It had been a day like any other for 20-year-old student and part-time hospitality worker Annie Mills, when two men rushed into the restaurant where she worked, pushed her colleague to the ground and then went for the till.
We see and hear about violent crime in film, television drama, and news headlines all the time, but to actually experience it can be uniquely traumatising and have long-term effects on wellbeing.
Annie was left terrified and struggling to understand what had happened. “I was in so much shock that I didn’t process any emotions for quite some time,” she says. “I was just in a complete panic state.”
She was fearful and reluctant to go out after the incident, changing her shifts at the restaurant and becoming socially withdrawn.
“I would isolate myself and stay at home and my whole well-being deteriorated quite quickly,” remembers Annie.
Victim Support Worker Kathy Benson was with Annie from right after the robbery until court sentencing some two-and-a-half years later.
“She was really good at helping explain the process of what I was going through emotionally as well as practical things such as helping with the communication with police,” Annie says of the initial support provided by Kathy.
“Providing general self-care advice and checking in with me regularly, Kathy made sure I was OK. There was no way I could have got through it all without Kathy.”
The criminal justice process can be a long and extremely challenging road for victims. Annie had never previously been in a court room and found it a surreal, difficult, and often re-traumatising experience.
“I was quite shocked the first time in court as I had never been in a court room and when I walked in, I was like, ‘this is not what I see in the movies, this is completely different’,” she says.
An important part of the help her Support Worker Kathy provided was with writing the Victim Impact Statement that is used at sentencing.
“I had never done one before, so I didn’t know what I was getting myself into,” says Annie. “Kathy was so good. She gave me things to look at to help me consider what feelings and emotions I went through and how it impacted me. It made it a lot easier as she knew what should go in them as well.”
Reading out a Victim Impact Statement in front of a judge in court with the defendant and often their friends and family present can be extremely intimidating for victims. Annie found this a difficult but rewarding experience.
“I cried through the whole thing,” she says.
“But I’m glad Kathy encouraged me to read it out as no one would have known what was in it unless I shared it. So it definitely validated what I was feeling.”