Invisible First Aid – How to help your family, yourself and others traumatized by crime or violence experienced during a disaster

When we talk about prepping and first aid, we talk about the various items we will put into our first aid kits.

We talk about the length of the crisis and recovery period and what might be needed for first aid supplies.

We also talk about op-sec and the potential for violence and crime during a disaster.

I would like to merge the two concepts and discuss how to best assist persons who are traumatized during a disaster due to crime, assault and other disaster related trauma.

A disaster will bring out the best and the worst in other people. It will also bring out predators, sometimes from where you least expect them. 

I cannot stress the last point enough. During a crisis of any kind, an opportunistic predator will strike. Many predators are known in some way to their victims or their victim’s families. 

My policy after surviving multiple attacks is simple. Regardless of the relationship, I never fully trust anyone. If one maintains a certain reserve of trust, then you can remain objective and spot a predator faster.   

The following event is a good example of a predator known to the victim with no prior indication of this behavior. It is also an example of how a badly traumatized person can interact with you, and you won’t know the difference.

I was assaulted by my best friend’s husband after my apartment was broken into after 1:00 a.m. She told me to come and sleep on their sofa that night because I was badly traumatized and needed to have my apartment windows better secured the next day. 

Despite being able to stop him, I was further traumatized. My condition was not detected by my best friend nor my co-workers when I went to work that day. I was on auto-pilot and no one detected it. 

In a larger scale disaster, there are many possibilities for crime and victimization, all of which carry different motives and the potential for different levels of violence.   

Not all people who survive crime, assault or other violence in a disaster are going to be openly in distress.

With all the related stressors that must be addressed during a disaster, it can be easy to misread or misunderstand a victim’s behavior.

We are not doctors or nurses, yet we prepare first aid kits and seek to understand how to help or treat someone in a disaster.

We are not psychologists or therapists, yet we can also seek to understand how to help someone who needs invisible first aid. We can learn and practice this now, before a disaster.

When someone survives violence, they feel vulnerable to everything. There is no peace. There is no sense of safety anywhere, even in sleep.

It is like something sacred has been violated and a basic trust of the world is forever gone. It is an innocence that can never be regained.

Survivors of violence and crime in a disaster must continue during the disaster, after the trauma, which further complicates their healing. 

Their trauma, if undetected, can also compromise the op-sec of the family unit. Reactions, can happen and may happen at an inopportune time.

I went searching for information that wasn’t there for much of what I survived. I am very glad it is there now.

The U.S. Department of Justice, Office for Victims of Crime has written and assembled a very well done list of resources.

From their website, I have selected three links specific to trauma response for victims, for first responders and vicarious trauma.

Please read through the information for how to support trauma victims. The content is so well organized for a variety of victim specific assistance. I plan to write to them for a hard copy of their manual to put into my first aid kit.

Here are the links:

Trauma response for victims

Trauma response for first responder victims

Vicarious trauma


  • Comments (18)

    • 5


      Saw this the other day and saved it. I’ve never been the best at giving advice to those who are struggling because I can’t relate to them in many ways. 

      For those who don’t have eagle vision for this small text, I’ll blow it up on my computer and type it out below:

      Care & Feeding of Your Grieving Person

      • Leave them care packages
      • Be specific about how you can help (Every Tuesday I take my friend’s dog for a walk to help lighten her load)
      • Ask Questions (How is today?) (What would feel comforting this morning?)
      • Remember big dates – Set a calendar reminder for birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, and send a text or note
      • Parallel play – You don’t have to talk to spend time together. Your presence matters
      • Acknowledge the little dates – An ordinary saturday can suck too
      • Say their name – Share a memory. (OMG do you remember the time _____ did ____?) (YES!!!)
      • Let them be sad – Sadness is healthy
      • Be awkward – It’s ok if you don’t know what to say or do. Your friend needs you! Don’t let feeling awkward stop you

      You don’t need to be perfect, just present.

      So what I learned from this is that sometimes I just need to listen to people. I need to be there for them and be a listening ear.

      • 2


        I love your list! It is very helpful. 

        The concept of “listen don’t fix” is so important, as is honesty. It’s okay to say, I don’t know what to do, but I want to help you.

        If you are present with a person, to sit with them so they can feel safe enough to sleep a bit, you help them.

        The listening ear and the listening heart are the first two things to pack into an Invisible first aid kit.

        Thank you for sharing this information. It will help people.

      • 3

        Your topic got me thinking, and I realized that I can ask for help. Usually when I’m having a bad day or going through something rough I just keep to myself. I don’t want to burden others or bring them down.

        But I thought about it and if anyone, even a stranger, came up to me and said that they were struggling with something and needed someone to talk to, I would absolutely love to listen and be there for them. I’m sure the same goes for anyone else being there for me when I’m struggling with something.

