Working With Victims of Gang Violence Session
Regina Sobieski, Christopher Grant  -  2012/12/5
http://ovc.ncjrs.gov/ovcproviderforum
 
 
It seems as though there is no national database to find gang intervention specialists. Do you have recommendations on how to locate these resources in communities across the nation? Thank you.
 
1.  Whitney Polen
 Since gangs are such a problem why isn't there a database like VICAP in place to keep track of these gangs and the problem they make? It would also make it easy to track them if and when they crossed state lines..
 
2.  Christopher
 I am not aware of such a national database, but you should be able to find information about gang intervention specialists through your local or regional gang investigators associations. An excellent resource is the National Alliance of Gang Investigators Associations. NAGIA is a cooperative organization representing 20 state and regional gang investigators associations with over 20,000 members. Go to www.nagia.org and click on the link to connect with the association for your geographic area. Another excellent resource is the National Gang Center, which can be accessed via www.nationalgangcenter.gov.
 
 
We have been focusing on working with domestic violence victims whose batterers are gang members (and who may themselves be gang members). Can you suggest how to best provide services for that population? Are you aware of any programs that address that specific population?
 
1.  Regina
 Great question Eve! Working with victims of domestic violence who also are associated with gangs can be problematic. If a person is seeking help due to domestic violence I would encourage you to provide the services in much the same fashion as you would with anyone else with the caveat of informing the Prosecutors office and local law enforcement that you are working with such a victim.
 
 
Have you worked with any girls that are victims of commercial sexual exploitation by gangs? Can you speak to any specific programs for these victims?
 
1.  Sheryl Stokes
 The Family Advocacy Division at the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children is a resource for professionals and families searching for resouces for victims of commercial sexual exploitation. The division has contacts in many states that focus on the treatment of commerically sexually exploited youths.
 
2.  Regina
 I would suggest contacting the following organizations that devotee their time to assisting survivors of commercial exploitation. Be sure to contact your County Prosecutors office and the FBI to inquire about the specifics of the criminal organization responsible for their abuse. The information may help you provide more appropriate intervention to aid the survivors in their healing journey. http://www.womenslaw.org/gethelp.php Women’s Law Org. has a list of agencies across US that assist with Trafficking/Prostitution/Sexual Exploitation http://www.thesilverbraid.org/ The Silver Braid Survivors of Sexual Exploitation Network http://www.womensweb.ca/violence/resources.php Women's Web - Violence against women and children: National Resources regarding Women
 
3.  Regina
 (con't)Not unlike non-gang related domestic violence victims they are terrified of their abusers and the ramifications of talking with you could be have serious consequences for the victim. Many times the only way for a person to leave the gang for good is through relocation. Talk to your County Prosecutor’s office for such program information. I have also included a web address of a highly regarding District Attorney’s Victim/Witness Unit in Orange County, California. http://www.orangecountyda.com or CSP Gang Victim Services: (714) 935-7492 - Responds 24 hours a day to provide crisis intervention and assistance to victims and families of hate crimes and gang violence.
 
4.  Christopher
 Although I have not worked directly within this particular area, I am aware of one program that may be a good starting point for you to access further information. The Minnesota Indian Women’s Sexual Assault Coalition was founded in 2001 to address sexual assault and domestic violence in tribal communities, but I believe their work currently extends beyond victimization of Native American women. I would encourage you to check their website at www.miwsac.org for further information about potential additional resources or programs.
 
 
Are there any best practices for grief support to victims of gang violence?
 
1.  Regina
 I am not aware of any best practices for grief support to victims of gang violence. I would first suggest not holding a support group with both "innocent victims of gang-related crime" and those who were associated with the gang life style. The depth of pain experienced by anyone whose loved one was senselessly and violently killed is beyond words, however the tendency to place blame, anger, frustration, etc. can often be taken out on those mourning the loss of their loved one who chose to associate with known gang-members. I would suggest providing individual grief support for those whose grief is more complicated.
 
2.  Christopher
 One of the recommendations I want to make to everyone today is to become a member of the National Gang Center’s Gang Information Mailing List. GANGINFO is an electronic forum for sharing information about every aspect of the gang subculture. Members include the criminal justice community, youth agency workers, community grassroots organizations, youth agency workers, social workers, educators and others with an interest in sharing information about gang activity. Over the years I have received a great deal of worthwhile information via this forum, which allows people to post questions, such as the one you pose, and receive information and insight from specialists across the country. To become a member of the GANGINFO Mailing List, go to http://www.nationalgangcenter.gov/GANGINFO.
 
