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Dealing With Secondary Wounding

Secondary wounding experiences are common among primary bank robbery victims and can be as painful and at times more powerful than the robbery incident itself. It is very important for the victims of a bank robbery to be aware of secondary wounding and its potential impact on their lives. The impact of secondary wounding on the victims is usually first experienced within hours of the robbery. Information concerning secondary wounding should always be included in the post-incident response by the bank management or professionals involved in the stabilization of the banking environment after the robbery or other traumatic incident.

Secondary wounding of bank robbery victims often occurs because co-workers, family or friends do not know what to say or have difficulty understanding and being patient with victims who have been emotionally hurt in the incident. Often these people, because of ignorance or lack of sensitivity, make statements that result in bank robbery victims feeling discounted or disbelieved.

Incidents of secondary wounding are most often unintentionally initiated by those most concerned about the victim of the robbery. Secondary wounding is often present when the victim experiences questions or statements like, "was it scary?, "I see you made it," and "you should work somewhere else." Similar emotions are often experienced when a person comes in dressed like the robber, wearing a similar baseball cap or carrying a similar briefcase.

Another source of secondary wounding occurs when there is blaming of the victim, labeling or generalization by other bank employees, management, customers and family members, who have chosen to deny or repress their awareness of the needs of the victims. Pre-incident and post-incident education of bank employees can minimize the potential for secondary wounding and its subsequent impact on the productivity of the banking environment.

Many bank robbery victims have expressed a preference that when friends and co-workers call after the incident, they not ask about the incident itself. Questions about the robbery are often the first exposure to secondary wounding a bank robbery victim experiences. It is important and acceptable to inquire about the victim's safety and well being, but questions about the incident should not be asked. These questions can be directed to those bank employees not directly involved, but familiar with the situation.

Co-workers, family, friends and customers of bank robbery victims can provide much needed support and encouragement by being sensitive to the needs of those directly impacted by the robbery.Although there is no one correct way to handle every situation, it can help to be particularly sensitive to the questions asked the victims. Avoiding any questions or statements that might be construed by the victim as blaming, discounting, labeling or not recognizing the impact of the robbery or traumatic incident is very important to the recovery of the individuals and the stabilization of the banking environment.

This information was provided by Lawrence Brock.

First published on 01/01/2003

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