Things the Media and Public Don’t Know about Crime Victims

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In the very beginning when you suddenly become the victim of a violent crime, it is a bit like wearing your shoes on the wrong feet. Nothing fits. It’s foreign and uncomfortable. You don’t know where to turn. You think the police, the detectives, the prosecutor will make your case the highest priority. You are ambivalent about media coverage, for you want everyone to know balanced against your need to maintain privacy. What you don’t know can hurt you. My former blog,  “A New Normal” explains further. 

Although each case is unique in it’s own way, each has commonalities.  There are no “Hints from Heloise” or a 2017 version by Emily Post’s great, great granddaughter “How to Act Around a Crime Victim.” There really should be a guide to be scoffed up by the public with each and every violence act which is becoming part of our new reality- whether crazed and disgruntled or terrorist. We need practical tools!

In the absence of such a guide that fits most criminal acts, some things are obvious, but often blatantly ignored by the media and a public who gleans its information from television.

A short laundry list of do’s and don’ts 

  • Should the media pick up a story on a wire service or social media, due diligence and care should be taken to ensure that law enforcement has made contact with and notified the family prior to releasing information to the public. As we know, particularly with the introduction of social media and our current President’s penchant to Tweet, is it nearly impossible to maintain that “respectable distance, as the lives of a crime victim’s family  are changing forever? I think that effort and respect must be shown, first and foremost!  As a family member who learned of my father’s death via a newspaper article, the horror of learning in this manner was indescribable!   
  • Do not focus your entire story on the violent act and never or barely mention that there are victims, fatalities and those injured.  This is HUGELY IMPORTANT to families who are shocked and offended that their beloved family member gets virtually no coverage whatsoever for the sake of “selling the news.” Although we understand that a victim’s identity cannot be released initially, good journalists do not have to depend upon sensationalism to grab attention;
  • The victim’s frailties, demons, or  mistakes should not define the story and color public perception. Should it be that after a thorough investigation, the victim’s  lifestyle or habits did indeed contribute to the end, so be it. But, it does the surviving family no favors to dwell on that aspect of the person’s life;
  • Do we even need to say, it, Get the facts correct before you publish? Even simple things such as misidentifying a victim by name (as happened with us on local news) can be very disrespectful, If your media  boss is the “get it at any cost,” leave and find another employer with integrity;
  • Don’t spontaneously run up to a distraught victim in a public setting with your phone, microphone or camera and say, “How do you feel? This is a moronic question.  Don’t expect family members to say anything that will adequately convey their feelings. It is intrusive!  Rather, it would be better to quietly seek out an approved family representative who may give an approved statement such that  it does not compromise the investigation.

Family should be counseled to not provide extemporaneous statements to the press just because…

  • Law enforcement attorneys, TV personalities and reporters all engage in this one-No matter where a case is in the span of time, never say that the family is looking for “closure.” Closure implies a finality to homicide. In fact, finality is never truly possible, as lives are irreparably changed and families pass into a different phase of coping.Rather, a more accurate way to describe this process is one of resolution, no matter if the outcome is positive or tragic.
  • Never ask a crime victim, Is it time to move on with your life? Even if a person is stuck in their grief, such a comment implies that their loved one is no longer worthy of public attention!  If family members appear to be passionate in their quest by becoming an advocate for others, recruiting help for their case, doing research on their own, focusing on publicizing the case or holding events to increase awareness, this should not be viewed as “an obsession ” In fact, it can be quite the opposite – Posttraumatic growth (PTG) is positive psychological change experienced as a result of adversity and other challenges in order to rise to a higher level of functioning.
  • If you are a media representative or a concerned family member, do consult with a professional counselor trained in dealing with trauma if you are going to be interacting with victims. In addition, seek out the help of a good support group facilitator for homicide survivors. I highly recommend Connecticut based-Survivors of Homicide.

 

Resilience is accepting your new reality, even if it’s less good than the one you had before.”

(Mary) Elizabeth Edwards, former attorney, health care advocate, wife of NC Senator John Edwards, who died from breast cancer in December, 2010.

 

Referenceshttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Posttraumatic_growth

https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/resilience.html

https://donnagore.com/2011/01/01/history-can-only-be-written-by-the-survivors/

https://donnagore.com/2015/03/13/a-new-normal/


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A Brother’s Quest to Find the Real Truth of What Happened to Kitty Genovese

Given human nature, in order to tolerate the intolerable, do we shape our version of life to fit reality, or do we change reality and call it the truth? That is the ultimate question we all face over and over throughout our lives.  