 
What new legislative initiatives at the state level do you feel are good models for other states, and what would you recommend that has not yet been introduced in any state?
 
1.  Christopher
 I usually don’t make recommendations about legislative models, since they vary from one state to another. However, I believe that both Washington State and California have been progressive in their effort to implement effective gang legislation. Once again I recommend the National Gang Center as a resource for this type of information. If you go to their website at www.nationalgangcenter.gov and enter "gang legislation" in the search box, you’ll find news articles pertaining to legislative models.
 
 
Asked on behalf of the Victimology & Victim Services course @ Becker College - Worcester MA... Good Afternoon, What types of strategies do you use to protect victimized youth's (and their families) from further victimization and gang relaliation, particularly if the youth is a gang member themself? Thank you.
 
1.  Regina
 (con't)The following are outstanding organizations that can provide best practices for your community. The second edition of the OJJDP report Best Practices To Address Community Gang Problems: OJJDP's Comprehensive Gang Model.It describes the research that produced the model and offers best practices obtained from practitioners with years of experience in planning, implementing, and overseeing variations of the model within their communities. The National Gang Center Web site features the latest research about gangs; descriptions of evidence-based, anti-gang programs; and links to tools, databases, and other resources to assist in developing and implementing effective community-based gang prevention, intervention, and suppression strategies. http://www.nationalgangcenter.gov/
 
2.  Regina
 Unfortunately, like many strategies to address gang activity most efforts are designed to fit the particular locale. I have included several websites of organizations that help communities address gang related topics. If retaliation is imminent and lives are in danger relocation is likely the only viable avenue. I know firsthand of communities that were able to relocate such youth and their families. Sometimes the families are relocating just across town and on occasion out of state. This takes tremendous coordination of your County Prosecutors office, as well as the US Marshals Service, Witness Protection Section. Local law enforcement agencies will need to be made aware of the situation but can only do so much given their limited resources.
 
 
what are some ways that a victim of gang violence cope with their ordeal?
 
1.  Christopher
 Although all forms of criminal victimization are traumatic, gang victimization can be particularly significant because of the constant fear of re-victimization, and the threats and intimidation that often accompany the initial crime. I have always recommended that gang crime victims become connected to the victim advocacy program within their jurisdiction, if such programs are available, to assure that their needs and concerns are heard and addressed to the greatest extent possible. Beyond this, victims of gang crimes also need a foundation of support, including family, faith-based organizations and counseling to help them deal with what they have experienced. I realize such resources are not always available, but at a minimum such recommendations should be made and provided if possible.
 
2.  Regina
 Generally speaking victims of similar crimes will display the common emotions associated with that criminal victimization. Depending on the circumstances, it could be anger, fear, shame, embarrassment, shock, depression, isoloation to just name a few. Coping mechanisms differ from person to person depending on their past history, current mental health state before the victimization and support system available. Fear of retaliation is usually present with victims of gang violence.
 
 
If the victim of gang violence is in the same home as the offender, i.e. (domestic) the offender and victim are both gang member, and are family, how to proceed?
 
1.  Christopher
 Steven...I agree with you completely.
 
2.  Steven Sachs
 After 35 years of working in Probation. I now see, (due to the socio-economic mileu) fathers, uncles, son, from oposing gangs living under the same roof, with no alternative living arrangements. At times we simply cannot say, go live at your aunt's, when the uncle is in an oposing gang.
 
3.  Christopher
 Steven…this situation is particularly problematic, as it involves a domestic relationship exacerbated by gang affiliation. However, I believe the best approach to this is to handle the matter the same as any other domestic abuse situation would be handled, with the caveat that at some point the cycle of violence will need to be broken by one of the parties disconnecting from the relationship. I realize this isn’t a very thorough answer, but it’s the best I can come up with right now. I suggest looking for further information through some of the national domestic abuse organizations, which I believe Regina made mention of in a previous posting.
 
