Crime Victimization & Victim Impact: Nuts & Bolts and Some “Intangibles”

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Just keeping afloat in 2018, takes incredible fortitude and courage. Seemingly at every turn we see violence, sadness, corruption, natural disaster, loss of morality, indifference and a general dumbing down of standards that used to be impenetrable. When we have such forces as our backdrop for life, our yardstick, how do we possibly deal with our personal devastation in the aftermath of crime? How do we personally keep afloat and find a sense of hope? It is the hardest challenge we will ever face!

Who Does a Better Job?

Although we have made great strides with the infrastructure of victim advocacy over the years, the humanity, the compassion and support and the going the extra mile often lags behind when it comes to governmental services perpetually faced with financial cuts. In my opinion, it is the grass roots non-profit organizations who have figured out how to do more with less and make friends with community partners and survivors of crime who appear to be better equipped to provide the services most needed.

Nuts & Bolts of Victim Impact Statement:

During the sentencing phase of a trial or board of pardons and parole hearing, a crime victim is metaphorically standing at the crossroads of their forever after existence. That person hopefully has given much thought and has decided what is truly important to convey to the court or BPP officials individually, or collectively, with the assistance of a paid advocate or fellow survivor.  As the surviving victim, you should ask yourself before you even attempt to compose a statement, what should be my primary focus? What do I really want?

A review of possible options:

  • The emotional impact and devastation of my loss;
  • Financial  restitution;
  • Requesting a verbal or written apology from the offender;
  • Having the opportunity to add new  information to the formal record with the potential of altering the length and provisions of sentencing;
  • Using this forum for emotional release;
  • Describing the future legacy of your murdered loved one;
  • Educating judicial officials regarding your unique needs and nuances of the process which were previously overlooked but very important to you;
  • Expressing forgiveness to “a higher power” as a way of self-healing;

Other Considerations:

  • In the State of Connecticut when delivering your victim impact statement, you are not limited regarding the length of time, nor is the content edited in any way, according to our Board of Pardons and Parole website and personal experience.
  • In the State of South Carolina, a videotaped statement cannot exceed five minutes in the case of one victim, ten minutes for multiple victims.
  • (Be sure to check with your state as rules vary from state to state.)
  • Physical Environment – During a court sentencing, you will be facing the judge with the defendant behind you or to the right or left of you as you make your presentation.  Your statement is part of the official court record, or hearing.
  • Restitution and Compensation (From the National Center for Victims of Crime) Increasing the likelihood that restitution will be ordered:  Victims can do two things to increase the likelihood that restitution will be ordered in their case: gather information about their financial loss, and request that restitution be ordered.  To increase the chances that restitution will be ordered, victims should make sure their victim impact statement includes a summary of the out-of-pocket expenses resulting from the crime
  • The difference between restitution and compensation: While restitution is court-ordered payment from a convicted offender, crime victim compensation is a state government program that pays many of the out-of-pocket expenses of victims of violent crime even when there is no arrest or prosecution. Ordinarily, to be eligible for compensation the victim is required to report the offense within a certain amount of time, cooperate in the investigation and prosecution, and file an application within a set time. The expenses covered by compensation vary and are usually set by state law. All compensation programs cover medical expenses, most cover counseling, and very few cover any property loss.
  • In comparison, restitution can only be ordered in cases where someone has been convicted. However, restitution can be ordered in almost any case (although courts may be required to order it only for certain offenses), and can be ordered for a wider variety of losses, including property loss. A victim cannot collect both compensation and restitution for the same losses.
  • Technology- Videoconferencing is a concept that has existed since 1996. The clear leader in this area appears to be the State of Michigan. They began in 2004 with the Department of Corrections bringing the total of videoconferencing sites to 64, including five “telemed” sites. Imagine never having to leave prison grounds for prisoner –immigration hearings, dietician and mental health appointments! This is an up and coming industry of vast proportions.  MDs  can even use electronic stethoscopes to listen to heart and lungs and view x-rays instantly! Viola! This is all in the name of reducing costs and increasing efficiency!
  • Is there a line in the sand that needs to be drawn to say that victims of crime also need these innovative heath care services, particularly the elderly after having suffered their tremendous losses? Indeed!
  • “Intangibles”- meaning loss of productivity, medical care, mental health, use of public safety services, property loss, “tangible losses”, “quality of life” loss .  The problem is, the data available is so old – from the National Institute of Justice – January 1996, and can only be used as a general reference. Basically, 19 years ago…
  • Estimates of monetary values, including lost wages were in the range of $500,000 to $7 million;

What is Pain and Suffering and Quality of life really worth?