There are many reasons why we play this subconscious game.  We change the truth for ourselves to make it more palatable, to ease the pain.  We create a fictionalized version that the public will accept.  Whether it is a specific individual or society itself, when a drama is created, irrespective of the truth, it speaks to the fact that the person or the public has not developed sufficient resiliency. When we are not resilient, a drama is perpetuated, misinformation becomes the status quo and unearthing the truth for truth and justice’s sake is oh so hard!

Bill Genovese, brother of Kitty Genovese, a disabled Vietnam Veteran took on the quest to right the wrongs since the night of March 13, 1964.  He interviewed all witnesses and even corresponded with the evil perp in preparation for his innovative film, The Witness.  A “devil’s advocate style” 2016  NPR article conveys the ambivalence of it all,  appears to question Bill’s motives, reveals possible reasons for the lack of witnesses coming forward 50 years ago and concludes that the myths will never fade. 

Never mind the fake news of today, it seemed that in 1964, the New York Times rushed to judgment on its facts, the number of neighbors who ignored Kitty’s cries for help and the infamous L – Lesbian word, just made everything all the more shocking, as most women were still closeted. The Stonewall Inn demonstrations did not take place until five years later. 

In April 2016, the New York Times interviewed Kitty’s partner, Mary Ann Zielonko Her account of that night is filled with trepidation, regret, and pain. There was the joy of meeting someone you click with, residing in a safe artsy neighborhood with Holocaust survivors as neighbors. They worked together in a bar and played together. But, to this day, Mary Ann feels she might have saved Kitty, for while Mary Ann returned from bowling and slept, Kitty was being murdered as the evil man returned a second time to stab her yet again!

Another interesting fact was that with the heinousness of Kitty’s murder, came innovation, specifically the introduction of the 911 Emergency System.  According to Biography.com, Kitty’s murder was the impetus for a much-improved way of reporting to the police of emergencies. In 1968 the 911 system was adopted throughout the country. Prior to that time, concerned citizens had to dial “O” for operator or the local police station number which was then relayed to a communications bureau and then passed on to the precinct! What an arduous process, in which many lives hung in the balance. President Lyndon Johnson and AT &T was instrumental in creating this single point of contact for emergencies.  There is no doubt that the implementation of this system has saved countless lives!

Bill Genovese is not a crackpot.  He is a man with a mission who says he’ll know when it’s over. It matters not that Winston Moseley described as a psychopathic serial killer and necrophiliac, was the man who stalked, raped and killed Kitty died in prison in Dannemora, in March 2016 at age 81. He even earned a college degree on taxpayers’ dime! You can read more at my previous blog: https://donnagore.com/2011/06/05/it’s-all-about-social-responsibility-the-case-of-kitty-genovese/

The groundbreaking film,The Witness,” was initially released as a world premiere at the New York Film Festival in October 2015. The trailer is engrossing, chilling!  It is available on several social media platforms.

Watch it as a shameful part of history. Watch it for justice’s sake. Watch it as a legacy to Kitty who was struck down so young and needlessly.. Watch it for Bill Genovese, a Vietnam Vet who lost his legs in the Vietnam War and lost even more in the life of his sister, Kitty. Perhaps his life has come full circle now. I truly hope so!

References-

http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/blog/history-of-911-americas-emergency-service-before-and-after-kitty-genovese/

https://www.biography.com/people/kitty-genovese-120415

http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/blog/history-of-911-americas-emergency-service-before-and-after-kitty-genovese/

http://www.thewitness-film.com

https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-witness-review-searching-for-the-truth-about-kitty-genovese-1464883925

https://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/05/nyregion/winston-moseley-81-killer-of-kitty-genovese-dies-in-prison.html


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To schedule Donna R. Gore for your next conference, seminar or event, please contact ImaginePublicity.Phone: 843-808-0859 or Email: contact@imaginepublicity.com

Multiple Victimizations: Gender Bias, Missing Persons and Fake News

Yellow ribbons for missing persons

Yellow ribbons for missing persons

Back in the day, I thought seriously about a career in journalism, as the passion was stirred at a very early age. However, I now see that I have the best of both worlds in 2017, with other careers and still investing heavily in the written word. I am a better person for having chosen different paths, for when we examine the current journalistic landscape, at times, it is appalling!

I look for the always credible, the sure-footed people in this crazy world of news who can navigate the minefields and come out unscathed, and always ring true. The real question is where do we draw the line? Or, has the line moved so far afield it feels nonexistent? Exactly!

Do we spend our limited energy daily on separating hype from rumor from fact?  No, we often run it through our personal common sense filter and then do further research if it is of real interest. The rest is often just nonsense. However, we do live in an age where the unbelievable with respect to apparent disintegrating moral values makes virtually anything possible.

All that aside, we have to maintain a personal sense of right and wrong, even if it may have shifted a bit in terms of societal standards. Some look for others to blame; the desperate Democrats, the raucous Republicans, the intolerable President, the manipulative media.