        It takes courage to ask for help, but I know that if I do, people will be there for me.

      • 4


        Helping others by listening is a great way to help someone.

        The challenge is that when traumatized, people won’t always ask for help or let you know.

        I’ll give another example of how prepping for crime trauma/violence during a disaster can affect people.

        During Hurricane Katrina, there were reports of several families who had prepared who experienced home invasions. In one case, the mother and female child were threatened with rape and in the other case, the family dog was threatened.

        Both families, both of which were prepared, were traumatized in those incidents during a major crisis, Katrina. If we take them as “case histories”, I wonder what or how they could support each other in the aftermath of the home invasion and threats?

        Would they be able to ask a neighbor or neighbors for help processing what happened, for reassurance or support of some kind?

        I think that the power was out so it wouldn’t have been possible to reach out to family or friends elsewhere. The families would possibly have to cope on their own in an isolated situation and have to remain in the place where they were traumatized. 

        This is why I think that the trauma material I linked from the Office for Victims of Crime is a good guide to have because it categorizes the various types of victim and crime and how to be supportive for each type.

        There are also other guides as one might prefer to use. Whatever guide or manual we choose, I think it is important to have this on hand, because violence on top of a disaster requires help that we may have to provide for ourselves and others.

        With a manual or guide, it might be possible for a person living alone, to self-help in the aftermath of a violent incident. 

    • 6

      Good afternoon,

      My contribution to this thread: https://ncsacw.samhsa.gov/userfiles/files/SAMHSA_Trauma.pdf

      Compassion fatigue must also be understood and addressed.

      All this is difficult even in clinical settings. During a disaster the situation is magnified.  

      • 3

        Good afternoon Bob,

        Thank you for the SAMHSA link. The information in it nicely rounds out other issues in disaster trauma care.

        Compassion fatigue is well covered in the Trauma response for First Responders and Vicarious care. It deals with family impact in Vicarious care and then health care, disaster workers and other first responders traumatized by diaster. 

        I think one of the biggest things we can do when someone is victimized by crime or assaulted during a disaster is not to make it worse. I never spoke to anyone, but there were times when some people got unavoidable glimpses of what I survived.

        I heard things like “What did you do?” or “You must have done something?” or “What were you wearing?” or “Maybe you misunderstood what happened?”

        None of these and other comments ever made anything better. So you shut down more and more.

        The people who did help were the ones who knew something was wrong and still remained my friends while I made the long journey out of that darkness. It wasn’t easy for them. I was always on the move, afraid to stay in one place for long. I would be there one minute and gone the next. I isolated a lot.

        I became a ghost in my own life because the trauma supports weren’t available then, the methodology for assistance didn’t exist, victims were routinely blamed, and there were some terrible laws that needed to be changed.

        This is why understanding how to provide support and care for a victim of crime or other violence during a disaster is so important. They have already been traumatized by the disaster.

        The opportunistic associated crime and violence adds another layer of trauma. Anyone of any age, gender, orientation or socio-economic background is at risk.

        The people that helped were the ones who would walk with me when I couldn’t sleep or let me crash on their couch when I was too afraid to go home but didn’t want to say it. They kept in touch with me when I shut down.

        Invisible first aid kit item: the balm of kind words when you tell someone “it wasn’t your fault.” “You didn’t do anything to deserve this.” “We care and we are here for you.” “You don’t have to talk, we can just sit together.”

      • 3

        Good morning Ubique,



        Hopefully above link works.

        I did look at that link for responders. The Justice Dept provided material from the military’s medical school.

        Here, it’s really different. On paper “population based interventions” and “leadership” exist.  In reality, the area is part of a fractured society.

        For matters involving trauma by crime, assault and others that are disaster-related:

        Unless you know the person and somewhat well-acquainted, counseling won’t be readily happening. Approaching a “victim” and you could frequently hear ” Where are my children?!”, “Can you open this bottle (of liquor) for me?” The person is armed. A private citizen, even if a volunteer responder is in a different socio-politico environment.  This includes lack of support systems.

        The disaster scene can get worse AFTER the disaster.  Many individuals and organizations outright hate the Red Cross and many of the faith-based orgs with their trailers and distinctive logos.

        Remember, the “victim”‘s predator is still in the area. There are more than one.

        There is no electricity.

      • 2

        Good morning Bob,

        I’ll try typing in the link and it should work.

        I believe I understand what you mean about the “area is part of  fractured society.” I can’t imagine how hard it is to be a first responder in this type of environment. How do you cope with the stress of living and volunteering under these conditions?

        We have areas like that here both in urban and certain rural communities. There are communities with high substance abuse, poverty and incredible violence, including historical and generational abuse. 

        For the individual and families, I hope that those who prep and are receptive get the guide on violence in the first link (any guide that works for them) as part of their first aid preps.