  • In 1996, violent crime was 3% of all medical spending and 14% of injury related spending and 10-20% of mental health expenditures in the U.S.
  • At that time, losses per incident of criminal victimization (including attempts) looked like this for fatal crimes including rape and murder-
  • Loss of productivity- $1,000,000;
  • Medical Care /Ambulance- $16,300;
  • Social-Victim Services- 0
  • Mental Health – $4,800;
  • Police & Fire Services – $1,300;
  • Property Loss/Damage – $120.00
  • Murder “Tangible Losses (Subtotal) “$1,030.000
  • “Intangible Quality of Life Losses” $1,910.00;
  • Total = $2,940.000

(Reference for above from: https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles/victcost.pdf)

Victim Impact Statement Assistance Service

 

One can assume that for today’s standards, the current cost of living and the escalation of spree and mass murder, these figures may be triple or more per incident. (In my humble opinion)

I do not put much faith in numbers, for they can always be manipulated to serve ones’ point of view, human error is rampant and they do not tell the whole story. I believe that an investment in people and their true life stories illuminate our understanding and pave the way for change far better than what a calculator reveals.

In some cases, the surviving victims may be too emotionally distraught, or may not have the ability to correctly express their feelings. A professional who has experience as a victim of crime, as well as assisting others through trials, can help you put your thoughts into a professionally written statement, and coach you on your delivery in court.

If you are anticipating the task of victim impact statement writing with trepidation, perhaps I can assist.


DonnaGore-2

 

To schedule a presentation with me at your future event or  conference please contact:

ImaginePublicity,  Telephone: 843.808.0859  Email:  contact@imaginepublicity.com

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Crime Victimization: It’s Not Over ‘Til It’s Over

 

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I have come to realize that working with other crime victims is never  a “one and done proposition” when you have invested with your heart as well as your other skills.

Getting Ready

In the beginning, you have a specific assignment, your procedures, your time frame, your technical assistance waiting in the wings, your  “cut to the chase priorities” if needed.

You anticipate need, you craft questions and ways to elicit information that are most helpful. You know how to interview and you have learned that listening to both what is said and not said are equally important. You underestimate your time when time is the most precious commodity.

Changing your Mindset

Sometimes as professionals, (whether paid or unpaid) we sell ourselves short, for we may think that these vulnerable people who have joined the “victim of violent club”  entered kicking and screaming just like us, oh so long ago. As seasoned victim advocates, we must clear out the cobwebs and put ourselves in their role again, not a comfortable position.  However, your pain must be dredged up, now to be used as a teaching tool for others. You must set your personal opinions aside and be the victim, apart from the horrendous crime.  You must comfort, carefully  sprinkling realism on what they may think or may learn from television or  biased media reports.

Ready, Set, Go-Maybe…

You are providing a service ready to go on specified date, but alas, keep in mind that your “colleague in crime” may be grief-stricken, not able to communicate, organize thoughts, not able to go to work, rise from bed on that day, answer e-mails or phone calls. If they can’t face the world today, they can’t be ready for you. You must be prepared. You walk that delicate balance of providing a sense of hope that they will make it through. Although their lives are irreparably changed forever, someday something positive will blossom in their lives because of, in spite o,f the awful event that took their loved one from this earth.  However, you must not make promises you can’t keep.  

The Judicial System

When dealing with the judicial system, they must be prepared that weak evidence, lack of evidence, contradictory evidence ,circumstantial evidence and lack of DNA (the “magic bullet” can all be part of the uncertainty for the jury and hence, reasonable doubt. No matter how much you love your  family member  and present a fair and balanced picture to the court,  the defense can and does readily put the victim on trial, exposing all matter of skeletons in one’s closet!  If the victim was complicit in the crime, not an innocent victim by legal standards, or if  mitigating factors are present (any information or evidence presented to the court regarding the defendant or the circumstances of the crime that might result in reduced charges or a lesser sentence). This includes the very real possibility of a plea bargain-deal.

The Brand New Victim

Is not resilient, cannot anticipate, frequently has few people with whom to compare notes. When discussing their cases with family members (who are often at different places emotionally) more questions than answers are generated, with few if any timely answers. They are resentful, depressed, very angry and so very disillusioned.

The Seasoned Victim Advocate Providing a Service

Provides a lifeline; a yardstick against which to measure the starts and stops, ebb and flow of the process. But most importantly, when hearts ans souls are involved, it is NOT a “One and done”, ‘Bye, see ya’, “Have a nice life.”  How can it possibly be so when you are spiritually kindred souls? A valuable connection has been made when a new crime victim puts their trust in you to “paint the true picture” of their precious loved one.  Afterall, isn’t that that way life should be?  

