In The Creation And Management Of Victim Support Groups To Help Traumatized Scam Victims There Are A Range Of Required Components
In this series of articles about victim support groups we will explore what those components are, the application of best practices, and how best to support victims through to stability and recovery.
This is the SCARS Victim Support Model
The Society of Citizens Against Relationship Scams has taken the best parts of over 120 years of recovery science – including the principles and fundamentals of Alcoholics Anonymous – and applied this to the victim support of traumatized & emotionally devastated financial fraud victims to help transform them into survivors.
Since our founding, we have helped a little over 12,000 victims in our various support groups over the years. Our process is unique to SCARS and has been ever-evolving, but we have made the decision to share our approach so that others can also help scam victims in more effective ways.
It is not easy to support people during the worst times of their lives. Often victims will fail or give up on the recovery path, there is nothing we can do when they chose to fail. However, we continue to provide our free support groups for the rationalists and those with the scout mentality.
Camaraderie, or the sense of solidarity and mutual encouragement among individuals facing similar challenges, plays a critical role in the SCARS victim support groups.
These groups bring together individuals who have experienced similar traumatic events, such as scams or fraud, and provide a safe space for them to share their experiences, emotions, and struggles.
Here’s why camaraderie is essential in SCARS victim support groups:
- Validation and Empathy: Camaraderie fosters validation and empathy among group members. When individuals connect with others who have gone through similar experiences, they feel understood and validated. They realize that their feelings, reactions, and challenges are not unique to them alone. This validation helps combat feelings of isolation and self-blame, providing a sense of relief and comfort.
- Shared Understanding: Being in a group of fellow victims allows individuals to have a shared understanding of the impact of the crime they experienced. They can openly discuss the emotional, psychological, and practical consequences of their victimization without fear of judgment or stigma. This shared understanding reduces feelings of alienation and normalizes their experiences.
- Emotional Support: Camaraderie provides a strong foundation for emotional support. Group members can offer comfort, compassion, and encouragement to one another. They can share coping strategies, insights, and resources that have been helpful in their own journeys. This emotional support helps victims feel less alone, boosts their resilience, and provides a sense of belonging.
- Learning from Others: In a victim support group, individuals have the opportunity to learn practically from the experiences and wisdom of others who have navigated similar challenges. They can gain insights into the recovery process, coping mechanisms, and practical strategies for overcoming obstacles. By sharing their knowledge and experiences, group members can benefit from collective wisdom and empower each other on their paths to healing.
- Strength in Numbers: Camaraderie in victim support groups creates a sense of collective strength and empowerment. Together, individuals can raise awareness about their experiences, and challenge societal attitudes in their homes, families, and friends. Group members can form bonds and alliances, leveraging their collective voices to eventually drive positive change and support each other in seeking justice, and overcoming other challenges.
- Long-Term Support: Victim support groups provided by SCARS are open-ended, providing ongoing support, and allowing individuals to develop lasting connections. This long-term support fosters a sense of community and provides a reliable network of understanding individuals who can offer support even after formal group sessions conclude. It creates a sense of continuity and stability in the healing journey. SCARS breaks its groups into Stages when victims progress from one stage to the next much like in a university context. This helps victims stay connected with peers of approximately similar recovery progress.
The camaraderie within victim support groups is vital for promoting healing, resilience, and empowerment.
By sharing experiences, providing validation, offering emotional support, and learning from one another, group members can find solace, gain strength, and develop strategies to move forward from their traumatic experiences. The bond formed through camaraderie becomes a powerful force that facilitates individual healing and collective empowerment.
Social interaction is a fundamentally necessary aspect of victim support groups, playing a vital role in the healing and recovery process. Our SCARS groups provide a safe and supportive environment for individuals who have experienced scams, fraud, or other traumatic events to engage in meaningful social interactions.
Here’s why social interaction is crucial in victim support groups:
- Alleviating Isolation and Loneliness: Victims of scams and fraud often experience feelings of isolation and loneliness, as their trust has been violated, and they may struggle to share their experiences with others who cannot fully understand. Social interaction within support groups combats these feelings by connecting individuals with others who have gone through similar experiences. Sharing stories, concerns, and emotions with empathetic peers fosters a sense of belonging and reduces the sense of isolation.
- Building a Supportive Network: SCARS victim support groups provide an opportunity to build a network of supportive relationships. By engaging in social interactions, group members can form connections, develop friendships, and establish a support system eventually outside of the group sessions. These connections can eventually (after a few months) extend beyond the group, offering ongoing support, encouragement, and empathy throughout the healing journey.
- Sharing Coping Strategies: Social interaction allows victims to share and learn coping strategies from others who have faced similar challenges. Through conversations and discussions, group members can exchange practical tips, insights, and techniques for managing stress, anxiety, and other emotional difficulties that they have learned inside the group, from their trauma counselors or therapists, or from other sources. This sharing of coping strategies can provide individuals with new tools and resources to navigate their own healing process. Though SCARS does limit outside resources in our groups just to make sure that the information sources are professional and credible and applicable to the victim experience.
- Normalizing Experiences and Feelings: Social interaction within victim support groups helps normalize the experiences and feelings of individuals who have been through scams or fraud. By hearing others’ stories and perspectives, victims realize that their reactions and emotions are valid, consistent with their experience, and understandable. This normalization reduces self-blame, self-doubt, and feelings of being “different,” fostering a sense of acceptance and validation.
- Emotional Support and Empathy: Social interaction provides an avenue for emotional support (encouragement) and empathy. Group members can listen, offer comfort, and provide understanding during challenging times. The shared understanding within the group fosters empathy, allowing individuals to feel seen, heard, and supported. Emotional support from peers who have experienced similar traumas can be immensely comforting and validating.