4.  Regina
 Gang violence victims often live with or among the perpetrators of their crimes; Victims and witnesses fear the entire gang, as opposed to a sole perpetrator; Victims and witnesses are frequently intimidated into not cooperating with the criminal justice system Another facet to the uniqueness of Gang Violence Victimization- is that some victims are gang members who "contribute" to violence, many victims and survivors receive a lack of sympathy and services from the criminal justice system because of inferences that they have contributed to the crime in some way, such as it’s their "choice" to participate in gang lifestyle
 
5.  Regina
 Unfortunately, this situation is more common than we want to realize.. I suggest offering assistance if desired, and planting the seeds with the victim as often as possible to strive for a better life by completing their education, refraining as much as possible from criminal activity and encouraging them to respect themselves enough to seek a more fulfilling life. It is a challenge but worth it if you can keep even one person of perpetuating the gang lifestyle.
 
 
I work with physicians (pediatricians, specifically). Are you aware of any ongoing interventions provided by the medical community when they treat either victims or gang members, themselves? Thank you!
 
1.  Heather F.
 Thank you both! I have joined the Gang Center mailing list and I will definitely post the question there, as well.
 
2.  Christopher
 Unfortunately I am not aware of any such processes within the medical community. However, I think this would be an excellent question to pose on the National Gang Center’s Gang Information Mailing List. I mentioned this resource in a previous post, but if you need more information on how to access that site, let me know and I’ll re-post the information.
 
3.  Regina
 I'm sorry I"m not aware of any successful interventions provided by the medical community.Several locations have tried diligently in the 1990's and even into the early 2000 but the impact was short lived and the hospitals or morgues became unsafe for the employees and or visitors.
 
 
Do you find that victims of gang violence are also perpetrators of violence? What is your suggestion on handling these 2 identities?
 
1.  Christopher
 Stephanie…as I mentioned in a previous post, I believe there are a number of similar characteristics, since gang-involved individuals tend to have a proclivity toward violence, along with a tendency to be controlling and abusive…traits that are very similar to domestic abusers. In fact, some of the worst gang violence occurs within gangs and between members of the same gang. This is one of the elements I point out to individuals in attempting to assist them in disconnecting from the gang lifestyle…the fact that the potential to experience violence within the gang can be as powerful as the potential to experience violence at the hands of gang rivals.
 
2.  Stephanie U
 Do you think that gang members that are also victims are victims of inter- or intra- gang violence? Can you talk about the motivations for intra-gang violence?
 
3.  Christopher
 Great question, Stephanie, and the answer is “yes”. It is not unusual for gang members to have various roles within their involvement, including that of suspect, witness and victim. Obviously, if a gang member is involved in victimizing others, they need to experience the consequences of such behavior. But gang members are always most “vulnerable” when they are victims and this is often the best time to attempt to engage them in changing their patterns of behavior, as they tend to realize their own mortality.
 
 
Gang violence also includes the "seasoning" of victims for involvement in prostitution as the currently trending financial elements of gang activity. Sex trafficking elements of gang violence are documented by Dr. Laura Lederer http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2011/10/4034/ What resources for these victims may be available?
 
 
What are best practices around helping a community heal after being a victim of gang violence?
 
1.  Stephanie U
 Thank you both. I was thinking more along the lines of the community as a victim, and in these communities I believe you have individual victims that are both gang involved and not.
 
2.  Regina
 (con't) You didn't mention if the victim was involved with the gang or not? Depending on the answer will have a lot to do with how you approach the community. If the person was a random innocent victim of gang activity you would focus people more on the person who killed senselessly and how the survivors could do something positive in their name. If the person was involved with a gang- you would try to focus on the consequences of gang-life and coming together as a community to reduce gang activity.
 
3.  Christopher
 There is no doubt that the impact of gang violence upon the community at large can be significant. At the same time, however, such events provide communities with the opportunity to unite toward addressing the root issues of such violence and strategize ways to avoid re-victimization. Public forums, meetings and education are some of the approaches that can be effective. The main thing, however, is the importance of acknowledging the issue and taking steps to address it, as opposed to downplaying or ignoring the problem in the hopes it won’t happen again.
 
4.  Regina
 The following are outstanding organizations that can provide best practices for your community. The second edition of the OJJDP report Best Practices To Address Community Gang Problems: OJJDP's Comprehensive Gang Model.It describes the research that produced the model and offers best practices obtained from practitioners with years of experience in planning, implementing, and overseeing variations of the model within their communities. The National Gang Center Web site features the latest research about gangs; descriptions of evidence-based, anti-gang programs; and links to tools, databases, and other resources to assist in developing and implementing effective community-based gang prevention, intervention, and suppression strategies. http://www.nationalgangcenter.gov/
 
 
In terms of domestic violence, it has been mentioned that sometimes victims are gang members themselves. Are there any legal services that would protect a victim who is a gang member?
 
