This research explores the beliefs and behaviour of individuals who have suffered a traumatic experience, specifically the violent crimes of assault, motor vehicle hijackings and armed robbery. The researcher focuses on the occurrence of residual, subclinical symptoms of PTSD that individuals experience subsequent to the specified violent crimes. By identifying and describing trends in commonalities that exist between research participants’ accounts of such residual, subclinical symptoms the research aims to explore and describe these trends, enabling a common understanding and awareness of the longstanding effects that these experiences have on individuals.
The qualitative research design allowed for an exploration aimed at understanding the meaning that individuals ascribe to specific events. Three case studies were examined. The researcher ensured the exclusion of individuals who met the criteria for PTSD by making use of the PCL-S. From this approach a thematic analysis was done using the transcriptions of audiotaped interviews with the participants. The three participants chosen for the study were aged twenty-nine (29), thirty (30) and thirty-one (31) independently. Two of the participants experienced an armed robbery, which were, independently, followed by non-violent crime of housebreaking and theft. A third participant experienced an armed robbery during her early childhood, and an additional crime of aggravated robbery in adulthood. The studied violent crimes had taken place between one year eleven months and six years prior to this study. None of the participants have received therapy following their traumatic experience.
Five important findings were identified and discussed. Firstly, some individuals still meet the requirements for a diagnosis of PTSD, even years following their experiences with traumatic events. Secondly, following the experience of a violent crime some individual’s core cognitive schemas regarding themselves, their world and their relationships undergo various changes. Thirdly, some individuals experience numerous posttraumatic symptoms, which are not extensive enough to validate the diagnosis of PTSD, but that affect the individual’s life on a regular basis. Nine symptoms were identified in this study. Fourthly, some individuals may experience additional effects following exposure to violent crimes, e.g. physical illness, that is not classified as posttraumatic symptoms. Fifthly, a few individuals who have been the victim of more than one crime may experience cumulative or diminished effects when one explores the overall effects of revictimisation. Results also indicated that individuals may experiences similar posttraumatic symptoms, but that the presentation of these symptoms are unique and are influenced by an individual’s history, cognitive schemas and the characteristics of the crimes that they have experienced. Finally, these findings explored and described the phenomenon of partial posttraumatic stress disorder in order to expand the understanding of this occurrence.