The job of a crime victim advocate is by no means a 9 to 5 existence. Fragile human beings often can’t adhere to time schedules. Their lives have spun out of control.
Those who are paid advocates answer the phone during business hours, leave an 800 number or advice to call 911 during off hours. But, the trouble is trauma and life and death situations just don’t conform.
A person may be actively grieving, in physical, emotional or psychological pain. They may be terrified of some event in their life, not realizing why they remain helpless. Past decisions often place them in circumstances they could never foresee.
Armchair critics can easily point fingers and pass judgement regarding the complexities of people’s lives, not realizing that their own situations can change in a New York minute if the Gods foretell.
In the many years I have worked with victims, each is unique in some way, and yet there is a constant familiar ring to their personal stories, their desperation, the longer you listen.
Examples – (Frequently Intimate Partner Violence in nature)
“Please reply before he kills me” “He ignored the restraining order” I went to the police, but they did nothing. I have no money. I’m afraid for my children. The system in the State of ____ is totally against me. I can’t escape him as he watches my every move” “I don’t have a phone.”
In a previous blog post, Homicide as a Steady Diet, I discussed the fact that I am at risk of being typecast as a homicide expert with nothing else to offer. Regardless of people’s reading habits or radio listening preferences, I fight against this image, as it is just not true.
Insatiable appetite for violence or not, I will not be painted as a one trick pony. At the other end of the spectrum are the indiscriminate victims reaching out to anyone and everyone. There are two groups of people I worry about:
1) The truly terrorized, as in intimate partner violence victims and,
2) Those who perceive injustices to themselves. Their pervasive victimization as so great, having been worn down by the system so badly, that they lash out at everyone and become truly toxic in their words and actions. It is a poison that no one can alleviate.
If you read between the lines, the former group may want to be helped and truly lack the resources, the support, the resiliency, and the know how. Fear may have immobilized them. They actually say, “I am going to die and don’t know where to turn.” Imagine their burdens, but try to imagine the responsibility and the burden it also imposes on the receiving end of compassionate, helpful, well intentioned people.
The second group of people may say they want help, but their account is so vile, the blame towards others so pervasive, without taking any personal responsibility, that they just want a stage upon which to vent their rage.
Why is the distinction of these two groups important? It is important to me as you have to think quickly on your feet as it can sincerely be a matter of life and death.
Lucky for me, these desperate cries for help do not come as a steady diet, but they do come to my website, particularly related to intimate partner violence. I do not invite them. They are indiscriminate. They are supposed to leave information about victim impact statement inquiries and they ignore the instructions.
For the record, I do have a working knowledge of IPV, thanks to Susan Murphy Milano and many other colleagues over the years. However, this does not qualify me as an expert, nor do I necessarily want to take on these issues as my own. It appears that the Tracey Thurman blog post has created a monster of sorts in this area. I suspect that my well researched, carefully written and wildly popular blog of this historic Connecticut case is the culprit here. I gratefully accept the exposure it has given me, but it can be a double edged sword.
Readers, please do not confuse my God given talent as a superior writer to tell a story with expertise in every subject matter pertaining to crime!
Just a couple of weeks ago on a December night when I had gone to bed, my phone lit up and “whooshed” a message. A response was sent by a colleague to a true life or death IPV victim who wrote to me in desperation. I so appreciated her rapid response, for intuitively, we both know it was very serious.
It matters not that this victim did not follow the rules and used my personal website as a call for help. It only matters that good and useful information was provided at a moment’s notice when needed. I only hope that the women chose to follow through with the information. Bless you, my friend for helping. Much love to you for caring in my place. You just may have saved a life. CALL IT GRACE…..