1.  Christopher
 In my opinion, the fact that an individual is a gang member doesn’t change their status as a victim. Therefore, the same services that are provided to a non-gang victim should be applied to a victim who is gang-involved. At the same time, such victimization affords a potential opportunity to engage the individual in changing their behavior, since such events tend to cause some individuals to realize the potential impact of what they’re involved in.
 
2.  Regina
 I am sure what you are asking but a victim who is gang member may receive assistance but they will have to renounce their gang, testify against the gang if necessary and possibly be relocated. Full cooperation with law enforcement and any other entities would be required to receive such assistance.
 
 
What is the best way to work with a victim of gang violence (who themselves is in a gang) and the defendant (who is also in an opposing gang) that are family members, i.e. a son and uncle)? There are no alternative living arrangements for either.
 
1.  Christopher
 Steven…you’re much more of an authority on the gang issue than I am, so I can only speak from personal experience based upon my work. When there are no alternative living arrangements, options are certainly limited. This is where the importance of creativity comes in. Perhaps the individual could be moved to live with a relative living in another community far from where the problem is occurring. Or in the absence of that option, if the person is old enough, perhaps they could be introduced to a program of some kind…like Job Corp…that would take them out of the gang environment. I mention both of these things because I have used them successfully. But the bottom line is that you are correct…this is one of the most challenging scenarios of all.
 
 
Do you feel there is a similarity of characteristics between gang violence and domestic violence?
 
1.  Christopher
 Yes…I do believe there are a number of similar characteristics, since gang-involved individuals tend to have a proclivity toward violence, along with a tendency to be controlling and abusive…traits that are very similar to domestic abusers. In fact, some of the worst gang violence occurs within gangs and between members of the same gang. This is one of the elements I point out to individuals in attempting to assist them in disconnecting from the gang lifestyle…the fact that the potential to experience violence within the gang can be as powerful as the potential to experience violence at the hands of gang rivals.
 
2.  Regina
 Yes. Domestic violence cuts across all walks of life. Batters all have similar charisteristics and can be present in many different types of people- doctors, lawyers, teachers or gang members who all are preying on their helpfless victims. Power and control know no bounds and CEOs to gang members can all crave it.
 
 
G.R.E.A.T. Gang Resistance Education and Awareness Training - How can we get them to integrate empathy for victims and prevention of becoming a victim of sexual exploitation by gangs (ie recognizing a recruiter male/female, and handlers who may or may not be gang members)?
 
1.  Christopher
 I am a strong supporter of the GREAT program and I believe it has made a difference in terms of our national approach to the gang prevention issue. Having said this, I know that the policymakers within the GREAT program are always looking for ways to improve what they do. I can provide you with an excellent contact within the GREAT program to discuss your question, if you’d like. You can contact me off-line for that information via nativegangs@gmailcom.
 
2.  Regina
 The G.R.E.A.T program is wonderful for at-risk young youth. I'm not sure if you can convince the authors to change their successful curriculum but I would encourge you to develop that important piece as supplemental information following the G.R.E.A.T. training classes.
 
 
Do you have any suggestions around successful community education or public awareness? also specific services that state-based victim compensation programs could identify and provide?
 
1.  Regina
 Yes, I have mention the OJJDP Comprehensive Gang Model several times in this Forum. Please download this publication as it offers many different straegies from across the United States. Also you may want to visit the federal initiative: Project Safe Neigborhoods website and learn about the many PR campaigns developed for anti-gun and gang activities. www.psn.gov/
 
2.  Steven Sachs
 One way would be is to get in contact with local law enforcement and have someone on the force with gang expertise have a mini "gang summit" replete with hand outs, displays, etc. Im my opinion it should well advertised, and could held at a school, park district, or library. It should also be held in the evenings. We held one at a school, in the summer, here in northern Illinois and it was, how we say, not well attended. Food for thought.
 
 
The role of social and emotional learning in gang intervention and prevention
 
1.  Regina
 Please contact the following organization. The following is an outstanding organization that can provide best practices for your community. The second edition of the OJJDP report Best Practices To Address Community Gang Problems: OJJDP's Comprehensive Gang Model. It describes the research that produced the model and offers best practices obtained from practitioners with years of experience in planning, implementing, and overseeing variations of the model within their communities.
 
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