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You are here: DisordersPost-traumatic disorders → I have experienced or witnessed something traumatic

I have experienced or witnessed something traumatic

After experiencing or witnessing something traumatic, it can feel as if life will never be the same.

Perhaps you’re overwhelmed by emotions related to the event. Maybe images of it keep flashing into your mind, no matter how hard you try not to think about it.

Experiencing or witnessing trauma can make you feel utterly alone, but it is important for your wellbeing that you reach out for support: be it to a friend, family member, teacher, colleague, partner, or medical professional. You may want to speak to someone who doesn’t know you through a helpline.

There is help available and you deserve to be supported.

“I want to talk to someone about what happened confidentially”

If you’ve been affected by something traumatic, having someone bear witness to your story can make it slightly easier to carry.

Victim Support offers a helpline specifically tailored to victims of crimes and those who have witnessed them. You don’t need to report a crime to access this service. If talking about what has happened out loud seems too scary or you feel you could better articulate your feelings in writing, Victim Support also have an email helpline.

“I want to report a crime”

Deciding to report a crime to the police can be a really tough decision, but there are many reasons why you may want to. If you decide to do so, there are different ways to do it.

  • Call 999 and ask for the police if the crime is still taking place and it’s an emergency
  • Call 101 to speak to the police if it is not an emergency
  • Visit your local police station

“I do not feel safe engaging with services in the UK”

The charity Praxis provides confidential support to migrants living in the UK who fear engaging with the NHS or the police, a fear that has heightened since the 2018 persecution of the Windrush Generation.

Some BAME individuals report feeling safer engaging with services staffed by people of their own race, culture or ethnicity. Specialist BAME services exist in some regions of the UK.

* Content Warning: sexual assault/rape mentions below

“I have recently been sexually assaulted or raped”

If you have been sexually assaulted or raped, it is important to remember that it was not your fault. Sexual Assault Referral Centres (SARCs) provide specialist support including access to emergency contraception, testing and treatment of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), and a forensic examination to collect any evidence. Forensic evidence can be collected and stored even if you haven’t decided whether to report the crime.

The timeframe for collecting forensic evidence varies by sample type. Oral swabs can be taken up to two days after an assault, vaginal swabs up to seven days, and anal swabs up to three days. DNA from skin contact can be detected up to two days afterwards. Fibres, such as from clothing, can last up to seven days, and semen can be detected on clothing even after being washed.

Forensic evidence packs will generally be stored for seven years if someone does not report it to the police, but this varies between SARCs.

Ideally, a forensic examination should take place as soon as possible after an assault. It is often instinctive for someone to wash themselves after an assault which can wash away DNA evidence. If the person has not washed, it may be possible to gather DNA evidence up to seven days after. Someone who decides to report an assault should abstain from sexual activity and refrain from changing their clothes and washing, drying, or brushing their hair. Any toilet paper used should be saved in a sealed plastic bag.