You hope for a connection that will last.  Even if it cannot be for whatever reason, you know in your heart of hearts, you truly have made a difference and are with them spiritually when they deliver their customized victim impact statement in the mahogany laden room where they hope justice will prevail! This is one of the most difficult chapters. But truly, it will never “be over” for a crime victim.   he fat lady of the opera never sings…. However, victims  can and do evolve from victimization to survivor, and sometimes, a thriver- all very important distinctions!

For assistance with creating customized Victim Impact Statements for families experiencing homicide with sufficient preparation time, see the following link-  https://donnagore.com/victim-impact-statement-assistance/ 


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

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In the End: My Second Victim Impact Statement

tilting the scales of justice, David LaBahn, Shattered Lives, Donna R. Gore, LadyJustice

LadyJustice prevails!

                

April 24th, 2013 – A Lifetime Between Victim Impact Statements

One need only to read a sampling of my voluminous collection of blogs, 400 since 2010, mostly on various topics of crime, to know what I had learned in the intervening years since my initial victim impact statement. Read Part I In the Beginning…..for a synopsis of my experience.

I will list just some of the important differences  in the timing and circumstances that served to shape this second experience of victim impact statement delivery:

  • During the first reading, I truly felt that I was a crime victim whereas I was definitely a survivor of crime during the second opportunity.
  • I had the benefit of many years of experience with other families and the fine legal and advocacy counsel of Michelle S. Cruz
  • I had the benefit of time, which shapes a different perspective, different priorities
  • The impact statement was delivered in a different setting to a team of people as parole hearing officers versus a judge
  • We were able to “have my Father present visually” with custom made photos on easels contributed much to  present the murder victim as a true human being.
  • Several additional family members were present in the tiny room to provide their own statements and support
  • There was the presence of TV monitors with the perpetrator participating from prison and his father in another location with several of us crammed into a tiny hearing room. We looked for any sign of recognition or remorse … There was none.
  • I was so very proud of my mother, in particular,  who had  sacrificed so much and tearfully  delivered her statement with strength and courage
  • The fact that the perpetrator should never have been eligible for parole with additional evidence of serious violence while incarcerated  coming to light, served to motivate us to do our very best to eliminate the possibility of freedom
  • We were able to do a podcast preparing for a victim impact statement – both before and after the fact regarding the outcome  which  provided tremendous validation that we were on top of our game regarding victim’s rights versus those in charge
  • There were innumerable failures to inquire, educate and assist by the assigned parole victim advocate, and a near cancellation due to lack of the required parole officials, served to fuel the fire for justice
  • The fact that we were not initially afforded anonymity, nor our rights as  crime
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    Attorney Michelle S. Cruz

    victims. It was only with herculean effort and skill by Atty. Michelle S. Cruz that we accomplished that and more!

  • Ironically, our hearing was scheduled during National Crime Victim’s Rights Week (Pre-determined by God, no doubt)

It’s all about Style Content and Delivery, Man! 

My Second Victim Impact Statement was longer, bolder, expansive in content,  well written and truly painted a complete picture. For example, I asked for all the time I needed, I skillfully prepared packets of information about my father and a sampling of blogs I had written. I posed questions to the hearing officers, challenging them, but respectfully asking for answers (I received no answers, no communications directly or indirectly from anyone affiliated with the Parole Board. 

The main focus of my statement was to literally provide powerful images I had never forgotten all of these years. Rather than list the usual life milestones my father missed, I detailed accomplishments of which he would be most proud.  I painted an accurate portrait of the pathetic, unremorseful, indifferent career criminal before us, who didn’t know us from Adam and whose attorneys had not bothered to sufficiently prepare.  I recommended what I thought would be a just outcome.

Finally, I ended with, “There are only two ways to look at the future, with fear or hope. I chose hope for all survivors of crime. I refuse to be a victim, but am proud to be as survivor.”

To read the complete version of my Parole Board Victim Impact statement CLICK HERE My detailed report of that day and what transpired is included in this former blog post: Justice and Accountability.

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Donna Gore created a service program for crime victims and offers her assistance in creating a cohesive victim impact statement tailored to the individuals and their cases. If you need her assistance, or would like to consult with her, she can be reached at ladyjusticedonna@gmail.com

*Donna only accepts cases from families of homicide victims, as that is her area of expertise. She does not work in the field of intimate partner violence and cases concerning divorce or custody issues. 

 

A Vicious Crime Blossoms into Victim Advocacy: The Story of Actress Theresa Saldana 

Theresa Saldana

Theresa Saldana

I had the luxury of a little extra time over the weekend and happened upon the “notable deaths” of the year. I perused person after person according to  the calendar date for 2016. Some people were unfamiliar. It made me sad, but in a strange kind of way, I was intrigued when I came to Theresa Saldana. We are very similar in age, and yet she was taken so quickly after surviving a horrible crime!