I am of the belief it really doesn’t matter where the blame lies as they all feed into each other like sharks looking for their next meal.  Enter fake news. When did the biggies of journalism, politicians, the uninformed and sad individuals seeking attention become so desperate for the status quo that they felt it necessary to make up news in one-upmanship?

What is vital is the aftermath, the collateral damage done to persons who do not have a dog in the fight and are dragged in any way. Victims of violent crime whether it be a homicide, missing persons, rape, sexual assault, intimate partner violence, etc. are already compromised in terms of coping with their day-to-day existence due to grief, loss, intolerable pain and lack of will to withstand the fight.

The general public sees our society becoming ever violent and does not want to join the victimization club, ever! Those of us who have graduated from victimization and are squarely in the survivor camp can help others to maintain hope, and assist in educating and creating awareness for others.

Another strike against victims are the flagrant biases that the media and some law enforcement and judicial agencies perpetuate.  Children are rightfully seen as the most vulnerable and all important when it comes to crime. However, the unspoken message is that Caucasians still get first class treatment compared to any minority in any context.  Within such classifications, the public often makes value judgments concerning people, and particular lifestyles.

Assumptions are so ingrained that it’s difficult to garner attention to the fact that, for example, young men are not all irresponsible, macho, beer guzzling creatures who walk off into the night, abandoning all responsibilities and family ties. And yet, this is told to us by the police, by people who don’t really know.

As sure as our parents told us that only girls are supposed to play with dolls, this is true. This is the barometer that some people use. Boys to men fend for themselves, always.  They don’t go missing, get kidnapped or are forced to do things against their will because they are males. This is simply an untrue and unfair portrayal at a time when families need all of the credible resources they can gather just to keep their loved one in the forefront of media, competing with all the rest.

When this fallacy about how young males don’t go missing continues, to have fake news intruded upon them is unconscionable. Such was the case with the family of Damien Sharp recently.

A fake news organization article was recently posted on Facebook concerning his case with no direct contact information to law enforcement nor accurate information regarding its content. Imagine the horror when Damien’s family discovered this very hurtful, potentially damaging innuendo. Not only is this family approaching their 15th anniversary of Damien’s disappearance  (May 25, 2002) and potential homicide while operating within the reality of gender bias, they have to deal with a fake news posting as well. This truly is cruel and unusual punishment for a family who needs resolution and peace of mind.

The number of missing persons at any one time in the U.S. (2017) according to Silvia Pettem researcher and author, is 100,000.

We don’t need to venture far to illustrate this point further, for an estimate of the number of missing persons cases posted on the CUE Center for Missing Persons website. The number of young males below 30 or young male children initially posted having reached young adulthood over the years is significant.

We have to do everything in our power to give families with male members equal time in the realm of crime reporting and media attention. We have to resist gender bias and believe the information given by families and not rely on well-worn stereotypes that serve no purpose.  Toward that end, as a crime victim Advocate, I can try to do my part by featuring Damien’s case as one of gender bias in the media on my radio show.

Toward that end, as a crime victim advocate, I can try to do my part by featuring Damien’s case as one of gender bias in the media on my radio show. Stay tuned for this important podcast for Shattered Lives Radio in June!

 And …Stay away from fake news- Trust your head and your heart. LJ


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To schedule Donna R. Gore for your next conference, seminar or event, please contact ImaginePublicity.Phone: 843-808-0859 or Email: contact@imaginepublicity.com

 

Single Professionals without Children; Why Are We Ignored? It’s a Crime!

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Please forgive me if I don’t “wax nostalgic” over New Year’s Eve. This holiday, as several others, leaves unattached singles at loose ends particularly at the stroke of midnight. What are we supposed to do?

New Year’s Eve is all glitter and flash which can be fun…. But, it is also most often associated with expending gobs of money and excessive use of alcoholic beverages. I like my wine occasionally, but have never ever been a “bar fly.” It’s okay in small doses, but I’d rather be somewhere else.

However, this is just one example in which single professionals “going it alone” are at a distinct advantage in our society.

We have made great strides in acknowledging single parenthood and even coupled parenthood without the benefit of marriage.  There are single adults by choice, and/or never having found the right person such as myself; There are those who are single by divorce or widow(er) status and don’t want to “try again.”  There are many in the LGBTQ community who may chose to habitually shop around versus commit to anyone.  There are disenfranchised people whose lifestyle choices and habits may always make them a single outcast. (You know who I mean…)  It’s the professional singles who are often “left out in the cold” whose interests are never considered.  Thank God we have evolved to the point of singledom not being “just a temporary holding pattern” until the white knight appears. Maybe we don’t need the white (or minority) knight! Maybe the white knight would be too high maintenance for some of us.

