Psychological effects of armed robberies stay with victims

ARMED ROBBERIES: Police are investigating five armed robberies that have occurred in the Bundaberg and Bargara areas since February 1. Photo: contributed
ARMED ROBBERIES: Police are investigating five armed robberies that have occurred in the Bundaberg and Bargara areas since February 1. Photo: contributed contributed

TASHA Giovannoni was just 17 when a man held a loaded, sawn-off shotgun to her body and demanded the cash from her till at the convenience store where she was working.

While the armed robbery, like most, lasted less than 60 terrifying seconds, some of the psychological effects of the experience have never left the now 37-year-old.

Mrs Giovannoni had been working a shift at a convenience store on Takalvan St when she spotted two men acting suspiciously out the front of the store.

"Instincts kicked in that something was not quite right," she said.

After making eye contact with one of the men, who quickly averted her gaze, she turned around to go raise the alarm with a co-worker who had been in a back coldroom.

But it was too late.

"I just remember hearing the loud footsteps. One of them grabbed me from behind and put the gun to my shoulder," Mrs Giovannoni said.

"I remember thinking this is going to hurt - it was a sawn-off .22."

Trembling, she managed to hand over whatever cash was in the register before the men fled the store.

"I was 17 - I was just a kid," she said.

"To hold a gun to a child for whatever amount of money (is) ridiculous. The repercussions for me (last) forever."

To this day, Mrs Giovannoni said she could still picture the men nervously pacing out the front of the store with their hands in their pockets, obviously where they were concealing the weapon.

"Now anyone who I see walking towards me with their hands in their pockets, I have to change to the other side," she said.

"It just freaks me out seeing anyone with their hands in their pockets."

With six workers going through a similar ordeal in Bundaberg since the start of this month, the now mum-of-three has highlighted the importance of seeking help.

"Looking back, I should have done more about it," she said.

"It's not until you get older that you realise the little things you do now came from that."

Uniting CareCommunity counsellor Alex Johnson said one of the effects on victims was hyper-vigilance, where the nervous system was in a constant state of arousal.

"People who are victims of any sort of violent crime, they are at risk of developing long-lasting Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which is a chronic condition that is characterised by severe anxiety, flashbacks to the event and depression," he said.

"You're looking for a threat around every corner."

Mr Johnson said while not every person who experiences a traumatic event was going to develop PTSD, he too encouraged victims to talk to someone about it.

"A GP is always a good first port of call," he said.

"People can say: 'I'm OK' but three to six months down the track they start having symptoms of anxiety."

Topics:  armed robbery editors picks robbers

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