OVC Provider Forum Transcript

Assisting Parents of Murdered Children
Nancy Ruhe  -  2005/9/7
I fully support survivors getting involved in programs/activities which educate/advocate for this painful matter; at the same time I am also aware that such activities can sometimes encapsulate emotion to the extent that parents become stuck in their bereavement process. I welcome your comments/insight.
1.  rbray
 Do you have any videos available to assist a victim of violent crime?
2.  Nancy Ruhe
 It is always important to give families the information about support groups in their area immediatly. This can be suggested again in a month or two if they have not participated in a group. If you have the time it is important for you to offer to attend the first meeting or two with them. We always suggest that families attend 3 or 4 meetings before deciding if the meeting meets their needs. As far as starting a support group POMC has a lot of written information for families to consider before making decision as well as making an assesment as to where they are in their grief and if this is the right time for them. We also strongly suggest anyone wanting to start a POMC group to have a professional who is willing to help guide the success of their efforts.
3.  Nancy Ruhe
 Grief counseling along with support groups where others have been there is the idea situation. When grief counseling is offered it is important that the counselor knows the impact of murder on family members and not just reactions to death. Our support groups are open to observers and we think it is important that grief counselors that are truley interested in survivors attend several meetings to observe the interaction and the needs of the newly bereaved.
4.  Mykkii Millott
 I know of a few people who took their drive to accomplish change and their grieving process and meshed them together. I find that suggesting couples to join or start informal support groups gives them 1)a sense of accomplishment when helping others and 2) a way to grieve the loss of a child or children with those who understand the emotions and the process. What I would like some feedback on is when is the right time to possibly suggest this type of 'outlet'?
5.  Yvonne W
 I agree with your comment on parents getting stuck in their loss. This is why parents should participant in grief counseling before they get involved in certain aspects of POMC or any other counseling program. Grief Counseling Information should provided to these parents. The Victim's Rights Office should povide this information
6.  AmyDenise
 In our experience, parents or families of murder victims have welcomed the opportunity to share their stories and feel like they are turning their tragedies into something positive by creating an awareness of the issue (for us, domestic violence).
7.  Nancy Ruhe
 It is very important for families to find purpose and meaning after the murder of a loved one. But sometimes what they get invovled with actually removes them from the grieving process and they begin to work soley on passing laws etc. Once the work they started is accomplished they still find they have to deal with their grief. At this time they find little or no support and can become stuck do to the lack of understanding and support. So whatever families decide to get involved with they must permit themselves the time to grieve and not replace this process or bypass this process.
I currently live in Will County. My son (age 24) was murdered 11/2/01. I would like to start a POMC in Will County and would like to know "Best Practices for starting a Chapter. I have the necessary paperwork, but how do I get to all of the people in Will County? I believe the State's Attorney's Office should be more involved in these situations from the start not just the trials (i.e.) when the detectives come to your house to give you the bad news, someone should be their to help you through it.
1.  Nancy Ruhe
 In the paperwork you were sent there should be many suggestions on getting started. First and foremost you need to network and let others know that you are there and available. This would include the AG's office, Victim Advocates, police, funeral homes, etc. When contacting other groups you should identify who you are and what services you provide and always follow up with a phone call. In addition, you should use your local press to announce the date, time, and location of your meeting every month. And most certainly the more you can provide interviews to the media, the more those who need your services will be able to find your support group. You can contact POMC directly at our toll free number (888) 818-POMC and Sharon can work with you step by step.
Is the money you receive from donations and grants used to support each individual chapter? What other organizations do you support finanacially? Would there be grants for individual groups that could apply to your organization?
1.  Joni Phillips
 We applied for a one time small VOCA Grant in our state to help start a support group for victims in our area. The grant was awarded and we were able to use the funding to begin the group. Our department has continued assist with the funding for the support group since the initial grant has expired. I will be happy to share information with you about our group if you are interested.
