All too often, "a knock on the door" signals the beginning of a trauma that never truly ends. This is the moment in time that each of us will struggle with for the rest of our lives. Fortunately for us, this moment causes our bodies and our minds to develop a protective haze about us. We become oblivious to the pain and somehow manage to cooperate with law enforcement officials, make funeral arrangements in addition to dealing with the loss of a loved one, relative, friend or associate.
Although our nightmare has fully taken over our lives during these bad days, the time will come, usually in three to six months, when this protection, a shroud of fog, ends. Leaving us naked and unprepared to cope with coming events.
This shock passes through our private and social lives like the ripples in a pond into which we have cast a stone.
Guilt, felt by victims and survivors of crimes of violence, is a normal healthy reaction that each of us will experience in an effort to answer the unanswerable question, "WHY?"
This unfounded guilt so encompasses our social being, that often it becomes a destructive force. Tearing at our family and social make up, leaving total devastation.
Two examples: A twelve year old sibling of a murder victim said "If I hadn't run, my brother wouldn't be dead." The fifteen year old sister of another homicide victim who retorted "I didn't get to say goodbye."
Since we do not have the ability to foresee the future, guilt has no justification. Every victim and survivor, must sooner or later answer these "What if..." questions.
By failing to dismiss these nagging questions, we allow the forces of destruction to further intensify our problems.
The books "No Time For Goodbye's and When Bad Things Happen To Good People helps us see the common but normal problem of anger.
We victims, in time, become angry at God, our friends, our relatives and others. Indeed,our social lives from the past are gone forever.
Weekly worship services, something that before the crime, we wouldn't miss, now are too painful to endure. Often we turn our backs on God blaming him. However God didn't commit the crime, a member of our society did. Our greatest anger is directed towards criminal justice and law enforcement agencies.
During our education, we came to believe that the police will protect us and the courts will punish the offender, the the courts will preserve and protect our rights.
Imagine the pain of the victims and survivors upon learning that the killer of their loved one was sentenced to die years ago,for a similar crime.
Be aware that the criminal justice system,is a system of laws, not of justice. That justice will only be served by changing laws.
When society becomes aware that ****"Justice delayed is justice denied", and the system changed then and only then will we see justice in our courts.
The courts and society must admit that victims are people too, with constitutional rights deserving protection. Then and only then will victims rights become a reality rather than a dream
Thought of revenge, is a subject that goes hand in hand with victimization. It is both healthy and normal. . Yet we find that society is sickened by this behavior.
Society often tells us that revenge is unhealthy and that our only way for peace is through forgiveness. However, we victims feel this is another of societies"guilt trips
At one time or another, each of us has said "I could just kill you." This statement, in jest, is no longer a joke, but is now in the realm of consideration. Often we think of ways in which we might cause our own method of justice on the offender. Indeed, frequently we ponder the murder of the criminal(s) responsible. Rarely though is this fantasy ever carried out.
Few of these people have ever been in our shoes. Victimized by the offender, then the police, the courts and lastly by society.
Forgive if you must, but do not allow these insensitive people, to shame it from you.
While these fantasies of revenge are both healthy and normal, it is what we do with them that counts.
Violent crime is most devastating upon the family(ies) directly affected by it. As individuals, we each react or behave, in our own way when presented by these tragedies.
The result of this uniqueness is painfully clear in our time of grief. How we grieve depends upon our personalities, our view of the tragedy and the impact of the views of society.
While we might expect that crimes of violence will pull us together, the opposite is the rule. Anger, guilt and grief often becomes a wedge that splits the family.
As parents, we can not fully understand the loss of a sibling nor can a child understand a parents loss.
Family members may become possessive of one another, we see them at odds over who hurts the most.
We often feel that the amount of tears shed is a measure of the grief felt by the other. Even that the spouse might, in some small way, be at fault.
Our relationship with the victim becomes a sacred possession upon which no one is to tread.
Individual personalities of family members will change, often quite visibly. To escape the horror of the crime some victims and survivors seek solace in alcohol or drugs or other inappropriate behavior.
With our supporting foundation destroyed, if we are to survive and possibly grow from the experience, we must rebuild the family structure. With all family members working toward a common goal.
Each of us must grieve in our own way and in our own time; the highs and lows must be expected and accepted by other family members.
To be a supporting structure, when one family member is in a low, depressed state, the others must be there to both support and work through the time with them. We must be there for each other.
Friends are an asset that few of us have too many of.
When violent crime strikes our family, it affects our friends too. It is these friends that support us in the early days of grief. They hug us when we need it, they feed us when we hunger, make phone calls and help make arrangements.
