Traumatic Events and Crimes

Victims Counselling and Support Service (VCSS)

What is Victims Counselling and Support Service?

The Victims Counselling and Support Service is a counselling and support service provided to Queensland residents who have been personally affected by crime, either directly or indirectly .

Services offered include:

  • Face to face counselling and support at various Queensland locations as listed below
  • Telephone counselling and support throughout Queensland
  • Information
  • Referrals to appropriate services

The Victims Counselling and Support Service (VCSS) can be contacted throughout Queensland on 1300 139 703. This contact number is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for information, referral and counselling appointments.

What is involved?

The main focus of the Victims Counselling and Support Service is to assist you if you have been personally affected by crime to manage the situation as best you can and provide you with resources to assist you to resume your life.

The service involves talking with a counsellor about any difficulties you are experiencing or any support you may require.

Who is Victims Counselling and Support Service for?

The Victims Counselling and Support service is available to assist people living in Queensland who have been personally impacted by crime including:

  • Victims of crime – (excluding children under six years)
  • Family members and friends of victims of crime
  • Witnesses of crime

The benefits of Victims Counselling and Support Service

  • Assistance working through the emotional and psychological impact of crime
  • Assistance coping with fears and anxieties
  • Assistance with writing a Victim Impact Statement
  • Assistance with applying for financial assistance
  • Assistance in understanding the justice system
  • Provision of information and referrals to other appropriate services when required
Common responses to truma

After trauma, people may go through a wide range of normal responses.

Such reactions may be experienced not only by people who experience the trauma first-hand, but by those who have witnessed or heard about the incident, or been involved with those immediately affected. Many reactions can be triggered by persons, places, or things associated with the trauma. Some reactions may seem totally unrelated. Previous experiences or memories of trauma may also be re-triggered as a result of a recent event.

Here is a list of common physical and emotional reactions to trauma. You may find you have some or all of these symptoms, but the important thing to remember is that whatever your reaction it is a normal response to an abnormal event.

Emotional Reactions

You may also experience the following emotional reactions to the trauma:

  • Shock and disbelief
  • Fear and/or anxiety
  • Grief, disorientation, denial
  • Over-alert or feeling on edge
  • Irritability, restlessness, outbursts of anger or rage
  • Emotional swings-like crying and then laughing
  • Worrying or intrusive thoughts of the trauma
  • Nightmares
  • Flashbacks– feeling like the trauma is happening now
  • Feelings of helplessness, panic, feeling out of control
  • Increased need to control everyday experiences
  • Minimising what happened
  • Attempts to avoid anything associated with trauma
  • Tendency to isolate oneself
  • Feelings of detachment
  • Concern over burdening others with problems
  • Emotional numbing or restricted range of feelings
  • Difficulty trusting and/or feelings of betrayal
  • Difficulty concentrating or remembering
  • Feelings of self blame and/or survivor guilt
  • Shame
  • Diminished interest in everyday activities or depression
  • Unpleasant past memories resurfacing

Physical Reactions

In addition to any physical injuries as a result of the trauma you may also experience the following physical symptoms:

  • Aches and pains like headaches, back aches, stomach aches
  • Sudden sweating and/or heart palpitations
  • (fluttering)
  • Changes in sleep patterns, appetite, interest in sex
  • Constipation or diarrhoea
  • Easily startled by noise or unexpected touch
  • More susceptible to colds and illnesses
  • Increased use of alcohol or drugs and/or overeating
Talk to someone

For more information or to make an appointment please call us on 1300 364 277.

Actions a victim of crime can take

Make a complaint to the police

The police are obliged to investigate all complaints of crime.  If the police believe there is sufficient evidence, they will charge the offender.

A victim cannot insist on charges being laid nor on charges being dropped, however, if they consider that the police have not acted appropriately they can:

  • Contact the officer in charge of the police station where the complaint was made.
  • If still not satisfied, report the matter to Queensland Police Service Headquarters.
  • If still not satisfied, report the matter to the Crime and Misconduct Commission.

Withdrawal of a Complaint

A victim is able to withdraw a complaint made to the police.  The police usually require this to be done in writing.  The police may still proceed with the charge if they have sufficient evidence without the victim’s complaint.


A victim may seek financial assistance through Victim Assist Queensland.

Support Groups

There are numerous support groups for victims of crime including specialist services for sexual assault and domestic and family violence.

Stopping Contact by the Offender

Bail conditions can restrict the offender having contact with a victim. A victim may also be entitled to apply for a Domestic Violence Protection Order or a Peace and Good Behaviour Order.

Giving Evidence in Court

If the offender pleads not guilty to the offence and a trial is held, the victim may be required to give evidence at the hearing.  In most situations the victim is able to have support people present in court.  In some circumstances, a victim can ask the court to take special measures e.g. video, non-identification in the media, barriers in court.

If the offender pleads guilty or is found guilty, the victim can present to the court a Victim Impact Statement.  Some victim support groups may assist with the preparation of statements.

Victim/offender Mediation

Where a crime is committed by a juvenile, the police or the court can arrange for mediation to take place between the victim and the offender.

Adapted from Legal Aid Qld fact sheet.


Making a victim impact statement

If you have been a victim of a violent crime, you have the right to tell the court about how the crime has affected you.  You can so this in one of three ways:

  • Prosecutor’s submissions.  The prosecutor tells the court about the harm that has been done to you;
  • Sworn evidence.  The prosecutor calls you as a witness at the sentence hearing and tells you about how the crime has affected you;
  • A victim impact statement.

