feelings can manifest days, weeks, or even months after a mass violence event occurs.
What can I do?
- If you are a survivor experiencing emotional distress due to a mass violence event, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has a Disaster Distress Helpline which can be reached 24/7 for crisis support at 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746.
- Find out if there is a Victim and Family Assistance Call Center set up for the specific event. In certain circumstances, victims and families of victims may obtain information, assistance, and referrals through a national toll free hotline established by the Office of Victims of Crime (OVC).
- Consider reaching out to your state’s Crime Victim Compensation Program for financial assistance. Each jurisdiction is different, but overall, each state has a Crime Victim Compensation Program that may be able to cover some of the costs incurred due to a violent crime. For more information about your state’s program, visit the National Association of Crime Victims Compensation Boards (NACVCB).
- Think about seeing a counselor: Counseling can help you process the emotional impact of a mass violent event for a longer period of time than the Disaster Distress Helpline might have the capacity to. Find a local therapist at the Psychology Today search page.
- Remember to Care for Yourself – Try to be kind to yourself and allow yourself time and patience as you move forward; everyone responds differently to crime. And there is no
“correct” timeline for any one person. Practice a few different self-care and coping skills strategies.
Family and Friends
- If you are a family or a friend of a survivor of a mass violence event, recognize that your loved one might be experiencing a variety of emotions and they may not make sense. Just being there for them and letting them process trauma in their own way is a way to help.
- Find ways to donate/volunteer.
- Oftentimes, after a mass violence event, the Red Cross or local medical centers will set up blood drives for the survivors where you can volunteer your blood or your time.
- Some organizations begin to take up monetary donations for the victims, survivors, and their families of mass violence. One such organization is the National Compassion Fund. All of their collected donations go directly to those impacted by the mass violence event.
- Encourage them to talk to someone who can provide help and guidance.
- Take care of yourself. We all want to be there for our loved ones when they are going through trauma. But forgetting to take care of ourselves in the process can lead to compassion fatigue. Make sure you are doing things to alleviate the vicarious stress that trauma can cause.
- OVC has come up with a toolkit to assist your community in preparing for a mass violence event.
- The National Center for Campus Public Safety seeks to bring together campus public safety personnel, professional associations, advocacy organizations, community leaders, victim advocates, and others to improve and expand services to those who are charged with providing a safe environment on the campuses of the nation’s colleges and universities.
- The U.S Department of State can assist American citizens who become victims of crime while abroad, including mass violence.
Contact the VictimConnect Hotline by phone at 1-855-4-VICTIM or by chat for more information or assistance in locating services that can help you or a loved one after experiencing a mass violence event.