Working with Survivors of Homicide and Other Traumatic Events
Carroll Ann Ellis  -  2007/11/8
http://ovc.ncjrs.gov/ovcproviderforum
 
 
In working with Survivors of Homicide over the last year, one of the most common concerns of the survivors is the lack of empathy and information from law enforcement agencies and the criminal justice system. Do you have some ideas for survivors in small jurisdictions to advocate for their needs and concerns with law enforcement? Doris Weaver, Advocate for Survivors of Homicide Victims, Gulf Coast Women's Center for Nonviolence.
 
1.  Doris Weaver
 When you make contact with the law enfocement agency, do you start with the homicide detectives or the Chief of Police/Sheriff/head of the agency? How do you answer concerns about sensitive case information? And, how do you handle their concerns about working with a service provider who is not part of the law enforcement team? Any thoughts on getting the process started?
 
2.  Tania Bigles
 One of the benefits of an advocate in your local police department is that the detective will work with the advocate as a team. The detectives are aware of vicitms rights and while they are working with the defendant the advocate will help the victim family.
 
3.  Noreen Dinndorf
 MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) National offers a class for law enforcement in 'Death Notification' that emphasizes law enforcement interaction with survivor families.
 
4.  carroll ann
 I have facilitated a homicide support group sponsored by law enforcement for nearly twenty years. I will gladly share with you any helpful informationThe process has been one of enlightenment, trust, mutual support for individual roles and an all out effort to help victims. Victim support for the effort has been paramount and the driving force for the resource. I welcome the opportunity to share more information directly with you on this subject.
 
 
Where do you suggest I look for information about the impact of witnessing an execution on victims' families? What might be realistic components of an aftercare program for these families?
 
1.  carroll ann
 This issue is addressed by James Acker and David Karp who have compiled a book with experiences drawn from family members of homicide victims and victim advocates. The book is entitled Wounds that Do not Bind. An aftercare program would of necessity include the experiences and support of those who have knowledge regarding the complexities associated with this experience. Participants may want to talk about their feelings, their shifting need for various types of support, family differences regarding the execution, public reaction to the death penalty, and other issues.
 
 
Can you give me a rough estimate of how many of the violent crime victims you have worked with over the years have previously been vicitimized in some way?
 
1.  Ana
 You may want to look into Dr. Robert Anda's research on Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) and how that affects a person's chance for re-victimization. Quoted from one of his studies:The key concept underlying the Study is that stressful or traumatic childhood experiences such as abuse, neglect, witnessing domestic violence, or growing up with alcohol or other substance abuse, mental illness, parental discord, or crime in the home (which we termed adverse childhood experiencesor ACEs) are a common pathway to social, emotional, and cognitive impairments that lead to increased risk of unhealthy behaviors, risk of violence or re-victimization, disease, disability and premature mortality.
 
2.  Ron Dempsay
 You spoke about breaking the cycle of violence...can you give me the top three things we need to do to accomplish this?
 
3.  carroll ann
 25%. And Revictimization: Department of Health and Human Services- Center for Disease Control and Prevention Prior history of sexual violence. Women who are raped before the age of 18 are twice as likely to be raped as adults, compared to those without a history of sexual abuse (Tjaden and Thoennes 2000). University of Denver A 1995 British Crime Survey found that 3 percent of adult victims accounted for 73 percent of violent crime victimizations. Department of Justice Children who are victims, of or witnesses, to violence are at an increased risk for delinquency, adult criminality, and violent criminal behavior. Being abused or neglected as a child increases the likelihood of arrest as a juvenile by 53% and the likelihood of arrest for a violent crime as an adult by 38 percent. Although this is a slightly random statistic, I feel that it demonstrates the impact of violent crime victimization and the need to break the cycle of violence.
 
 
What suggestions do you have regarding serving survivors whose family members/loved ones died in circumstances that create unusual and complex challenges to the grieving process (e.g. the death of a loved one whose remains are not found/cannot be recovered or whose remains are found at multiple points of time)?
 
