A Cry for Help in the Middle of the Night

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The job of a crime victim advocate is by no means a 9 to 5 existence.  Fragile human beings often can’t adhere to time schedules.  Their lives have spun out of control.

Those who are paid advocates answer the phone during business hours, leave an 800 number or advice to call 911 during off hours.  But, the trouble is trauma and life and death situations just don’t conform.

A person may be actively grieving, in physical, emotional or psychological pain. They may be terrified of some event in their life, not realizing why they remain helpless. Past decisions often place them in circumstances they could never foresee.

Armchair critics can easily point fingers and pass judgement regarding the complexities of people’s lives, not realizing that their own situations can change in a New York minute if the Gods foretell.

In the many years I have worked with victims, each is unique in some way, and yet there is a constant familiar ring to their personal stories, their desperation, the longer you listen.

Examples – (Frequently Intimate Partner Violence in nature)

“Please reply before he kills me”  “He ignored the restraining order”  I went to the police, but they did nothing.  I have no money.  I’m afraid for my children. The system in the State of ____ is totally against me.   I can’t escape him as he watches my every move” “I don’t have a phone.”

In a previous blog post, Homicide as a Steady Diet, I discussed the fact that I am at risk of being typecast as a homicide expert with nothing else to offer. Regardless of people’s reading habits or radio listening preferences, I fight against this image, as it is just not true.

Insatiable appetite for violence or not, I will not be painted as a one trick pony. At the other end of the spectrum are the indiscriminate victims reaching out to anyone and everyone. There are two groups of people I worry about:

1)  The truly terrorized, as in intimate partner violence victims and,

2) Those who perceive injustices to themselves. Their pervasive victimization as so great, having been worn down by the system so badly, that they lash out at everyone and become truly toxic in their words and actions. It is a poison that no one can alleviate.

If you read between the lines, the former group may want to be helped and truly lack the resources, the support, the resiliency, and the know how. Fear may have immobilized them. They actually say, “I am going to die and don’t know where to turn.”  Imagine their burdens, but try to imagine the responsibility and the burden it also imposes on the receiving end of compassionate, helpful, well intentioned people.  

The second group of people may say they want help, but their account is so vile, the blame towards others so pervasive, without taking any personal responsibility, that they just want a stage upon which to vent their rage. 

Why is the distinction of these two groups important? It is important to me as you have to think quickly on your feet as it can sincerely be a matter of life and death.

Lucky for me, these desperate cries for help do not come as a steady diet, but they do come to my website, particularly related to intimate partner violence. I do not invite them. They are indiscriminate. They are supposed to leave information about victim impact statement inquiries and they ignore the instructions.

For the record, I do have a working knowledge of IPV, thanks to Susan Murphy Milano and many other colleagues over the years. However, this does not qualify me as an expert, nor do I necessarily want to take on these issues as my own.  It appears that the Tracey Thurman blog post has created a monster of sorts in this area.  I suspect that my well researched, carefully written and wildly popular blog of this historic Connecticut case is the culprit here.   I gratefully accept the exposure it has given me, but it can be a double edged sword.

Readers, please do not confuse my God given talent as a superior writer to tell a story with expertise in every subject matter pertaining to crime!

Just a couple of weeks ago on a December night when I had gone to bed, my phone lit up and “whooshed” a message.  A response was sent by a colleague to a true life or death IPV victim who wrote to me in desperation. I so appreciated her rapid response, for intuitively, we both know it was very serious.

It matters not that this victim did not follow the rules and used my personal website as a call for help.  It only matters that good and useful information was provided at a moment’s notice when needed. I only hope that the women chose to follow through with the information.  Bless you, my friend for helping. Much love to you for caring in my place. You just may have saved a life.  CALL IT GRACE…..

 

 

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82 Years Young, If Only, a Tribute to My Father

 

astronomical-clock-226897_640Sign of the Zodiac

Being a Virgo born on August 26th, you often impress others with your discipline, trustworthiness and generosity. While you may not feel every aspect of life is important, you take great care in dealing with those you do find value in. Your discipline allows you to be methodical and organized, which explains why you rarely let a detail go unnoticed. Your friends and family admire your work ethic, but appreciate you more because of your generosity. You may fail to notice it, but there are many times when you are more concerned with the needs of your loved ones than your own physical or emotional needs.

Element

The Virgo’s paired element is Earth and in fact, you are the only zodiac sign with fixed relationship to the element. At times you are the perfect representation of “down to Earth.” You are practical and rational in your expectations and goals. You find great comfort in being grounded, which is why stability is one of your most important needs. Embracing these positive qualities of Earth will allow you to achieve what you have envisioned for yourself. 

Not so true (in my opinion…)

“Take care to avoid the negative qualities of Earth, which included becoming overly cautious and safe in all aspects of life.”

My Dad was a risk taker, a “seize the opportunity” kind of person in business and personally.

