Supporting Victims - SCARS Scam Victim Support

Supporting Victims – SCARS Scam Victim Support

Personal Egos And The Challenges Of Supporting Victims

A Few Words About Helping Others – A Question of Ethics

Supporting victims is never easy; we are interacting with people during the worst times of their lives. Everyone involved in helping other human beings are, themselves, a human being, and that brings with it the baggage of their past and present.

Personal ego is often a big challenge for all professionals providing support to crime victims, especially when they themselves have been traumatized in the distant or near past.

At SCARS we are professionals in supporting victims – specifically those who fall victim to cyber-enabled criminals

Every member of our team volunteers their time because they understand the need to help and are driven by a desire to lead scam victims down the path of recovery. Yet, from time to time, even we need to guard against allowing our own triggers from past traumas to manifest and get in the way of our work.

Everyone that is doing their best to help others has to balance their own egos and the needs of those they serve. When this becomes impossible to balance, that is when people need to step away and find other directions. We are constantly on guard for those situations and reactions that can interfere with the work we do.

Why Ego can be bad in Supporting Victims

When individuals who are assisting crime victims allow their egos to get in the way of helping others, it can have a detrimental effect on the entire team working together to support the victim, and potentially the victims also. Here are some reasons why this can be so bad:

  • It undermines teamwork: When individuals let their egos get in the way, they may prioritize their own goals and objectives over the needs of the victim or the team. This can lead to a breakdown in communication, cooperation, and collaboration, which can ultimately harm the victim.
  • It creates conflict: Ego-driven behavior can also create conflict within the team. When individuals prioritize their own interests, they may clash with others who have different priorities or perspectives. This can lead to tension, arguments, and disagreements, which can distract the team from their main goal of supporting the victim.
  • It reduces the effectiveness of the team: When individuals let their egos get in the way, they may become less effective in their roles. They may be less willing to listen to feedback or suggestions from others, or they may be more focused on proving themselves right than on finding solutions that benefit the victim. This can lead to a less effective team overall, which can harm the victim’s chances of recovery.
  • It can harm the victim: Ultimately, ego-driven behavior can harm the victim directly. When team members are more focused on their own goals than on the needs of the victim, they may miss important cues or fail to provide the support and care that the victim needs. This can cause additional harm to the victim and prolong their recovery time.

When individuals assisting crime victims allow their egos to get in the way, it can have a negative impact on the entire team and, ultimately, on the victim. It is important for everyone in an organization to put their egos aside and prioritize the needs of the victims in order to provide the best possible support and care.

We are not Saviors – We are here Supporting Victims

In the work that we do here at SCARS we help and support, but we are not here to save anyone. Meaning that only the victims themselves can save themselves.

We provide the education and knowledge, and the process for support and recovery but each crime victim must learn and follow the path to save themself.

Where egos become a problem is when those providing support develop what is called “Savior Syndrome” or “Messiah Complex”

That burning desire to help others in the months after realizing that you were a victim of a serious scam is a problem both for the victim and those they desire to help.

First, this is largely driven by a victim’s desperate need to control – control anything in their own life and if they cannot control their life they can control others.

Victims can come to believe that if they can help others they can impose control in their own life (even if they do not recognize that that is what they are doing.) This is actually an avoidance mechanism because while it seems like a good idea, helping others too early avoids their own grief and trauma – it freezes their own recovery. To help others you have to face your own demons first, then you can help others later.

Second, it can easily develop into a recognized mental disorder called Savior Syndrome or Complex (also known as Messiah Syndrome).

Savior Syndrome or Complex is a psychological condition in which an individual feels a strong need to help others, often to the point of self-sacrifice, in order to alleviate their own suffering or solve their own problems. People with Savior Syndrome may believe that they have a special calling to help others and may feel a sense of superiority or moral obligation to do so.

That moral obligation is not necessarily a bad thing, and having it does not mean that you have savior syndrome. If it drives building an organization to help that’s one thing, if it causes the belief that only you can save people that is another thing.

A proper crime victims’ assistance organization is not in business to save anyone, they provide services that allow victims to save themselves. Assistance, guidance, and education are the operative terms.