They organized us and did our thinking for us. They too must grieve.
The reality of your tragedy has yielded a rude awakening, it could happen to them too.
We must draw our families, friends and associates into discussing the crime and the loss.
Let us neither seek to reject one another's efforts at conversation about the subject, nor struggle to change it.
Often our friends simply do not know what to say, and shy away from such a conversation for fear of hurting us. Through conversation with one another, we can repair much of the damage.
The negative impact of certain elements of society, can be devastating to victims of violent crime. At the top of the list is the criminal justice system.
The President's Task Force on Victims of Crime chairperson stated;Somewhere along the way,the system began to serve lawyers and judges and defendants, treating the victim with institutionalized disinterest.
"To be a victim at the hands of the criminal is an unforgettable nightmare. But to then become a victim at the hands of the criminal justice system is an unforgivable travesty." It makes the criminal and the criminal justice system partners in crime."
Most victims are painfully lacking in understanding of the criminal justice process. Our preconceived notions result in anger and frustration when we realize that justice will not prevail. While defendants are released on minor technicalities, the victim must serve a life term, without benefit of judge or jury.
A life sentence for an offender is vastly different from that which is imposed on their innocent victims.Homicide cases often go unsolved though the identity of the offender is known.
It is rare indeed when we see justice served in a timely manner. Many times, cases fail to go to trial, or the victims must wait years for a conviction.
Plea bargaining is yet another of the injustices heaped upon the shoulders of the victim and survivors. In the name of getting a conviction, plea bargaining lessens the gravity of the crime committed, making the price paid by the victim higher. Most often these bargains are struck in an effort to avoid the economic impact of a lengthy trial.
The appeals process is yet another form of victimization at the hands of the criminal justice system.
While the victims and survivors are protected from the emotional upheaval of the first trial, by the shock of the event. Second and subsequent trials find them defenseless. They must again relive the trauma of the crime on a day to day basis.
The brutality of violent crime as it affects judges, police and prosecutors is viewed by victims as insensitive.When in reality their behavior is often a barrier that they build for themselves. Many prosecutor's offices have now set up victim/witness units to aid both victims and witnesses of violent crimes.
The King, Snohomish County areas have some of the finest victim/witness units available. They are in fact models for others to follow. It is through their efforts that victims are no longer evidence abused by the criminal justice system as in the past.
Holidays are tradition, passed from generation to generation. They are times when we enjoy the company and celebration with our families, friends and co-workers.
Yet when a family member is not there to share in the merriment, these holidays serve as painful reminders of our loss. When the loss is at the hands of another, by violent crime , it becomes even worse. Whether it be Christmas, Hanukkah, birthdays, anniversaries and the like, the pain is the same.
There are no guidelines to follow through these holidays. Often we can recognize the lost loved one by doing something special for others.
Most important we must seek new ways to celebrate, to develop new traditions. We must honor and remember our loved ones lost or affected by crimes of violence.
There are several aspects of societies citizenship that have a negative impact on victims of violent crime. Widespread lack of understanding, compounded by poor communication is the culprit.
One ten year old sibling, responding to a reporter's question "How do you feel about all of this?" Answered "Well now I'll have the room all to myself." This statement, viewed as callous, was normal denial
While walking down the aisle of a local grocery store, we see our friends going out of their way to avoid seeing us. They don't know what to say.
A homicide victim mother, when speaking of her daughter's violent death, observed people with whom she was speaking, withdraw from the conversation.
The anonymous element of our society can be even more devastating. They are the ones that call on the phone, telling us that had we been better parents our child would still be alive. These cowards will accuse us of the crime. Or that by walking the streets during the wee hours of the morning, our loved ones brought the crime upon themselves.
For these people to react differently is to admit that they are vulnerable. After all if it happened to you, it could happen to them also.
There are people who will support you in your effort, and as time goes by you will find yourself smiling again.
There are positive and negative personalities. We find ourselves seeking out these positive people because they make us feel better about ourselves.
Lastly, there are many support groups such as DOVE, who are eager to help you along your path. Having people like yourself, who have walked the path of the violent crime victim, and survived. Eventually, each victim will come surprisingly close to recovery, but it is an illusive goal that can never reached because once you become a victim, you will always be a victim.
While we are a group that no one wants to join, we are a group that victims can not be without.
As a result of violent crime, our lives have been changed. The rest of our lives then are the Epilogue.
When we hear cliches like "She's happier now." or " Aren't you lucky that you have your other children." or "Life must go on." we will react differently now.
Listening to arguments for offenders rights will infuriate us. Because we realize that additional rights for the accused means less rights for victims.