2.  Nancy Ruhe
 At this time POMC is not in the financial position to support our chapters. In addition, it is against our by-laws to use donations for POMC to be given to other organizations. Again POMC does not provide grant money but you could check with OVC, foundations, etc. Go to your local library and they can help you find literally thousands of organizations that give money. Make sure you ask the person at the library to help you to narrow down the field or show you how to narrow down the field.
I've been working with crime victims for many years as an advocate. Parents often tell me the pain never goes away, sometimes it gets worse as time passes. What can I say to "new" victims when they ask if things will ever get better?
1.  Charlene Harris
 After documenting over (100)suvivors/victims here in Richmond,Ca. Around (60) of the (100) have developed willing spirits to heal. Many are becoming actively involved in our innovative activities, dicussions, workshops, planning and decision making process. Wanting to have a willing spirit is the first step in starting the healing process. The other (40) are still grieving. I just receive calls from five new mothers last week who has heard about our group. At our group they will be provided with the neccessary healing tools to guide them to their own pathway to heal. Many have other children and we remind them that their other children need them more than ever they are also grieving and need them to be physically, mentally, emotionally and spiriutally sound. Many times the children get ignored. We would like to break this cycle. Children who watch their parents grieve become very angry and develop behavior problems and are become full of rage and most likely will become tommorow's Street Monster who will in fact hurt others and will kill! We are trying to break this cycle. Of course it hurts and the pain is unmeasuable,however seek support,and pray for your burdens to be lifted. We do a monthly newsletter where survivors poems are published. We also have a support group and meet twice per month. Once again around Birthdays and Holidays the cycle of grief returns. Give your love one a Birthday party, have a Butterfly release or Memorial to keep their memories alive. Focus on your own health and your childrens. Let go of the Pain and turn it into Power. Email: Khadeyah1@sbcglobal.net
2.  Charlene Harris
 Let them know that grief comes in cycles, the pain can go away. If they find their pathway to healing. First they must have a willing spirit to heal and for change to not stay stuck in the grief and trauma zone. It will only make them sick physcially, mentally and emotionally. Seek out support group or Survivors who can offer peer-to peer support. Turn the pain into power. Khadeyah1@sbcglobal.net
3.  Jean Pascale
 You can tell them that No, the pain never does go away but that it will get easier to bear. In time they will not think as much of the heartbreak as they will the good times they had with their child.When they are able, they can get envolved in an organization like POMC, to help other families get thru the hard part. They can get active in their community to help make changes. I was told that we should do something to Redeem the Evil done to us, by making changes or doing something that will help make this a better world for other children in which to grow and not be afraid of what might happen.There are many ways to get involved, you just have to find one that suits you. POMC was a God send to my husband and me.
4.  nmsohadvocate
 Nancy is right on. The old thought that people go through the grief process by number does not hold true in sudden, tramatic death, like homicide. The journey through the criminal justice system more times than not, revictimizes the family. Depend on your grief resources in your area to help. Have the resources come to them, they will have a very difficult time finding the energy to seek out help for quite some time after the murder.
5.  nmsohadvocate
 If you haven't lost a child yourself, you probably don't have the right answer that they will want to hear. I suggest that you tell them that the process will be difficult but that they need not go through it alone. There is enormous support in groups like POMC, or the local homicide group and hopefully, a Compassionate Friends as well. These people are experts on grief and have traveled in their shoes.
6.  Nancy Ruhe
 The pain never goes away, but depending on the support, the outcome of the case (solved, unsolved, convicted, not convicted, etc.) the pain does soften over time. Through our membership we have found (again depending on circumstances) that up until 5 years after the murder we continue to assist survivors as newly bereaved. For new parents it is important to let them know that there is support our there and that the support is from those who have walked in their shoes. Sometimes it is nice if the advocate offers to go to the first support group meeting with the family but more important to realize that regardless of the length of time 5, 10, 15 years there will be things such as paroles, appeals that throws the family right back to day one.