We can speculate that perhaps, the forces that came to bear, put him in the wrong place, at the wrong time with the wrong kind of people resulting in his murder.

Planetary Influence

Your sign’s planetary ruler is Mercury and as you were born in the first Decan, or part, of the sign, you are subject to a double dose of Mercury’s power. Mercury is primarily the planet of communication and is responsible for the clever, witty and intellectual workings of your mind. You often use your mental abilities to help others, as you can quickly notice when someone needs help. While you often use your mind for generous purposes, you can easily use the same dedication to solve any problem you face Interestingly enough, you may be such a disciplined worker that you may fail to see the big picture at times, but luckily this is not a prominent flaw. 

Beyond the Planetary Influences….

Don Gore

Don Gore, my father would be 82 years old today

How do you observe a birthday that will never be? In some ways, like tick marks on the wall to measure your ever-growing child, birthdays are innocuous, but there.  But, in the case of a loved one who abruptly left this earthly soil more than 34 years ago; it’s hard to conjure up what my Dad would be like at age 82. With his engaging nature, “a little rough around the edges” and workaholic nature, I’m sure he wouldn’t be sitting around.  I remember when once asked if he’s take up golf, he said he “didn’t see the sense in chasing after a little ball with a stick.” That makes me smile.

Rather, his claim to fame was his hard-driving, quick thinking involvement on the motorcycle scrambles circuit, in which he won many New England championships.

From the Homicide Anniversary –April 17, 2015

 

The passage of time fades all memories.  We remember good memories, but the most vivid regarding his murder stay with me as well. I ask myself, what would he think of the events of 2015? Hmmm… Our ability to “go with the flow” depends upon our unique personality, our upbringing and past experiences in life. If I were to guess, I would say, he would embrace those conveniences and conventions that were important to him, and cast aside everything else!

To say, “Dad you haven’t missed much” is a gross understatement regarding family and other accomplishments. To say we have fared well with a lot of trial and error and finding new niches would be true. However, I prefer to say, we still miss you, and I’ll see you again in 30+ years if I’m fortunate enough to continue my earthly missions until then!

The planets aligned my Mother and Father’s birthdays just 11 days apart! I wonder what that means?

Happy 82nd Birthday, Dad!

Additional References- http://www.famousbirthdays.com/horoscope/august26.html

Victims’ Wish List

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On Saturday, May 9, 2015, it wasn’t a case of “too many cooks spoil the broth” on Shattered Lives Radio– it was “many cooks make the broth” when crime victim advocate put their heads’ together on behalf of the public!

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It was really a “meeting of great minds.”  The groundbreaking show can best be described covering a very unusual parole reversal case, combined with victims’ rights policy and the honoring of a fallen police officer who became the victim of a ruthless homicide.

Toward the end of the show, a “wish list” of sorts was created by guest contributors Attorney and former CT State Victim Advocate, Michelle S. Cruz, CT Survivors of Homicide Advocate, Jessica Norton- Pizzano and Plainville, CT Chief of Police Matt Catania.

“How much time do I have? “was Michelle’s question.

Michelle Cruz’s Ideas for Reform:

  1. Devise a checklist of locations to search for family members (for notification purposes)  based upon their former geographic locations,  employment, other known affiliations, special interests etc.  It is high time that Board of Pardons and Parole and Victim Advocates “think out of the box” in an attempt to reach out in every possible way for this important purpose.  In addition to the usual social media,  I’ll add Ancestry.com as a possibility!
  2. Alter the notification period currently from the standard 35 days to at least six months to a year!  Revolutionary? Yes, but in view of how long it takes for state agencies to do their work and the knowledge that attorneys assisting seldom have the flexibility to alter their calendars in 30 days in the midst of court trials etc, this is a realistic time frame.

As seen in the Robert Holcomb parole hearing, relying on outdated documentation and “not going the extra mile” to locate family members for parole hearings, made for an intolerable situation!

  1. “Put some teeth” into the system In other words,  if any one of the many constitutional rights of a crime victim is violated, no matter the reason or the person committing the violation, build in real consequences! What might those consequences be, you ask? I offer: docking someone’s pay, suspension from work, remuneration to the victim from “the party who failed to act.”

Jessica Norton-Pizzano’s Ideas  (via the CT Victim Rights’ Enforcement Advisory Council )

  1. Create a central place to compile, and display victims’ rights information from all agencies  in all court settings including Survivors of Homicide, (SOH), Mother’s Against Drunk Drivers,  (MADD), Connecticut Sexual Assault Crisis Services (CONNSACS), Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence (CCADV), The Office of Victim Services, (OVS) ,and The Office of the Victim Advocate (OVA).  This could include information desks, special kiosks etc.
  2. Establish a long-term notification system , in particular including minor children, as they will be the  future representatives for cases in which parents and other relatives pass on over time.
  3. Utilize the full capacities of SAVIN.  Include another box on the form that would provide for in person notification if the family chooses.  Refer to one of my former blog posts:  The Most Important “Head’s Up EVER! The Victim Information Notification System (VINE)

Police Chief Matt Catania’s Ideas

  1. It is vital to keep the human touch in the process versus relying on “paper and  electronic methods” as we continue to serve victims of crime.