Theresa was best known to audiences as a New York Actress performing opposite Joe Pesci in the Movie “Raging Bull” and her long-standing TV role as the wife on “The Commish.”

Had Theresa not experienced a shoulder injury, she might have been a Broadway dancer. Rather, she began acting classes at 12. A talent scout sought her out   while performing in an Off Broadway musical called The New York City Street Show in 1977.Following that, she was cast in the 1978 film Nunzio. In 1980, she starred in the movie Defiance about a suspended young seaman (Jan-Michael Vincent) who takes up temporary housing in a neighborhood overrun by a gang while waiting for his next orders to ship out. She played a nice girl in this “revenge thriller movie” as contrasted to the sister-in-law of boxer Jack LaMotta (Robert De Niro).

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Theresa Saldana and Joe Pesci in a scene from “Raging Bull,” from 1980. Credit United Artists, via Photofest (NY Times)

Reportedly, these two movies served to form an obsession in the warped mind of stalker and would be murderer, Arthur Jackson. He stalked Ms. Saldana for 18 months unbeknownst to her. He was described as  a drifter from Scotland who, it is rumored saved up his welfare money to come to the U.S. Jackson supposedly entered the United States illegally and tracked her down with the help of a private detective! (How did a drifter afford to hire a PI? I guess sob stories work wonders for criminals!)

In his diary, Jackson’s delusional writing said he intended to win Ms. Saldana by “sending her that he regretted using a knife on her because “a gun would have given me a better chance of reunion with you in heaven.”

With shades of the Kitty Genovese murder looming, I was horrified to learn that just one person, a passing delivery man heard he screams after she was stabbed 10 times outside her West Hollywood apartment on March 15, 1982.  It was described as such in the Inquisitor – (Had it not been for)”deliveryman Jeff Fenn, she may well have died from her injuries. As it was, her situation was precarious; Jackson had stabbed Theresa Saldana so ferociously that the blade bent. By the time Fenn wrestled the knife away from Jackson and Theresa Saldana had gotten to the hospital, thanks to some paramedics who quickly arrived on scene, a great deal of the blood had drained from her body and her heart had stopped.”

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She spent the next three and a half months hospitalized,  recovering from her near fatal wounds.

In her victim impact statement of 1984, she related to the judge: “I will never forget the searing, ghastly pain, the grotesque and devastating experience of this person nearly butchering me to death, or the bone-chilling sight of my own blood splattered everywhere.

The perpetrator served 15 years in prion in the U.S. and then was extradited to Great Britain for trial involving a 1966 robbery and homicide.  (Just unbelievable that he was not captured for these crimes sooner!) According to the New York Times article, he was sent to a psychiatric hospital, where he died in 2004.

After her recovery, Theresa  founded the Victims for Victims organization that fought for anti-stalking laws then played herself in the 1984 TV movie “Victims for Victims: The Teresa Saldana Story.”

How disconcerting it must have been to play yourself in this movie… Perhaps it was part of her healing process. I so respect her for trying to use her craft to educate others.  The movie was not widely reviewed – http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0088349/

She continued her acting career appearing in several dramatic and comedies into the 1990s. Theresa retired from acting 12 years ago but was a tireless victims’ advocate up until her death on June 6, 2016 at age 61. She was well aware of the importance of advocacy for victims of crime.

Sources reported that she was influential in the passage of two pieces of legislation -two pieces of legislation — 1990’s anti-stalking law and 1994’s Driver’s Privacy Protection Act- part of the Title XXX Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act – a federal statute governing the privacy and disclosure of personal information gathered by state Departments of Motor Vehicles.

 Sad, Angry, Interesting PostScript:

The cause of Theresa Saldana’s death was revealed as pneumonia. I am speculating that all of her chest wounds left irreparable damage and that she may have been very prone to infections after her attack. Yet another impact of a crazed killer – compromising a person’s immune system such that they can’t fight infection… but she fought in other important ways.

Finally, one source I read reported that this violent scenario inspired a copy cat  killer and was used as a “blueprint “ to  stalk and murder  My Sister Sam  sitcom star Rebecca Schaeffer in 1989.

 

 

References – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theresa_Saldana

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/09/arts/television/theresa-saldana-actress-and-attack-survivor-dies-at-61.html?_r=0

http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/06/08/481234857/actress-victims-advocate-theresa-saldana-dead-at-61

http://variety.com/2016/film/news/theresa-saldana-dead-dies-raging-bull-the-commish-1201790703/

http://www.inquisitr.com/3179645/theresa-saldana-best-known-for-the-commish-victims-advocacy-dies-at-61/