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

press-2333329_960_720

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/


DonnaGore-2

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

 

Advertisements

Death Notification, a Thankless Job

death-notification

 

“We can never underestimate the power of carefully chosen words delivered compassionately.” …..Kathryn Turman, FBI’s Office of Victim Assistance

 

Preface –

In the fall of 2016, I happened upon some intriguing information regarding a unique program designed to assist law enforcement and other first responders concerning a better, more compassionate manner to conduct a death notification.  As with every potential radio podcast, I began to research and contact various parties about whom I read.   This program was collaboration between the Pennsylvania State University Police and the FBI.

Many kudos goes out to Rebecca Bywater of the Pennsylvania State University Police for pointing me toward a public relations director with the FBI. I was excited at the prospect of having san FBI agent as a guest on Shattered Lives Radio. Very cool, I thought.

However, ultimately, I was denied with no explanation or return call whatsoever.  I tried to follow-up with my FBI contact. I had worked very diligently to make this show happen, as I always do, but ultimately, it fell apart. This has happened many times in the past and is a source of frustration for all radio hosts who care about quality. Ironically, it roughly coincided with the controversy with FBI Chief James Comey regarding Hillary Clinton’s emails at the end of October.  That was a big PR disaster and I was small potatoes in comparison. It appears the FBI never offers explanations, they just do things and that’s it, no matter how socially redeeming your project might be!

In addition, I tried to contact an educational leader in death notification  at North Georgia College and State University who had retired.  Therefore, the reason for this blog as a second best attempt to build awareness.

Ironically,  FBI Director Comey actually spoke at the event announcing this death notification initiative during National Crime Victim’s Rights Week in 2016. All the more reason to publicize a positive initiative!

During the most tragic events that occur, violent crime, vehicular crashes, suicides, deaths of undetermined causes and the like, often that first interaction with law enforcement or first responders stays with families and colors their lives forever.

Therefore, as a society we have a responsibility to  notify with care and sensitivity.  It seems common sense to say that under no circumstances should any death notification be made over the phone even when families are geographically distant.

Although the International Association of Police Chiefs have a model to use for death notifications, there has been no systematic approach to track who uses it. Regarding whose role it is to notify can depend upon jurisdiction and manpower, with a police officer typically notifying versus a medial examiner of coroner. In an article in Officer.com, there were as few as 15 courses in death notification ~ 2008.

Police Chaplains have been delegated this duty in the past and are more adequately prepared. However, they may not be as welcome in homicide cases due to investigative techniques.

Another little known resource is a specialty known as TIP- Trauma Intervention Program, which is composed of trained volunteers providing immediate support too those traumatized in the aftermath of tragedy.  This program began in San Diego in 1985 by mental health professional Wayne Fortin with over 250 communities covered nation wide. Volunteers  are trained in crisis intervention have special value, in that they are able to stay with families for several hours, supplementing the role of law enforcement. Frequently, TIP  directors  are psychologists or registered nurses, or other allied health professionals.

Death Notification Training – “We Regret to Inform You…”  is a 45 minute, 34 page  free online learning training tool.

This tool was devised via a collaboration with the FBI’s Critical Incident Response Group, the Office of Victim Assistance, the Office of Partner Engagement, and Pennsylvania State University’s Police Public Safety  Group, and their public broadcasting station , WPSU.

The video is introduced by Karen Schmoyer, mother of  murdered daughter, Charlotte, a newspaper delivery girl found buried under leaves in Allentown, Pennsylvania on June 11, 1993. Very little information could be located, but for the fact that her killer, Harvey Miguel Robinson was thought to be among the youngest serial killers in history. I am more interested in Karen’s notification, as with the murder of my father, our family’s was horrific as well.

The training includes an assessment tool, a second module that provides re-enactments of proper death notifications, a resource section with web links, a grief brochure for families and a pocket guide to death notification for team members. The content is based on best practice standards and takes into consideration variables such as cultural differences, language barriers, those living abroad, mass casualties, assisting children, the elderly, the role of victim assistance and more. Once a passing grade is given a certificate is issued. Link to online training –http://www.deathnotification.psu.edu.

I will attempt to take the training and encourage others who work in victim services to do so. I’m sure we could provide the most valuable feedback.! In fact, the experience might lend itself to a follow-up blog.

Questions regarding the training should be directed to deathnotification@leo.gov.

Moral of this story-

I would ask, why do survivors of crime need Director Comey or anyone in the FBI  defining compassion? It is my hope that victims who have walked the path had a major influence in the content of the “We Regret to Inform You…” program versus government officials.  We may never know, as the FBI doesn’t typically return phone calls unless it is on their terms.