It should be noted that it was Matt’s valiant efforts to unearth the true nature of the injustices done to the Robert Holcomb family, to strategically work collaboratively  and with sensitivity for family members using uncompromising standards so  that  justice was done for both families!

“Nothing can replace the power of human contact and compassion.”  LadyJustice

PLEASE listen to this podcast and share.

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The Multi-Faceted Aspects of Murder- A Tutorial of “Murder 101”

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At this point in time, in our American history, we are on the heels of the 50th anniversary of the John F. Kennedy assassination.  In 1963, we all were struck by a plethora of emotions – shock, disbelief, anger, incredible sadness and overwhelming collective grief. Why?  In my opinion, this President represented all that was new and spurred our hopes for a bright future. JFK captivated the nation and the world!  But… in truth, we didn’t know him personally. However, he captivated us as if he was a family member.  Just imagine… if a “political stranger’s” death can affect us in such a way, what must it be like when murder happens to our immediate family and friends?  That is the question… and the real life situation that tries many people’s souls.  How do we understand this type of loss as compared to other types?

“Shattered Lives” hosts invited as their guest, psychologist Alyssa Rheingold, Ph.D. of the National Crime Victims Center located at the Medical University of South Carolina to discuss such issues and try to answer the hard questions based upon her research and expertise.

 LISTEN TO THIS PODCAST

  • Intimate Partner Violence PSA by Amy Robinson
  • Introduction to our guest
  • An overview of what homicide looks like…
  • LJ asks why there is not more research on homicide.
  • Alyssa explains what the Medical University of South Carolina offers
  • If you can’t come in…. they have clinicians that go to the home and do community visits
  • “These victims need more than a support group”- a hole in the needs of an underserved populationrheingold_13
  • Trainings and their program as a model
  • The level of preconceived planning – the crux of the terms murder versus homicide
  • Signs and symptoms common in homicide
  • Some variables- Stigma, law enforcement, media involvement,
  • Intensity, recovery time, greater risk of having other mental health problems
  • Delilah marvels about inner strength, the human spirit, rebounding and “coming to a fork in the road” What is it about the makeup of people?
  • Alyssa responds about resiliency – the factors involved
  • Ladyjustice personally “figuring out a way to cope successfully with homicide”
  • Ladyjustice asks about other problem areas that people may not always recognize
  • Example – When the breadwinner is murdered
  • When you begin to heal… and then the trial…
  • The dilemma of religion when a homicide occurs
  • Therapists working with homicide victims – Are they qualified?
  • Prolonged grief- What is it and what is done to get “unstuck?”
  • Discussion of positively reinforcing behaviors
  • LJ asks about progress of the trial and amount of grief– Are they emotionally linked.
  • What do you do with victims whose cases have gone cold? “Life on hold”
  • Delilah asks about families of missing persons and no “event” to overcome.
  • Discussion of those who need and respond best to counselling versus others
  • The problems with “friends”
  • Working with families and different styles of grieving
  • The holidays-  The stress and the grief
  • Alyssa’s advice:   “No shoulds” “Anything goes”  as long as it isn’t harmful
  • Being alone versus support on anniversary days and holidays…
  • Plan ahead for integrating your loved one into the holiday in some way
  • Entering the homicide support group setting- What it’s like? The bond of loss…
  • Alyssa’s advice – You are not alone… there is support and help out there if you reach out.
  • Discussion of Parents of Murdered Children (POMC ) and other victims beyond parents
  • Contact Information:  Dr. Alyssa A. Rheingold, Ph.D. c/o National Crime Victims Center, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Medical University of South Carolina E-mail:  rheingaa@musc.edu

Questions for Listeners

  • How many people are killed via homicide each year?
  • How did their level of care at MUSC start?
  • What does their model of service consist of?
  • What’s the difference between the terms homicide versus murder?
  • How are my symptoms of grief with the passing of “Aunt Betty” different from grief in a homicide?
  • Are some people more prepared to withstand homicide- Why, or why-not?
  • Examples of cases- Managing beyond the system- What other complications can occur?
  • Do you have to “forgive” in order to move on?
  • What does an assessment for counseling entail?
  • How can victims work on their acceptance of the homicide?
  • How do you find enjoyment in things that remind you of your loved one?
  • Is there a medication for grief?
  • What are “okay” behaviors in grieving versus the need- timetable for counselling?
  • How can we get through the holidays in a better way after such a loss?
  • How can you feel more comfortable in a support group?
  • Where can you find a support group if you are not in a big city?

 The Multi-Faceted Aspects of Murder- A Tutorial of “Murder 101”

The comments expressed on this website or on the broadcasts of Shattered Lives do not necessarily reflect the opinions or beliefs of the hosts, producers, or other guests.