After 36 years of surviving the most life-changing event in one’s life, you gain perspective, but you also lose friends along the way.
My father’s murder occurred in Hartford Connecticut on April 17, 1981, and it made the law books for a particular legal maneuver. It was a case whose trial was prolonged for 6 1/2 years, caught in the morass of determinate and indeterminate sentencing laws. It was a case that coincided with the infancy of victim rights. My father’s case began as a missing person and ended as a homicide.
It was a case characterized by unthinkable events such as our family learning the news via a newspaper article and taking it upon ourselves to call the police, as no notification had come our way. There were promises were made such as, “This career criminal will never get out.” In fact, a very skilled attorney/victim advocate was puzzled as to why the perpetrator ever became eligible for parole in 2013.
My father’s murder case changed the State of Connecticut policy regarding the anonymity of victims during a parole hearing although the parole board failed to even acknowledge such a milestone.
That’s when I decided not to be silent. Don Gore needed a voice and I became that person in every way imaginable.
It is not a role I consciously chose, it evolved as my intellectual curiosity and need for justice grew.
Times have changed, with an entirely new generation appearing since 1981. The landscape in victim services has expanded to include a plethora of agencies, governmental to non-profit. In addition, in 2017, violence, public perception, tolerance of what once was unacceptable, and the ever-changing social mores, has also escalated with the immediacy of social media.
In situations such as violent crime, I believe complacency breeds indifference. If you are not part of the solution, you could be part of the problem. It’s not that you have to go the whole hog, just make a meaningful contribution in your own way.
But then, there are the constants that don’t seem to change the work against positive change and hope for the future. These elements are equal to the silence that pervades if you chose not to be a voice for change, or, at the very least, acknowledge what others are doing and give moral support. The silences can be deafening causing me to work with increased fervor. Some examples:
- The murderer having no cognizance of who he killed or who was related to him in addition to showing no remorse;
- The vulnerabilities that still surface, even after 36 years;
- The tendency of the public to stay in denial mode, shaking their collective heads unless homicide or other crimes have touched them personally;
- The lack of connection or involvement in many homicides and missing person families;
- The refusal to see beyond the obvious that homicide and missing persons isn’t uplifting and that there is nothing positive that can come forth by educating and creating awareness. How wrong these people are, they will never get it! When you look beyond the surface, as advocates, we have been the force for so much positive change. As a byproduct, you gain surrogate families who can be very nurturing. Out of tragedy, inspiring events occur.
- The lack of resources and assistance for so many families, even in this enlightened era forcing us to be ever more creative to get the job done.
Although I do not look forward to the five-year mark looming in the background for another appearance at a parole hearing in 2018, I embrace the right and duty to continually try to be the voice of my father, Donald W. Gore, whose life was snuffed out so abruptly and unfairly.
I hope he will be observing with pride from his place in heaven. Dad, you are missed by many!
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