References-

http://www.deathnotification.psu.edu;

https://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/death-notification-with-compassion

http://www.officer.com/article/10249064/death-notification-breaking-the-bad-news

http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/1993-06-11/news/9306110691_1_girl-lehigh-searchers

http://murderpedia.org/male.R/r/robinson-harvey.htm

http://www.titusvilleherald.com/news/article_dd7c604c-9a8c-534f-9927-cf47eaf886a3.html


DonnaGore-2

 

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

 

 

        

Homicide Isn’t “Uplifting”

poppies-1631682_960_720

The title of this blog – such is the refrain of book store owners, Christian oriented businesses, coffee house venues etc.  What’s an author to do? They don’t get it!

Definition of Uplifting – “Morally or spiritually elevating; Inspiring happiness or hope”

People who are not impacted by crime cringe at the mere mention of murder. They may not watch the news as “It’s all bad.” “It makes me sad.” “I want to protect my children.”  Well, their “Candyland existence” does not work when pitted against the realities of life.

The key is balance – To expose ourselves and our children to the realities, to be proactive, but not be possessed or obsessed by the evils, to appreciate, to have empathy, to get involved with a cause that is related in order to change the world for the better!

Granted, it is very challenging for adults to make sense of the seeming random, senseless violence happening all around us.  How can we possibly explain to our children?  The act of murder, is not uplifting whatsoever. HOWEVER, the pathway to resolution and the positive byproducts in the aftermath can be very rewarding, enriching and give one’s life real purpose, and meaning that honors your loved one in a way you had never imagined! 

It does our children no favors to overexpose them to the chaos in our world. Nor does it prepare them for life in 2017 to “live in a bubble of your own unrealistic creation.”

Tips to bridge the Gap-

  • Know and appreciate resiliency- Point out examples to your children and try to model it in your own behavior and when you encounter difficult situations. Stress that life is not always happy, but that there is always a way to “find the sunshine on the other side” if you problem solve!
  • Use opportunities to make ourselves and our children aware within our community  “when bad things happen to good people” by participating in  fund raising events, vigils,  marathons, searches, rallies with a  hopeful, positive message;
  • Seize opportunities to meet others – even one person that has a different life experience as a result of crime and make a friend. Your local crime victim advocate may be able to pair you with a person who would best benefit from such a pairing.  Typically someone in the acute phases of grief may really needs someone to listen, not advice, (which can be intense). Alternately, if you meet them with much space and time between the crime and your meeting, you will gain much insight into how others cope…and still manage their life in spite of…It’s amazing what you will learn from such a relationship!
  • Instill hope in the aftermath of crime and tragedy, for that truly is God’s Grace at work;
  • Join a non-profit organization that needs volunteers in order to gain exposure and insight.  The positives far outweigh the crime itself when everyone is working toward a common goal.  Many talents and skills are needed – small and large, so don’t be shy!  You will receive far more than you give, guaranteed!   In addition, you often build lifelong relationships!  One fine example is the  repeated winner of Great Non-Profits.org- The Cue Center for Missing Persons- http://www.ncmissingpersons.org/about/
  • Reviews from Great Non-Profits –  Very Uplifting!  http://greatnonprofits.org/org/community-united-effort-cue

 

Other References –

https://www.amazon.com/Grief-Diaries-Surviving-Loss-Homicide/dp/1944328149

http://www.dictionary.com/browse/uplifting?s=t


DonnaGore-2

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

Filing It Away, or Stirring it Up, Long Term Grief Does NOT Come with Instructions

Crime victim, compassion, Donna R. Gore

A recent Shattered Lives Radio podcast featured frequent guest, Duane Bowers, Licenced Professional Counselor (LPC).  I take pride in featuring cutting edge topics designed to assist victims of crime. Often the emotional pieces are never discussed. Families are mystified about how to deal with truly understanding grief and loss and how it applies to them.

In this podcast, Duane Bowers and I delve into long-term family relationships and the grief that remains. Does it get better or worse? Is grief and loss the tie that binds us so that down the road we are restored in a new way?

Below I pose a “laundry list” of intriguing questions, issues that may be reality or myth for what’s upcoming as you are invited to listen to this valuable show. You may even have a couple of revelations in the furtherance of understanding just what happens after a traumatic loss!

A Sample of What You Will Learn from this Podcast

  • The difference between grief and traumatic loss
  •  What it takes to feel in control
  • The roles family members take on after traumatic loss
  • Nurturing and the meaning and value assigned to an event
  • When the role of an advocate impacts someone who has “filed it away” and emotions get stirred up
  • Expectations in how to grieve
  • Your willingness to change and the effort required versus hanging on to the pain
  • When is the moment of death?
  • Resiliency models and communication styles
  • Will we become a more cohesive family with time, or not?
  • Grief and support resources

click to listen button1

 

“So it’s true, when all is said and done, grief is the price we pay for love.”
E.A. Bucchianeri, Brushstrokes of a Gadfly


Further information about grief as a victim of crime is available in my book, Grief Diaries: Loss by Homicide, which includes the stories of others who, like you, are traveling this long journey.

Grief Diaries: Loss by Homicide

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.com