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

You can find me here, please follow or friend! Facebook,  Shattered Lives,  Twitter, LinkedIn

 

Stale Bread and Silver Linings

How do you gauge the changing tastes, changing moods of your audience? I don’t think you can ever possess a daily barometer, or be the perfect meteorologist, as people’s tastes and interests can be as changeable as the wind, or conversely, as inflexible as can be.

Therefore, the key is to perpetually add to your audience in every way you can. No, not exactly like shedding the old girlfriend, for that relationship had its value too.  It’s more like adding to the tried and true recipe to give it a little pizzaz.

I am not one to change just because it’s what’s trending or the latest fad. It’s about a winning formula with the potential for flexibility. However,  if you are not and don’t care to be the expert on the latest and greatest social media platforms, well then, it’s quality over quantity.

I am always in pursuit of others who are intellectually curious but in a clever, creative way. There’s nothing worse than the long dry monologue of an academic soul who hasn’t gotten out to breathe the fresh air or see the sunset. It is a delicate balance, finding like individuals like a couple dancing, but not quite in step.

When time is precious, we frequently don’t have the luxury to hunt those people down, to engage when you have a million things on your plate. So, again, it’s time to compensate, create your own genre, your own brand, and hope that others will follow along as the Pied Piper did, casting a wide net.

Many loyal followers just don’t want to learn a new dance step, even temporarily which is extremely frustrating. It’s as if they are afraid to try something new for fear they may not like it when in truth, that’s how we all learn; sorting out the old from the new, deciding what to keep and what, or who, to discard. Stretching the comfort zone is healthy, even if initially uncomfortable.

While I’m on the topic, who can explain to me the roller coaster analytics that tells you in one long breath you are simultaneously experiencing a high in a couple of areas and yet in the basement on other measures? It’s schizophrenic to me, but I refuse to let it keep me awake at night. We all really know it’s a crap shoot and not equated with popularity whatsoever. We can’t please all the people all of the time, no matter what we do.

That said, the greatest gifts I can offer are my creativity, compassion,  writing skills, ability to shift when needed, the ability to resist temptation from the masses when you know what you are doing seems like a good fit and use divergent  thinking – creating endless permutations to get your important messages across without being stale. I never want to be “stale bread.”

So, there you have it. You have free will to follow, or not to follow. If you do, I will not engage in personal attacks or “low rent behavior.”  I will try to engage, peak your interest, force you to think provocatively, sometimes controversially. I will show my imperfections as that is human but keep the balance of public versus private information.

As a public figure, I know the responsibilities and the do’s and don’ts. If you chose to review what I have to offer, I promise to try to be positive, even when dealing with the unspeakable, the grim, the sad, the underbelly of life, for there is always a silver lining if you look for it. It may take some time, but there is a silver lining in every experience! Silver linings are far better than stale bread any day!


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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

You can find me here, please follow or friend! Facebook,  Shattered Lives,  Twitter, LinkedIn

 

Cold Case Sleuths – Fascination, Dedication, Teetering on the Edge of Obsession

 

In my three plus decades of volunteer service to crime victims, I’m sure there have been those who think my passion is beyond healthy. However, in the scheme of things, I couldn’t be healthier with my juggling act. Yes, often it is a solitary act.  But, I do have priorities such as healthy eating, personal hygiene, paying all the bills on time, showing up for work and giving my all to my clients, taking care of home chores, projects, doing laundry, make my bed every morning!  

As a people person at heart, I enjoy communicating with everyone, try to plan ahead for the next chapter in South Carolina and try to get sleep, but admittedly could use more.  I tend to put other’s need before my own as it gives me a sense of accomplishment when I can help others.  But, I have drawn some boundaries with age.  The social arena tends to be at the bottom of the list, and that’s not great, but I deal with it. Unfortunately, relaxation for relaxations’ sake, is something I can never achieve for more than an hour or so. That’s the kind of skill a future life partner could teach me, but that’s another story.

In contrast, I have met and conversed at length with a different breed of crime victim advocate. There are many law enforcement professionals who also take on pet projects in the form of cold cases. They perform their paid work, or may be retired and become consumed by a case which called to them. It often is a case they worked on previously and just can’t let go.  They have promised the family they will stay with it pro bono.  They may go through the motions of life, but in reality, THAT CASE is never far from the forefront of their minds. They may have to drop everything in favor of a new thought, a chance meeting, a bright idea.  Weeks, months, years pass. The mundane things in life appear to fall by the wayside in favor of the next angle, the next lead.  They cut off people, they may live on junk food and caffeine. They pursue every free resource available that may give them an edge in order to bring the case to the next level.

They often are the one lifeline left to family members who have entrusted valuable information, which perhaps the police have neglected or have no time to review in-depth. Trying to find other family or friends who are on the same page, who can help, is mostly an exhausting, thankless task.  Perhaps other family members do not agree, have secrets of their own and view you, the dedicated one, like that pesky fly worthy only of a swat!

Although they are trained in their craft, with a cold case that spans years with little if any action, the key is often to blow off the dust, to give it new life, to rise from the ashes if you will. How does one do that, you ask?  Attention from interested colleagues, writers, publishers, social media or those with something else to offer like a prolific blogger, newly published author, and national radio show host! Enter me, stage left, sometimes when it’s a good fit.  At other times, as I’ve been told, it’s enough just to have someone else listen, to know the story for the sake of posterity.

Recently, I was asked by such a dedicated person about the nuances of how to tell a story, how to maintain loyalties, knowing how far to push the envelope with others. What an honor to be able to offer my opinion! It takes lots of time,  measured thoughts, networking, oodles of research, perseverance, thinking out of the box, patience, the flexibility to be able to shift gears at a moment’s notice to do this kind of intense work, most of the time on a shoestring budget.

Although I prefer a broader approach to helping others, I am not here to judge how others choose to spend their time. It is very honorable to be the sole voice, the lone ranger when that’s all a victim has whose trail has gone cold.  So, carry on good woman!  We need thousands more like you!  


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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

 

The Silence Can be Deafening- No Apologies for Being an Advocate 

Don Gore

Don Gore, my father

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.

The Future

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!

DRG- 4-16-2017


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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