1.  carroll ann
 All too frequently family members of homicide victims are burdened with the additional agony of being unable to bring the body of their loved one together to a single place. Every effort should be made to support family members in their quest for information and help in obtaining the remains of the loved ones. Additionally all of that we have learned from Survivors in terms of their special needs appliesthe homicidal differential ...the nature of homicidethe blending of trauma and griefthe reactions of survivors, their feelings, behaviors, cognitions all help us to support them. Great information available on this subject on line.
 
 
My family survived the brutal murder of two family members in 1987. The killer received the death penalty on the original sentence in Oregon. He has been re-sentenced twice since and both times received the death penalty. We are now preparing for the 4th re-sentencing. Do you have any suggestions for the victim impact statement. I lost an additional family member since to the physical impact of finding her parents. She died of major seizures which started after she found them and lasted almost 18 years. The killer's name is Randy Guzek. I appreciate any advice you can give. I work in Law Enforcement.
 
 
In follow up to my previous question, I would like to interview the killer, Randy Guzek, prior to his re-sentencing and use some of the information in the victim impact statement. Do you have any suggestions to make this happen?
 
1.  Dan Hally
 I would greatly appreciate your time and assistance. My email is danhally@cableone.net. I can send you my contact information via email.
 
2.  carroll ann
 I do and I welcome the opportunity to talk with you directly on this matter and your follow-up question.
 
 
Are alternative strategies, such as Restorative Justice, recommended for helping victims of crime?
 
1.  Kathy Cason
 Concerning Restorative Justice if you have any information on how your agency is utilizing this philosophy would be interested. You can email kathy.cason2@djj.state.fl.us
 
2.  Colleen Ingalls
 Have you found that Restorative justice is an affective means to address the needs of the community as well as the needs of the victim? For many survivors of homicide facing the killer can be a re-traumatizing experience. How does Restorative Justice address the needs of the Victim?
 
3.  Kathy Cason
 In DJJ in Florida we are utilizing a RJ based model Impact of Crime with the youth. Would be interested in knowing your agency is participating in this philosophy.
 
4.  carroll ann
 Restorative justice brings victims, offenders and communities together to decide on a response to a particular crime. Its about putting victims needs at the centre of the criminal justice system and finding positive solutions to crime by encouraging offenders to face up to their actions.
 
 
Could you identify pertinent issues that communities need to consider as they recruit faith-based organizations to provide services to victims of violent crime? Also, what are examples of "appropriate" roles that faith-based organizations can play in providing services to victims of violent crime? What are some of the risks in having faith-based organization provide services to victims of violent crime?
 
1.  carroll ann
 Faith-based organizations who provide support for crime victims have grown in number and expanded their services across the country. They are an important link between victims and other victim assistance agencies. Faith communities can provide support to victims who often seek meaning, comfort and spiritual guidance from religious leaders. The role of quickly mobilizing community resources to provide emergency funds, transportation, childcare, and emergency housing is one that Faith Communities can fill. There are endless opportunities for support. You will find a report on-line entitled "Collaborative Response Crime Victims in Urban Areas" (http://www.sc.edu/ccfs/research/PDFs/EvalຈReportຈFinal.pdf) submitted to The Maryland Crime Victims Resource Center by Dana D. Dehart, Ph.D. which addresses the complications and solutions in recruiting faith-based organizations to include cautionary information (pitfalls). Thank you.
 
 
Homicide is the 3rd leading cause of death on Native American Reservations, how would you approach survivors who are desensitized to death, pain and suffering and how would you get the tribal council, tribal members and the community involved in the healing process?
 
1.  TBenally
 I have been with LE over 17 years on the Navajo Nation. I have yet to come across a victim who is desensitized. I must admit, I have investigated and worked with about 20 cases with around 100 victims. I have found that once the many barriers are broken down, they will begin to show emotion. I think what has helped me is being a Native American like they are and understanding cultural differences. If anything, be patient and do many follow-ups to gain trust. Native American communities are small and usually have a community leader that would have ties with the victims. I would think that would be your foot in the door. One thing to remember, change is slow and you may have already made an impact and a move in the right direction.
 