The Victim Assistance Unit (VAU) of the Denver Police Department (DPD) typically provides the official death notifications for the DPD within the City & County of Denver. I am interested in exploring the best practice(s) with respect to providing death notifications to parents of murdered children. We sometimes provide these notifications with the Homicide Bureau. Is there an approach (or approaches) or that should be considered that would be different from the approach taken with other types of deaths requiring notification? Would there also be additional considerations that should be explored regarding follow-up to these families that would look different than the follow-up provided to family members dealing with other types of death?
1.  Nancy Ruhe
 My first suggestion would be to get extensive training from some of the top organizations that deal with murder (POMC, MADD, NOVA, etc.). The foremost things to remember regarding murder is that you must be honest with the family and do not provide false hope. It is important that they understand their loved one was murdered not killed, passed on, died, etc. Secondly, as much information that you can give them without jepordizing the case should be provided. You should not make promises on behalf of others such as, don't worry we'll catch the killer, the murderer will get life or never walk the streets again etc. Please remember that survivors probably have never been in the criminal justice system and have no understanding plus their ability to retain information is zero. Thus providing written information with important contacts and phone numbers is vital. Also, calling and checking in with them is helpful for them to know that someone cares and is working on their behalf.
Many of us work with victims of domestic violence. Some victims, for a variety of reasons, end up killing their abuser. Do you ever work with the parents of a murdered child who was also an abuser, and if so, how do you negotiate the relationship with the local domestic violence program? Many thanks!
1.  Ben Atherton-Ze
 Thanks so much! I agree completely - we should always be able and willing to work together. :)
2.  Nancy Ruhe
 My background was working with domestic violence, rape, etc. for many years. Understanding the cycle of abuse is critical and our staff is well trained on this issue. Thus POMC's policy is that any family member whose loved has been murdered most certainly faces the same trauma even though the circumstances of the murder is more complicated. We often get this when someone is killed by police while they are breaking the law. Our thoughts are that sometimes these families need more support and understanding due to the fact that there are often guilt issues as well as placing undue blame on the vicitimmurderer. We do work with all the local organizations often providing training, speakers for their vigils and support, assistance whenever needed. There should never be a problem with two organizations working with the same goal in mind - the best interest of the victimssurvivors.
How can I help a family that clearly needs outside support services but for one reason or another ( i.e. cultural reasons)are reluctant to use the available resources?
1.  Rick Custer
 You might wish to sign up for OVCs workshop, Providing Culturally Competent Services to Victims of Crime (November 2-4, 2005, in Portland, Oregon). This workshop provides an interactive exploration of issues in providing culturally competent services to victims of crime. Through a series of activities and case studies, the training explores the challenges and benefits of providing culturally competent care for victims and how services can be more effective when they are delivered within the most relevant and meaningful cultural, gender-specific, and age-appropriate context. Also included is a review of provider competencies (i.e., knowledge, skills, attitudes, interpersonal decisionmaking) that are critical to effectively serving victims of crime from diverse populations. For more information or to register, visit www.ovcttac.orgcalendartraining.cfm or call 1-866-OVC-TTAC (1-866-682-8822); TTY: 1-866-682-8880.
2.  Nancy Ruhe
 Patience, patience, patience - Cultural diversity training is a must if you are going to work with any victims. Just because there are services for victims out there. There are truley some victims who will never use these services and in some cases none of these services can benefit victims. Again cultural diversity training is a must for every person providing victim services. And remember that all victims will reach out for services at their own time and their own pace.
Solicitation protocol for victims' families: please clarify what types of solicitations and in what manner are appropriate to do with victims' families. Many victims' families want to be solicited to help nonprofits who work in this field, while other families feel overly-vulnerable in being asked. What do you suggest as best practices and recommendations so families don't feel overlooked nor over-asked?