Consider the Facebook post I wrote on New Year’s Eve 2016-17 to reach out to others in the same boat as I.

SINGLES PROFESSIONALS UNITE! God needs to invent a holiday for single people. Truth be told, I’ve never cared for this holiday. We are forgotten by Hallmark, by families, by our legislators, by society as a whole. Occasionally, we are mentioned if we have “disposable income”, but that’s basically the extent of it.
It’s too bad, because we are a valuable resource, have a lot to offer the world and are just as important as the married people and parents. But, who ever realizes us as a group? So, to all the people in my group, you are important and don’t need to be defined by someone on your arm tonight! Upward and onward in 2017. Be who you are…even if you are single and like it that way!

In most cases, we are not considered in the family dynamic for what we can offer surrounded by the married ones; We are conveniently left out of coupled invitations, “the third wheel”. We are never considered by our elected legislators as needing fairer laws and public policies to help us meet financial burdens and future retirement.  We seldom have appropriate greeting cards for our busy lifestyles.

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With 51 percent of the America unmarried as of 2012, sociologist Eric Klinenberg wrote in his “Going Solo” book, that more than a quarter of us are living in a one person household and (irrespective of romance)  we’re not “getting a lot of love” regarding fair treatment.

For example, New York psychology professor, Dr. Bella DePaulo points out that we can start right from the top in government –

The U.S. government not only turns a blind eye to the problem of “singleism,” but helps enforce it, activists say. Just look at Social Security. “A childless singleton can work side by side with a childless married person, doing the same job, for the same number of years, at the same level of accomplishment—and when the married person dies, that worker can leave his or her Social Security benefits to a spouse,” says DePaulo. “The single person’s benefits go back into the system.”

UNRECOGNIZED AND UNCHALLENGED

Why does anyone have to be part of any kind of couple to get the same federal benefits and protections as anyone else?”

They don’t get the same kind of tax breaks. Co-op boards, mortgage brokers, and landlords often pass them over. So do the employers with the power to promote them. “Singleism—stereotyping, stigmatizing, and discrimination against people who are single—is largely unrecognized and unchallenged.” Other arenas include insurance and health care –

businesswoman-147101_960_720People don’t notice singleism, and if their attention is called to it, they think there’s nothing wrong. That’s why, for instance, car and health insurance companies get away with charging less for couples and families. “They can attract more business [that way],” DePaulo notes. In the process, they leave single people to essentially subsidize the benefit by paying more. “When married workers can add spouses to a health-care plan at a discount and single workers can’t add someone important to them, that’s discrimination,” says DePaulo.

According to Seattle Law Professor Lily Kahng- Author of “One Is the Loneliest Number: The Single Taxpayer in a Joint Return World”, Hastings Law Journal,“Unmarried people also lose out when it comes to taxes.” Further – That married workers are able to transfer wealth and property to spouses—and others—tax-free, while the unmarried cannot; Ms. Kahng concludes that the joint return penalizes single people and should be abolished.

Married people had a supermajority of political power at the time the [current tax] rules were enacted, according to Ms. Kahng.

When we look at disposable income and quality time… by and large, single contribute more, says sociologist Eric Klinenberg –

On average, singles have more disposable income. They’re fueling urban economies that would be in much worse shape without them. compared to married people, they’re more likely to spend time with neighbors, to participate in public events, and to volunteer.

If you live in Europe – Marriage Historian Stephanie Coontz relates – “The penalties for being single in this country are worse than in Europe, where individuals have guaranteed access to health care, and they have options beyond a spouse’s death benefits for staying above the poverty line as they age.

And then there’s Outside the Office – Did you know?

Biased thinking persists, “For the single homeowner or property renter, discrimination is rampant, because the Federal Fair Housing Act does not prohibit marital-status discrimination,” Langburt notes. “Not only do landlords discriminate again singles; real-estate and mortgage brokers discriminate as well.”

According to these experts, the problem is scattered and isolated for formal tracking.  In fact, single women are the number one home buyers in the country, but there’s still a silent stigma that these women don’t have money to qualify or that they will be a flight risk.”

Being single – Not exactly a piece of cake… But I, for one, wouldn’t have it any other way!

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References and Literary Recommendations –

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/02/06/singled-out-are-america-s-unmarried-discriminated-against.html

Book – Singled Out- https://www.amazon.com/Singled-Out-Singles-Stereotyped-Stigmatized/dp/0312340826/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1483305894&sr=1-1&keywords=single+out+depaulo

Book – Going Solo https://www.amazon.com/Going-Solo-Extraordinary-Surprising-Appeal/dp/0143122770

Donna R. Gore

 

To schedule Donna R. Gore for your next conference, seminar or event, please contact ImaginePublicity. Phone: 843-808-0859 or Email: contact@imaginepublicity.co