2.  carroll ann
 I consulted Dianne Barker-Harrold, Unified Solutions Tribal community Develop Group. Diane is an expert in these matters and she believes that it is essential to work toward enlightening the community regarding victim issues. She shared the following: My experience is that you must get a tribal council member, a strong community member or a group of people to band together to bring awareness. Getting people involved is the key. One way to do that is to ride on the coat tails of the different "awareness" months-Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault, Child Abuse, etc. Have an event to coincide and really publicize it-for example: DV Month-have the silent witness silhouettes depict DV victims for the last year in Indian Country. Right now there is much in the news as a result of the Amnesty International Report about Sexual Assault of Indigenous Women. Child Abuse Awareness Month-have a balloon launch and invite the council members. Another way is to form a volunteer group to work with tribal victims programs or social service agencies-then have a community dinner to acknowledge the volunteers accomplishments for their first year and invite the council or community leaders. Write articles in the tribal newspaper-public service announcements, etc. Make sure you involve a person who you think will recognize the need, the issues, etc, and recognize the services being provided (or NOT being provided) because that person can be an independent "squeaky" wheel for your group or program. In my tribe, our council members have monthly community meetings within the respective districts they serve. We have attended all those to provide information about our VAWA Legal Assistance Program and our Tribal Victims Programs-which increases the numbers served obviously. Host dinners, cultural nights, get the women of the tribe energized and organized (I always say-the hand the rocks the cradle rules the world). If you can't get a council member involved-get their wife/spouse involved-they will spur the action from the home front! Have a booth at every tribal event or community event or have table with information about what you are trying to do. Bring tribal elders and youth together-this is very powerful-use the traditional ways and culture to bring out their message (this is an renewal and emerging trend in all of Indian Country-especially involving the youth and elders together in more cultural and tradition ways and in efforts to revitalize their respective Native Languages). Don't forget the power of the pen-write letters to all the council members-and finally attend the council meetings-get on the agenda-get your tribal police involved in your efforts. Pool together your efforts and get the stats and prepare a handout to just keep giving to people. Thank you.
 
 
What services can we provide as a victim advocate to the survivors who are in financial need?
 
1.  Becky
 I'd be interested to hear about other resources as well. I've been able to acquire a grant, but it seems like so much more financial assistance is needed.
 
2.  Kathie
 I appreciate the answer regarding other financial resources for homicide survivors- however I think there are more of us that would like to know what those organizations are that may offer these types of resources.
 
3.  carroll ann
 In addition to Crime Victims Compensation there are a number of organizations who have established scholarships, support funds, and other help to be used specifically for victims of crime to include family members of homicide victims. Perhaps we can talk directly regarding resources and possibilities related to helping survivors who are in financial need.
 
 
John Jay College of Criminal Justice-CUNY and Urban Research Institute will be having a conference on Femicide in Fall of 2008. Please list the most important research and publications you know on this topic of femicide and femicide survivors and who the experts are in this field. While we know some of the research and spokespeople, we would greatly appreciate any input you might have so that this can be a very productive conference for us all. Thank you.
 
