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

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

 

 

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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/


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

 

Putting on the Band-Aid for Life  

 

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A colleague mentioned how trying it is to have to put a band-aid on “an ouchy” of a toddler where there was never a mark in the first place. When I thought about it, it seemed like this little gesture of compassion for the sake of a child could be a metaphor for life.

There are many types of people in the world. There are the drama queens – histrionic people with an over-exaggerated sense of everything in hopes of getting and keeping attention. There are the risk takers who truly live by the adrenaline pump with their behaviors – extreme sports, daredevil acts in hopes of achieving that ever higher goal “just because it’s there” as they clearly find everything else in life totally mundane. There are also those of us who by normal standards have been through hell and back and still function well because of an extraordinary amount of resilience.

Crime victims either excel at resilience with some practice or they bask in their victimhood and are never able to graduate to a new normal. I have written much on this topic in the past and at times, marvel at my ability to personally tolerate stuff that others could never approach. There is a danger in developing this sense of taking in the pain of others all the time. You can do so selectively and intensely feel that which you relate to best, or at the other extreme, become intolerant of the little annoyances of life that non-crime victims experience.

Do I really care that your computer crashed, that you can’t find your car keys, that your dog ate your new slippers? Not really. It is a sense of perspective and using your personal life experience as a yardstick. This can be dangerous, as a person who has experienced much trauma in life can be perceived as uncaring toward others. I have survived and succeeded because I try to concentrate on the big stuff. (and also have a sense of detail and organization to maintain control.) When the little stuff happens to me though, I am my own worst enemy with absolutely no patience.

I fear that there is a massive dumbing down taking place in our American culture in many aspects –an oversimplification of intellectual issues to find life more palatable.

As I write this, we have sustained yet another massive assault on human life in the Orlando tragedy that has many layers of the onion still to be analyzed.  It would be unfair of any of us to oversimplify. However, we all do it daily so that we might carry on.

The key to life is balance and respecting others.  I have to secretly remind myself sometimes that the fact that someone’s dog that ate the slippers is traumatic to them, if not to me. We have to give everyone his or her band-aid after all. Some of us wear big band-aids for life while others wear them temporarily.  However, as crime invades more and more of our lives, in a sad way, we are coming together with more in common every day.

I hope that if we are perpetually headed for the dark side, we can also relish the good and come together in solidarity.   All of us need to pay attention to the big and little traumas, while putting them in perspective for a healthier existence. And… just maybe the toddler with a non-existent trauma is smart…as he/she is getting prepared for life.

And She Said…. “I Can Find Another Job…I Can’t Find Another Sister”

From left to right: Maureen Brainard-Barnes’s sister, Melissa Cann; Amber Costello’s sister, Kimberly Overstreet; Megan Waterman’s mother, Lorraine Ela; Melissa Barthelemy’s mother, Lynn; and Shannan Gilbert’s mother, Mari.  

(Photo: Mary Ellen Mark)


Melissa “Missy” Cann carries on valiantly….. contending with multiple life tragedies…    She is a mother, wife, sister, supportive friend and volunteer.  But, who could have known that she would literally and figuratively walk the path where the Long Island Serial Killer stalked and ultimately killed his victims?   She could not have known… nor was she prepared for this journey!

However, Missy has willingly taken a “crash course” in crime victimization like no other…  Her mission is to raise reward money for other victims and their families…     But more importantly, she seeks accuracy, and respect from the media and the general public when speaking about these victims! 

Listen to interview with Melissa Cann: CLICK HERE

We at “Shattered Lives” chose to put the spotlight on the positive aspects of Maureen Brainard- Barne’s life…. Because she deserves it… and because it’s the right thing to do….

What You Will Learn From this “Shattered Lives” episode:

  • Why Missy is “going the extra mile” for other victims of the L.I. Serial Killer;
  • Maureen- a portrait of a budding poet and lyricist; “Hug-A-War not Tug –A-War;”
  • Staying in touch with the other families… like her “Morning Coffee;”
  • Candlelight Vigils – past and in the future…;
  • The Mission with Crimestoppers that Drives Missy;
  • Planning for the Future with “Stunts 4Justice” [http://stunts4justice.webs.com//]
  • Names Mean Something….  A report card on the media and theories of  “Amateur Super Sleuths” (Fear versus Rumor);
  • Maureen’s early life…;
  • Missy’s sources of support…. How she keeps going…;
  • The importance of taking care of yourself- juxtaposed with “Doing for others more than you doing for yourself;”
  • Missy’s personal goals… “If I can save one person…;”
  • How to help: Crimestoppers and the Suffolk County Police Department;

https://www.everribbon.com/stunts4justice;

http://www.suffolkcountyny.gov/Departments/Police.aspx

  • What is the greatest need for the group of surviving families?
  • Great idea –   A new support group in the future!
  • New crime victims – When and how to reach out versus the “downward spiral;”
  • The trip to Time’s Square by Missy’s husband and brother… “When Something is Wrong, you just Have to React;”
  • Missy’s Personal Tragedy at age 21- The Accident… “The Middle Child Who Almost Wasn’t;” and Waking Up with her Sister, Maureen at her side…;
  • The NamUS Conference in Connecticut ; http://www.ct.gov/ova/lib/ova/NAMEUS_REGISTRATION.pdf;
  • Help is Needed… to Plan other Events….. Get Involved!
  • Presenting the $30,000 Check at Summer’s End;
  • Missy’s parting message….  Be persistent… Be the Voice for those who are missing!
  •  What Imagine Publicity and “Ladyjustice” have to offer you….