        I just replied to Essie and touched on lack of electricity which means an inability to contact family or friends for support. It also means remaining in the home or area where the assault or violence occurred.

        You brought up a good point about the predator still in the area and coping with more than one.

      • 2

        Good morning Ubique,

        In reply to specifics;

        I no longer routinely work disaster scenes involving residences of any type.

        I “harp” / nag ?! on affiliating with an area group or neighborhood watch program.

        Might as well mention the once famous Salvation Army. Some here, most especially younger folks, do not support their abortion policy.

        Also must mention some disaster “victims” only talk to Hispanics. Some will only talk to minorities.

        Hopefully you’ll be able to rehab that deescalation link I tried to post.

      • 3

        Good morning Bob,

        I made various attempts and have not been able to access the link on deecscalation.

        Neighborhood watch could help people coping alone who are traumatized by crime and violence in a disaster. It would also be helpful for abused children and persons experiencing domestice violence which has increased during the current pandemic.

        I would love to have a neighborhood watch, but it isn’t viable where I live.

        It could be possible to build a support system in advance perhaps through co-workers or persons known through hobbies, clubs or other organizations.

        If not, then with a good guide or manual, there is still the self-help option. I dressed my own wounds and kept going alone until I could find help. It’s not what I would recommend nor wish for anyone, but it is doable.

        Unfortunate about the Salvation Army. They did good work and helped everyone. “Anyone. Anywhere. Anytime” was their motto. My Dad liked them because of that motto. He loathed charities that were selective and wouldn’t help those who had fallen the farthest and slipped through the holes in our social safety nets. He also refused to donate to any charity where the overhead costs were heavily weighted.

        Wise decision to redirect your volunteering based on your descriptive.

      • 1


        Good afternoon Ubique,

        Maybe that “i” is really a small case “l” like in Louis Lane ?! Am not complaining as long as I’ve still got some vital signs and the EKG isn’t flat. Tis better for me to be late in correcting something rather than “the late Bob”.

        TMLT is a big org and it’s got umbrella affiliates. eg caremoms.org, CareUniversity, Safetyleaders.org

        I learned about TMLT via CDIHP – Center for Dsability Issues and the Health Professions, an org of Western University of Health Sciences, Pomona, California.

        Had to learn how to rescue, deal with eg:

        – a “patient”/”victim” with a service animal in condo 3 levels up

        –  a “patient” /”victim” in a wheel chair.  The elevator is not working; no    electricity.

      • 4

        Good morning Ubique,

        I like your Dad’s philosophy. My father’s was the same. He only gave to one charity and that was Salvation Army.

        Things change.

        See “The Politics of Disaster”, Marvin Olasky, 2006, ISBN: 0-8499-0172-3.

      • 2

        Good morning Bob,

        Notifications working again. Will check out recommended book.

        I think the invisible first aid isn’t where preppers want to go. This thread was written to specifically address how to help your family unit where an act of violence could happen during a crisis. Home invasion, sexual assault, robbery and other near miss situations can be part of it. 

        First responder was an add-on. Vicarious trauma was important as part of the original topic. Family members may witness or be impacted vicariously by what a loved one has survived.

        With those skills in place, we could then help someone else. But the original intent of the thread was to be prepared to help yourself or your family unit/friends if an act of violence occurs during a disaster.

        The lack of response and scope tells me that there will be people who will find out the hard way that these skills are a part of first aid.

      • 4

        Good morning Ubique,

        Yes, learning the hard way. This presumes, of course, that the injuries are not to all.  Frequently they are.

        Even with small groups the principles are the same.  Compassion  fatigue must be throughly understood. De-escalation must be throughly understood.

        Sigmund Freud’s “talking cure” works when absence of drugs, alcohol and weapons.

        Heaven has a series of classes on invisible first aid kits.

      • 3

        Good morning Bob,

        Just like a horse, one must have a thirst for water and knowledge.

        Learning never ceases if one is to survive. This crossed my mind:

        “In times of change learners inherit the earth; while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.”

        Eric Hoffer, American writer 1898-1983

      • 3

        Good afternoon Ubique,

        Had posted a reply about 5 minutes ago but not appearing here.  Had same problem with a fastener/sewish stuff thread.  It never appeared.

        Hopefully this reply works.  Will be carrying the Eric Hoffer quote in my EDC shirt file folder.  I remember when he was invited to the White House by LBJ. Wasn’t Hoffer the longshoreman who started writing ?

      • 2

        Good morning Bob,

        I got the fastener reply.

        Glad you liked the Eric Hoffer quote. He is the Longshoreman Philosopher. He wrote over 10 books and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in February 1983, just months before he passed.

      • 2

        I climbed out of it by a sheer miracle. My life would have been so much better supported if a teenage me had suicide awareness and access to information.