1.  Carroll Ann
 BACKGROUND:Major areas of concern include; Guatemala City, Guatemala: According the Guatemalan Human Rights Commission over 672 women have been killed since 2006, and 70 of the cases of the female homicides were never investigated and no arrests were made in 97 of the cases. Cuidad Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico: According to Amnesty International since February of 2005 the bodies of over 370 women have been found and there are still 400 women missing. Many of the bodies show signs of sexual assault, torture, and in some cases mutilation. Authorities have been uncooperative in the investigations of the missing women despite an investigation by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. Aboriginal women in Canada: over 500 women have been reported murdered or missing since 1980. Experts claim that the women are seen as easy targets due to their race and socioeconomic status. Many of the women were dismissed as prostitutes and their cases were never investigated. EXPERTS:Many of the top experts in the field have included Hispanic Women perhaps due to the geographic nature of femicide:Marcela Lagarde (http:ccsre.stanford.edufeminicidebios.html) Major relevant accomplishments listed below:o Coined the phrase feminicide in reference to the killing in Cuidad Juarez. (Original phrase invented by Mary Anne Russell in the 1970s)o In 2006, she received the Hermila Galindo Prize from Mexico Citys Commission on Human Rights, for the defense of womens human rights.o Promoted legislation establishing feminicide as a crime in the Federal Penal Code and helped pass the law Access to a Life Free of Violence for Women, which was established on February 2. Rita Segata:o Is one of the most renowned experts on the subject of feminicide. Her most recent study is entitled What is feminicide? Notes toward an Emerging Debate, in which she argues that feminicide should be considered a special category of crimes against humanity in order to bring greater pressure on governments and international jurists to include it among the crimes prosecuted by the International Criminal Court of The Hague.oShe has been an invited researcher at the Institute for Research in the Humanities of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and in the Department of Anthropology at Rice University in Houston, and a Visiting Professor at the Center for Latin American Studies at the University of Florida, Gainesville.LITERATURE:Both of these articles were cited in a variety of scholarly journals that I reviewed as well as several of the magazine or university websites pertaining to intimate partner violence or femicide. Femicide in the Global Perspective by Diana Russell Femicide: The Politics of Woman Killing (New York: Twayne Publishers, 1992). by Jane Caputi, Ph.D., and Diana E. H. Russell, Ph.D.
 
2.  Carroll Ann
 Femicide (also otherwise known as feminicide): the systematic killing of women because they are women (sponsored or ignored by the state). I found details concerning social construction of femicide: Stanford University held a conference last May that I feel would be helpful for the Femicide Fall of 2008 conference at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice-CUNY. The website also lists influential activists that were featured during their conference. Many are femicide survivors or are referred to in later sections of this research.Information can also be found within the websites for the following organizations: Amnesty International, UNIFEM, Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and VAW.
 
 
This is a two part question: In addition to seeking traditional therapeutic processes (pharmacological and counseling), what do you suggest for victims of traumatic experiences to be the best, affordable and easiest method/s to overcome such tragedies? Assuming the worst possible scenario, that community support groups, family support systems and resources are not available for victims of traumatic events, can service providers design their curriculums to be the backdrop of supporting and evidence based programming systems that would cater to the specific needs of the individual client as long as the design includes intervention strategies and innovative solutions that are consistent with docmented and evidence based programming systems?
 
1.  Carroll Ann
 Your question points up the importance of seeking treatment for emotional trauma if the symptoms one is experiencing just do not go away or may resurface. As you know there are a host of treatments available for emotional trauma, many are affordable or can be made available through special programsprojects.Part 2. The answer is yes. In the worst possible scenario it becomes essential to created programs designed to meet the specific needs of the individual which may include a mixcombination of solutions for which there wouldcould be strong support and supervision provided by the very evidence based programming systems that you approach for this type of help in serving clients.
 
 
From Dan B. in our Victimology & Victim Services course. Ms.Ellis, what is the one most important aspect or thing to do when dealing with a homicide victims family?
 
1.  Liz
 I would concur. As a Victim Witness Coordinator and former MADD Advocate and from my own family's personal experience, I found that it is also important to validate the victims and let them know up front that what may bring him/her comfort in the griveing process may cause another family member pain. For example, if you have a sibling of a homicide victim who would like to see crime scene photos in order to process their grief, a parent may wish not to see such photos and the agency should accomodate and not dictate what a victim should and should not see or hear during their grief journey.
 
2.  carroll ann l
 Family members appreciate your show of concern and compassion for their situation and your willingness to respond to their need for information and support. Additionally becoming awareeducated regarding the homicidal differential...the nature of the crime, its impact on others, ways in which trauma plays out in the aftermath of a homicide for all involved and a clear respect for the strength of those who somehow not only ensure the pain and suffering but also survive to education and help others.
 