1.  Nancy Ruhe
 Through your newsletter, website or whatever other source of networking you have I would make sure that everyone knows that there are volunteer opportunies. It is good to make a list of what type of assistance is needed, ie. newsletter editor, speaker, clerical needs, fundraising, etc. Make sure that all victim survivors get a list of the needs with information on how to volunteer their time, how much time is expected of them and how long the project etc. is expected to take. Many people find it a diversion to help while they are going through the intense grieving process, some people find it is a burden and is too much pressure for them. For those who do volunteer make sure that your expectations are clear and that you give credit for what is accomplished. Wether or not it is accomplished in the manner in which it was originally expected.
What do you say to a parent whose child has been murdered, they have other children, yet the parent says they have nothing to live for?
1.  nmsohadvocate
 Jean's answer is powerful. The sad reality to this question from your surviving child is that it often comes when they are completely fed up with your behavior or when they begin to believe that you don't care that they are still alive and very much in need of reassurance and love. It is often asked in desperation and anger. Sometimes it comes in the form of a suicide attempt or a trip to the police department to bail them out of jail. Bereaved parenting is one of the hardest jobs a parent will have to deal with, the remaining siblings have so many issues that we parents need to attend to. It's scary to see how far a family can fall apart before they can see what is happening. I believe that the service provider whether it be peer or professional, needs to remind them gently that their other children need them more now than ever and that they are still parents.
2.  nmsohadvocate
 As a bereaved parent, a victim advocate for survivors of homicide, and the chapter leader for our local Compassionate Friends, I let them know that I understand that they feel that they have nothing left to live for, but that they are still parents. I cite that I have seen many families fall apart because they have allowed what the perpetrator has done to them to take the rest of their family apart. I also suggest that they see if other family members can help with the additional children if they feel that they are unable to tend to them. However, understanding that they are those children's parents and that it is a lifetime commitment no matter what happens. Let them know that what they are feeling is normal and that they need to contact their local support groups to help them sort things out so that they will become available to their surviving children.
3.  Nancy Ruhe
 First of all you justify their feelings and make sure that they know that these feelings ar normal. As we know one child can not replace the other, and usually one child is not loved more than another. Thus the not wanting to live any longer is a way to escape the unbearable pain that they are trying to suffer through. It is important that you get them to talk about these feelings, talk about how their other children are doing, what kind of support the family is getting and make referrals as soon as possible. Never, never try to guilt them out of their feelings by saying such things as look at what you would be doing to your other children, etc. Ventilate their feelings and then vaiidlate those feelings and make a plan of action for each day or each hour whatever it is they are able to handle. POMC is happy to provide training in working with new survivors, survivors who have complicated grief and best practices for anyone working with loved ones.
4.  Jean Pascale
 Ask them in a gentle way if the murdered child was the only reason they were living their life before the tragedy. When my daughter was murdered I felt the same way until my son asked me if my daughter was my sole reason for living before she was murdered. It was pretty tough hearing that from your living child.
Could you address the issue of the impact of violent death on the surviving siblings in the family? What are the challenges they face and how can we help?
1.  Nancy Ruhe
 I am truley sorry to hear about the murder of your son. As far as his brother he is suffering from survivor guilt. You are right that this will have an impact on him for the rest of his life but it does not have to consume his life and destroy it. Please feel free to contact POMC if your son should choose to talk to other siblings who are in the same situation. This often helps siblings to understand that they are not alone and to learn from those who have had the same experiences and how they have dealt with their guiltgrief. Again my heart goes out to you and your family.
2.  Nancy Ruhe
 You can contact me at our toll free number 888-818-7662 or by email natlpomc@aol.com attn Nancy.
3.  nmsohadvocate
 Nancy's answer is excellent. Might I also suggest using the siblings' help information for the Compassionate Friends as well, www.compassionatefriends.orgChatchat_entrances.shtml.I would also check the children grief services in your area and make the appropriate referrals. Behavior problems and physical ailments are not uncommon as is poor school performance.