What is a victim impact statement?

A victim impact statement explains how a violent crime has harmed the victim.  It is a written statement signed by the victim and presented to the court when the offender is being sentenced.

Why should I make one?

The statement will help the judge understand how you have been affected by the crime.  If the person accused of the crime is found guilty, the judge can consider the effects on you when passing sentence.

Having the impact of the crime described in court is a right guaranteed by law.  It gives you a chance to take an active part in the criminal justice process.

Will I be awarded compensation if I make a victim impact statement?

Not necessarily. Sometimes the judge orders compensation when sentencing the person found guilty of the crime, but usually you have to make a claim for criminal compensation against the offender.

However, you should keep a copy of your victim impact statement, because you can use the information it contains to support your compensation claim.

(There is a brochure on compensation for victims of violent crime, which gives details on how to make a claim.  It is available from the Victims of Crime Compensation Unit (VOCCU), Legal Aid Queensland.  Phone:  1300 651 188).

Who can make a victim impact statement?

You can make a victim impact statement if you have suffered harm because:

  • A violent crime has been committed against you;
  • A violent crime has been committed against a member of your immediate family;
  • You are a dependent of someone who has had a violent crime committed against them;
  • You went to the aid of a victim of crime.

How do I make a victim impact statement?

You need to write down the details of what you have suffered as a result of the crime.  Remember, you don’t have to describe how the crime happened – the prosecutor will do that.  Stick to information about how the crime has affected your life.

What information should I include?

Include details of any physical injury, emotional harm or other loss or damage you have suffered as a result of the crime.

  • If you have been physically injured, describe the injuries, the pain you’ve suffered, the medical treatment you received at the time, any ongoing treatment and any long-term physical effects.
  • If you have suffered emotional harm, describe how you felt at the time of the offence and afterwards, and how your enjoyment of life, sense of well-being and relationships with other people have been affected.  Include details of any counselling or therapy you have received as a result.

If you have suffered any financial loss, explain how this has happened – how your capacity to earn money has been reduced, for example, or any additional expenses you have had, such as medical or counselling costs, or the cost of repairing damage to your property.

You may attach other documents, such as medical reports and receipts, if you think that they will support your statement.

Remember:  Anything you include must be truthful, accurate and relevant to the crime of which the accused has been found guilty.

When you are satisfied with the statement, sign it and give it to the lawyer from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP).

If you require any help with writing your statement, you should talk to a staff member of the ODPP.

Should I tell the judge what I think the punishment should be?

No.  It is not appropriate for you to comment on how the offender should be punished.  The harm done to the victim is only one of many things the judge must consider when passing sentence.

Will I have to read my statement out in court?

No.  The Crown prosecutor (the barrister who presents the case against the accused in court) usually gives your statement to the judge.  The Crown prosecutor may read out sections of your statement or draw the judge’s attention to particular points.

Sometimes, however, the Crown prosecutor decides that it would be best to just tell the court some details from your statement.

Will I have to go to court if I make a victim impact statement?

Not necessarily.  However, the lawyer representing the accused in court may want to question you about your statement.

Who will see my statement?

Obviously staff from the ODPP preparing your case, including the Crown prosecutor, will read your statement.  If a copy of your statement is given to the judge, it must also be given to the defence lawyers, and it will probably be read by the accused.

Do I have to make a victim impact statement?

No, it is your choice.  If you decide not to make one, you can still tell the crown prosecutor about how the crime affected you.

If you have any questions or need help, contact the ODPP in your region.

Adapted from Queensland Government Department of Justice & Attorney-General fact sheet.

Support through natural disasters

Natural disasters, such as cyclones, floods, and fires, can devastate Communities, Families and Industries.  After beginning recovering from the destruction to crops, housing and property, residents from the affected areas may begin to ask some questions:

  • Why do I feel the way I do?
  • Why can’t I just get on with life as I did before the cyclone?
  • Why is my relationship with my partner and/ or kids different now?

These are normal healthy reactions to the trauma associated with surviving a traumatic event. A NORMAL reaction to an ABNORMAL event. Some people may be experiencing emotional or physical reactions.

Emotional Reactions include:

  • Tendency to isolate yourself
  • Difficulty concentrating or remembering
  • Flashbacks from the event
  • Nightmares
  • Feeling of hopelessness panic feeling out of control
  • Increased need to control everyday experiences
  • Emotional swings (crying and then laughing)
  • Loss of sense of safety in the world expectation of bad things
  • Difficulty trusting and/or feelings of betrayal

Physical Reactions include:

  • Aches and pains like headaches back aches stomach aches
  • Sudden sweating and or heart palpitations (fluttering)
  • Changes in sleep patterns appetite interest in sex
  • Constipation or diarrhoea
  • Easily startled by noise or unexpected touch
  • Increased use of alcohol or drugs and/ or overeating

If you have not experienced any of the above symptoms, that is okay, everyone copes differently with a crisis or trauma.

If you have experienced any of the above symptoms you may like to talk to a fully qualified counsellor you can make an appointment for a free counselling session. You can come by yourself or with your partner.  Many people ask the question ‘Why Counselling?’ remember the old saying a problem shared is a problem halved, sometimes it helps to talk to someone about what you have experienced.