 
From Chris M. in our Victimology & Victim Services course (w/Prof.Woods, NVAA "96") Ms.Ellis, does your work with survivors of homicide and other traumatic events take a toll on your mental health and well being, and how do you deal with it?
 
1.  deanna
 Yes, it absolutely does take a toll. It changes your world view because as someone who walks with victims and their families, you become aware of realities you may not have dealt with otherwise. If you are not prepared for this and are not taking care of yourself, it can be detrimental. As someone who has done this work for many years, I have learned a lot about vicarious trauma and am careful to find healthy ways to deal with this. There is a lot of helpful info on vicarious trauma (Sandra Bloom in particular). Working as a victim advocate, we see the worst in people. However, it is importatnt to remember that we also see the best in people as we are priviledged to get to know people who have not only survived crime, but are thriving and aiding others as only they can.
 
 
I am researching issues that children face when they are left after a murder/suicide. A lot of research seems to focus on children who have witnessed domestic violence, but I am more interested in what happens to them after there parents are no longer there to care for them, who provides therapy for these children, among other issues. Are there any organizations or resources in Georgia that specifically work with this issue?
 
1.  Alicia
 It may also be helpful to contact a Children's Advocacy Center (CAC.) You are likely to find licensed therapists who specialize in working with children that are affected by a trauma, and while this is usually an abuse perpetrated on them, most CACs may be able to make accomodations for children who witness a homicide, suicide, or DV. A good resource to find an accredited CAC is through the National Children's Alliance, or NCA. CACs exist in all fifty states, and may be able to best assist you in your area.
 
2.  carroll ann l
 William Worden and Thersa Rando have both penned fairly new books on the subject of Children in grief. Wordens book deals exclusively with (when a parent dies). Not entirely familiar with specific groups in Georgia who respond directly to the special needs of children but would recommend organization found pretty widely online who deal with children and grief. Contacting Victim Service Agencies in Georgia will provide a information. Check National Institute of Mental Health, Psychological Trauma Center, National Mental Health Association, Dart Center,...
 
 
I am very interested in hearing about how and when you contact family members of homicide victims, more about the support group you offer, and about other services you offer the family members. thank you
 
 
We are a grass roots organization dealing with families of murder victims whose cases are unresolved. Since this includes one of every three murders, we believe it needs to be addressed here. Our services include advocating to law enforcement, raising public awareness and educating family members about what is being done. What has been your experience in helping families of victims in Cold Cases?
 
1.  Howard Morton
 Certainly. You may access our website at http://www.unresolvedhomicides.org. I can be contacted personnally at hvmorton@earthlink.net.
 
2.  Donna Godfrey
 Are you willing to provide information on the forum on how to contact your organization?
 
3.  carroll ann l
 I am pleased to know that you have adopted the specialty of support for family members with unresolved cases. I believe this is a group which is often left unattended. Fortunately we have a cold case unit. We (victim advocates within the system) work with the unit to help keep families updatedinformed regarding any progress on the case. My experience has been that families really want/need constant updating and the reassurance that someone is concerned and working on the case. Please continue with your service package which clearly is on point and may provide a model for others wanting to provide needed services.
 
 
How did you establish the police department's homicide support group? What specific services does your law enforcement office offer to victims of violent crime?
 
1.  Tania Bigles
 The Miami Police has their victim service at the homicide unit. All the detective are aware of our services and we are a team. We work together for the benefit of the survivors that are secondary victims. the main goal of the detectives is to find the offender and we take care of the family while they are doing their job. It was not easy at the begining but they realize that we are part of their family Police family) and that we are not going anywhere we are here for the victim family and for them (detectives). As a good family we argue, we have discussion but at the end we do what is best for our victims.
 