4.  Dr. Langosch
 Thank you for your helpful response. I would welcome an opportunity to talk with you further and would be especially interested in rates of depression and suicide in siblings. Please feel free to leave me your contact inforation or call at 212-632-4760. Dr. Deborah Langosch
5.  Yvonne W
 My son was shot 11 times and left on a cold, dark street to die alone. My deceased son was my middle child (24 years old)and my sons (2) were very close. My oldest son can only think of not being there when he was needed. Thinking he could have saved him. Not to be negative, but this will follow my son the rest of his life. There is nothing that can change this. The impact is mistrust, and the question, where was god. If you can answer this, you have the answer to your question.
6.  Nancy Ruhe
 POMC considers the siblings as the forgotten survivors. Too often, well meaning people will ask them how is your mom doing, how is your parents doing but no one seems to ask them how they are doing. Some of our chapters have meetings just for siblings only, at our National Conference we have workshops for siblings only and depending on the age of the sibling we do have a network across the US where we can get siblings in touch with siblings with similar circumstances. In addition, in our topic forum on our website, www.pomc.org, we have a section where siblings can communicate back and forth. Some of the challenges are that they are left out of the loop as far as information pertaining to the murder, funeral, trial, etc. Often they take over the parenting of their parents. They hold in their feelings as not to upset their mother and father. Often parents almost make a shrine to the deceased child (photos etc throughout the house) which sends the message to the living children that they weren't as loved as much, there parents would be better off if they were the ones dead. These forgotten mourners suffer silently and sometimes their behaviour changes we could go on and on - for more information I would be happy to provide it to you over the phone.
I have a dog bomb case where the mother of the murdered victim refuses to speak to anyone, including her husband, about the crime against her son. It has been about 3 years and the case is just getting ready to go to trial. Are there any suggestions on how to approach the mother, who only speaks Mandarin, so that she may be receptive to opening up and counseling? Do you have materials in this language OR know of any victim agencies in the San Jose, California area who have resources in Mandarin and speak the language? thank you.
1.  Nancy Ruhe
 POMC does not have literature in Mandarin. But I would suggest you contact the AG'office, State Attorney's office, and also use the internet to do a search. You can also check out local colleges for possible translators but again like so many questions today I would to repeat that regardless of what we do, it is not what the victim wants or needs. And it is important to remember that it is their needs that we assist.
How can states collectively utilize homicide survivors to assist with effective intervention in the aftermath of a murder or homicide death of a loved one? Should states provide monetary resources to organizations such as Parents Of Murdered Children?
1.  Nancy Ruhe
 Networking and ensuring that organizations, AG's office, state attorneys office and all others who work with victims knows about POMC. More importantly they need to know that we do more that just provide support, that we have a Murder Response Team, Second Opinion Services (for unsolved cases) that we do provide training, provide a national conference each year, effective leadership training, etc. POMC receives support from OVC and the Ohio AG's office only.
2.  Yvonne W
 Couldn't this be accomplished through the local POMC, the Victim's Rights office or the State's Attorney's Office?
Please discuss some of the best ways to help parents of murdered children through the first few hours after the death notification process. Generally, there are counseling services and support groups who may assist on a long-term basis. Sometimes it is difficult to meet their immediate emotional needs until appointments can be set up with professional counselors. Thank you.
1.  Nancy Ruhe
 Within the first few hours they need information. They need someone to speak on their behalf, someone who can make phone calls to get necessary assistance and referrals. They need to hear how truley sorry you are that their daughterson (perferably the name of the person ) was murdered. One of the best things that can be done is to allow them to react (as long as they are not hurting themselves or anyone else)in any manor they choose. All information provided to them should be in writing. And someone in the family should begin a journal of dates, times, questions, names of officers, etc. since they are in shock it is expected that their memory will be selective and in most cases non exiting.
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