- Social Skills Development: Engaging in social interactions within a supportive environment helps (new) victims develop and rebuild their social skills. After experiencing trauma, individuals may struggle with trust, communication, and forming new relationships. Our victim support groups offer a safe space for practicing and honing these skills, gradually rebuilding confidence, and reestablishing healthy social connections.
- Encouraging Empowerment and Growth: Social interaction empowers victims to share their stories, learn how to talk to friends and family, and challenge the stigma surrounding their experiences. Group settings provide opportunities for individuals to develop a stronger sense of self and assertiveness. Through sharing experiences (such as the SCARS weekly zoom calls,) offering advice, and engaging in group activities, victims can gain confidence, assert their needs, and grow both personally and socially.
Social interaction within victim support groups is an integral part of the healing and recovery process. By providing a supportive network, normalizing experiences, sharing coping strategies, and fostering emotional support and empathy, these interactions contribute to the improved overall well-being, resilience, and growth of individuals who have suffered from scams and fraud.
Directed education about scams, fraud, cybercrime, and victim psychology and recovery processes is of utmost importance in victim support groups. These educational components provide essential knowledge and understanding to support group members in their healing and recovery journey.
Directed education simply means that a true expert is always available in our support groups to answer any questions on the related topics surrounding these crimes. Often it is a SCARS Director or one of our volunteers who has been trained to fulfill the role of facilitator or guide or coach. It also means that a steady stream of educational material is provided to group members to serve the following purposes:
- After the scam or fraud ends victims often find themselves with an abundance of time on their hands that the relationship scam (if that is what it was) occupied in their life. One role of our education is to occupy and compensate for that void.
- Education answers the critical questions that most victims are desperate to find.
- It also helps restore healthier cognitive processes and decision-making that were impaired by their trauma.
- It helps to private a level of education about the brain or mind’s functions that most have never learned before, enabling victims to overcome many of the biases, false knowledge, and ignorance that made them vulnerable to fraud in the first place.
Here’s why directed education is crucial in victim support groups:
- Awareness and Prevention: Education about scams, fraud, and cybercrime equips group members to learn essential knowledge to recognize and identify potential threats. Understanding common tactics used by scammers, such as phishing emails or phone scams, empowers individuals to be more vigilant and make informed decisions to protect themselves. By raising awareness, education helps prevent further victimization and empowers individuals to take proactive measures to safeguard their finances, personal information, and overall well-being.
- Understanding Victim Psychology: Education about victim psychology helps individuals make sense of their emotional and psychological responses following a scam or fraud. Learning about common reactions such as shock, disbelief, shame, guilt, anxiety, cognitive biases, and impairment validates their experiences and normalizes their emotions. Understanding the psychological impact of victimization can assist group members in navigating their own healing process and finding effective coping strategies. It also provides a framework that helps victims to discuss these issues with their counselors and therapists.
- Recognizing Recovery Processes: Directed education provides insights into the recovery processes and stages that victims typically go through. Learning about the potential challenges, setbacks, and growth opportunities that may arise during recovery helps individuals understand that healing is a nonlinear journey. This knowledge encourages patience, self-compassion, and perseverance as they work towards regaining a sense of control and well-being.
- Empowering Decision-Making: Education empowers victims to make informed decisions related to their recovery, social issues, and financial matters. Understanding the legal and financial aspects of scam victimization can assist individuals in seeking appropriate legal remedies & professionals, reporting the crime to law enforcement, and pursuing restitution or recovery. Knowledge about available resources and support services enables victims to access the assistance they need for recovery that may be available.
- Sharing Strategies and Best Practices: Directed education allows group members to share strategies and best practices for overcoming the aftermath of scams and fraud. Education articles and publications provide a platform for individuals to discuss their experiences, exchange insights, and offer practical advice to one another. Sharing knowledge and strategies can enhance resilience, foster a sense of empowerment, and facilitate the development of effective coping mechanisms.
- Empathy and Support: Education fosters the restoration of empathy and encouragement among group members. Learning about the experiences of others and the psychological dynamics of victimization cultivates understanding and compassion. Education encourages a non-judgmental environment where individuals can share their stories and support one another without stigma or blame.
- Building Resilience: Education about scams, fraud, cybercrime, and recovery processes aids in building resilience and reducing fear among group members. By providing information and tools to navigate the complexities of victimization, individuals can develop a greater sense of control, adaptability, and personal growth. Education empowers victims to take charge of their recovery, make informed choices, and cultivate a resilient mindset.
Directed education in victim support groups serves as a crucial foundation for empowerment, resilience, and informed decision-making. By raising awareness, providing understanding, fostering empathy, and sharing strategies, education equips group members with the knowledge and skills needed to navigate the challenges of scams, fraud, and cybercrime, as well as the psychological and recovery processes associated with victimization.
A Word About Rules
In any victim support group context, there may be a wide variety of individuals with wide-ranging psychological & emotional issues. In order to effectively maintain the support group functions so that the members can receive the maximum benefit from the group, SCARS does have a set of rules and a code of conduct that all group members must comply with. This is for the safety, comfort, and interactions of group members.
It is important that all members understand the rules (terms & conditions) and the seriousness of infractions. Some rules are minor and some very serious, such as prohibitions against hate and hostility, practices that can be destructive psychologically, and other forms of abusive behaviors. But it is important to understand that group members are also going through difficult times and second chances are important.
More To Come
In the coming months, we will publish additional parts of our handbook.
If you are interested in starting your own Scam Victim Support Group, we recommend that you join our Facebook group just for Admins, go to this page to sign up: Anti-Scam Admin Group Sign Up (againstscams.org)