2.  carroll ann l
 I started with the frustration of not being able to adequately address the needs of family members of homicide. Victims kept returning to the office with issues which we have not considered. Service was needed to support their issues...I asked (3) homicide survivors to help me learn about their needs and how they could be addressed. In addition I asked (3) homicide detectives to join the discussion. They agreed that we needed to develop an immediate resource...After considerable research I used my access to police records to contact victim survivors and invite them to a meeting which evolved into the homicide support group. The key was the help and wisdom obtained through working with the survivors...I also obtained support and encouragement from my chain of command as the support group represented a resource for the department in addressing the special needs of homicide survivors.In answer to the provision of victim services rendered by Fairfax County Police Department; services are a function of the department having its own internal victim service sectionunitdivision integrated into the structure of the organization. Victim service is an automatic segment of the overall response to victims of crime.
 
 
How is your law enforcement agency addressing compliance with VAWA 2005?
 
 
When you talk about survivors, does this include law enforcement personnel?
 
1.  pmnelson
 This is a rarely acknowledged issue. Officers generally witness the aftermath of homicide when at a crime scene, may be the target, or witness the death of another. They must deal with it for days, weeks, or years as the case goes through the courts or remains unsolved. One of the questions below asked about the impact on MH providers. The idea of officers as primary and/or secondary victims should be addressed. Thanks
 
 
How many homicide co-victim's support groups are out there? Is there a known compilation? Should OVC develop a list as a resource and state some "best practices" for homicide co-victim support groups.
 
 
What is an appropriate time frame for approaching a survivor to speak in community groups about their experience (Restorative Justice)?
 
 
How do small, isolated communities come to the healing process when there has been multiple murders in one act by one person and the person who committed the act commits suicide. There is no justice and difficult reconciliation.
 
1.  Padre Mike
 Thank you so very much for your considerate response. Your words will help me to comfort the many for their loss. Blessings to you.
 
2.  carroll ann l
 Such a timely question: We have certainly witnessed far too many examples of mass fatalities...murder sucides where family members, responders, and the entire community suffers as a result of a single perpetrator who commits mutiple acts of murder. While there may be multiple deaths...each death represents a single homicide which is magnified by the many. A small isolated community must endure the added burden of having familiarity with multiple victims...When the perpetrator is apprehended and held accountable for the dastardly deeds there is an opportunity for justice...suicide leaves everyone without the ability expect justice. It can be useful to develop a network to keep everyone (schools, organizations, faith-community, etc)in order to ensure that help is available to those who are most in need. So see the recent articles and reports on Virginia Tech and what they have experienced along these same lines with addressing the concerns and needs of victim survivors, students, faculty, staff and the surrounding community. There is a large amount of information available on this important subject dating back prior to the Oklahoma bombing and more recent reports associated with other mass fatalies.
 
 
I was wondering if you had any suggestions for advocates who are providing services to families when the case is considered "high-profile" and/or is known or publicized Nationally?
 
1.  carroll ann l
 High profile cases are always challenging and require advocates to support victims through education and help with media management. There is with absolute certainity an overwhelming interest from the public in cases with certain aspects, mass fatalities, recognized individuals, unusual circumstances (the list is long). It can be distressing to victims to know that their lives, the lives of their family members are all being played out the news. When victims are empowered with the knowledge their rights to refuse interviews and also determine where, when and how they would entertained being interviewed they express gratitude for such help and support. Also being able to recognize that media attention can sometimes undermine the integrity of the investigation of the case as well as not adhere to certain journalistic ethics is very important. The good news is that media can play a vital role in helping to solve cases by disseminating information and high awareness of the victim experience. Many journalists are sensitive and eager to learn more about helping victims of crime.
 
 
What is "Homicidal Differencial"?
 
 
Could you tell us more about your support group? Structure? Open/closed? Peer support or therapy? Meeting topics and/or open ended sharing? Has an advocacy component? Tips to keep the group meaningful to the participants?
 
1.  Howard Morton
 Families of Homicide Victims and Missing Persons, Inc is working in Colorado to find, support and empower family members and friends suffering from a loved ones unsolved murder or long-time disappearance. We started in 2001 with eleven of us. Our roster now includes 330 family members, friends and volunteers. Our website: http://www.unresolvedhomicides.org
 
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