People with Savior Syndrome may feel a strong need to rescue or save others, often at the expense of those they claim to want to save. They may become overly involved in other people’s problems, neglecting their own needs and boundaries, or those of the organization they are part of. They may also become controlling or overbearing in their attempts to help others and may feel frustrated or angry when their efforts are not successful or properly recognized by those they work with.

An organization establishes rules or a code of conduct, but a savior follows only their own compass, and anyone that disagrees is their enemy since their motivation is often very emotionally driven.

Savior Syndrome can be seen in a variety of contexts, including personal relationships, work settings, and in individuals who work in helping-professions such as healthcare, social work, counseling, or victims’ assistance. While a desire to help others is generally seen as a positive trait, Savior Syndrome can become very problematic when it leads to the issues mentioned above and a disregard for the autonomy and agency of those being helped.

However, there is also another aspect of this that can be very negative: possessiveness. What we mean by this is that individuals who have developed this become possessive of the people they help. They believe that only they can help them and anyone who disagrees with them is wrong. This is very obvious in most of the Facebook anti-scam groups supposedly helping victims, yet offer only hateful environments harming victims in the process.

Individuals that have this syndrome who work in victims’ services often have their own agendas or activities on the side and will recruit victims away from an organization serving victims to their own side work, sometimes in conflict with the main organization. While they may believe that they are helping and doing the right thing, it only serves to harm victims in the long run.

It is important for individuals with Savior Syndrome to recognize the potential negative consequences of their behavior and to practice self-care, establish healthy boundaries, and respect the autonomy of those they are trying to help. Seeking therapy or counseling may also be helpful in addressing this condition.

It is also very important for organizations to identify those that develop savior syndrome in their own ranks and to remove it because it will ultimately result in internal conflicts that get in the way of helping the crime victims they serve.

The reason we share this is to help every scam victim understand that shifting their focus away from themselves and onto others too early can have serious consequences for their own recovery.

It is important to understand why this is a problem and how to avoid it.

Why Savior Syndrome is a Problem in Victims’ Assistance

When individuals working in supporting victims develop a savior or messiah complex, they may inadvertently harm the very people they are trying to help.

Here are some ways in which this can happen:

  • Disempowerment: When individuals with a savior complex intervene to help victims, they may end up disempowering the victims instead of empowering them. This is because the savior may take over the decision-making process and not allow the victim to have a say in their own recovery. This can make the victim feel helpless and dependent on the savior, which can hinder their recovery.
  • Dependency: When individuals with a savior complex intervene to help victims, they may create a dependency on themselves rather than empowering the victim to seek help from other sources. This can lead to a situation where the victim becomes reliant on the savior for support and care, which can hinder their ability to recover and become self-sufficient.
  • Over-identification: When individuals with a savior complex work with victims, they may become over-identified with the victim’s suffering. This can lead to a situation where the savior’s own emotional needs become intertwined with the needs of the victim, which can hinder the savior’s ability to provide objective and effective support to the victim.
  • Failure to recognize victim agency: When individuals with a savior complex work with victims, they may fail to recognize the agency and resilience of the victim. This can lead to a situation where the savior assumes that the victim is helpless and in need of rescue, rather than recognizing the victim’s ability to recover and heal on their own.

It is important for individuals supporting victims to avoid developing a savior or messiah complex. This means prioritizing the needs and agency of the victim, empowering the victim to make decisions about their own recovery, and recognizing that the victim is capable of healing and recovering on their own. By avoiding a savior complex, individuals can provide effective and empowering support to victims of crime.

As an Organization Supporting Victims of Cyber-enabled Crime

Over the years we have seen cases where the people who have volunteered to help us with our mission become very possessive about victims that they support. They have developed or maintained side hustles – their own social media pages or groups to help independently from what our organization does.

We have seen how this develops not only into conflicts of interest but the development of “I know better” mentalities (what could be savior syndrome).

We value the work we do above all else, but we also recognize that it is not easy work. Vicarious trauma can impact any of us, especially volunteers that are traumatized themselves. However, our duty of care requires that we are ever vigilant to conflicts, especially conflicts of ego that negatively impact our mission.

Our pledge to those we support is that we are aware of the challenges that we face and always vigilant to avoid those conflicts. We have established standards and rules that we follow, and when conflicts or violations of those rules develop we address them head-on.

Tim McGuinness, Ph.D.
Managing Director and Chairman
SCARS – Society of Citizens AgainstRelationship Scams Inc.


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