Most people are not aware of the full extent of their actions. They say something that is either positive or offends, but they never see the results of what happens. A kind word can affect not just a single person, but also those persons one is in contact with. Having been a religious coordinator for the Nebraska Department of Corrections I sat on a couple committees dealing with the effects of what criminals do not just to their victims, but the victim’s families, the community, and their own friends and family.
There is the effect on the victim of the crime. Certain types of crimes are more hideous such as sexual assault, but assault, robbery, and other crimes can do great damage to the victim. The victim may not be able to sleep at nights without some kind of help. They may be afraid of being alone or going out after dark. They may be afraid at the sound of a loud noise such as a soldier has from post-traumatic stress disorder from being in combat.
There are other victims. The spouse or close relatives of the victims can be harmed by blaming themselves for not protecting the victim from the offender. They may struggle with knowing how to communicate or not know how to help. They may be have desires for revenge that cannot be assauged. The children can be harmed, and deal with fear.
The community can be harmed by losing its innocence. Growing up in Lincoln, Nebraska there was still talk among the adults about the serial killings by Charles Starkweather in about 1958 some twenty or more years later. People stopped leaving their doors and windows unlocked in Lincoln after Starkweather killed ten people.
What I found particularly sad was the harm the offender did to his or her families. There is shame to the family when a relative does something evil. People look at the parents of an offender as if the parents were bad or raised the child wrong. The siblings and kids of the offender can feel shame and take drastic action to separate themselves from the offender. I felt the worst for the spouse of the offender who may have also been a victim and the children who don’t have a father or mother to raise them. The poor kids deal with such injury.
I don’t know what society can do as a deterrant to show potential offenders what the harm can be to their families. A lot of offenders I knew had this delusion that they can and will get away with all their crimes and never spend time in prison. I wonder how many of the less hardened would actually reconsider their decisions if they could see the harm their actions would do to the ones they love. Of course there are others who flat out just don’t care, and there is nothing one can do for them. I knew men like that working in corrections and it was truly sad, but there are some people who truly do belong in prison or the grave.