Statistics
 

 

1.    An estimated 14,748 persons were murdered nationwide in 2010, a 4.2 percent decline from 2009.1
2.     In 2010, for homicides in which the age of the victim was known, 9.9 percent of murder victims were under 18; 32.9 percent were between the ages of 20 and 29; 20.4 percent were between the ages of 30 and 39; 13.4 percent were between 40 and 49; 11.6 percent were between 50 and 64; and 4.6 percent were ages 65 and older.2
3.    For homicides in which the age of the victim was known, teenagers (ages 13 to 19) accounted for 12.4 percent of murder victims in 2010.3
4.     In 2010, 77.4 percent of murder victims were male and 22.5 percent female.4
5.    The sex of the offender was known in 73.2 percent of homicide cases in 2010. Among those cases, 90.3 percent of offenders were male and 9.7 percent were female.5
6.    In the majority of homicide cases in 2010 in which the age of the offender was known, most offenders (92 percent) were 18 or older.6
7.    In 2010, 46.5 percent of homicide victims were white and 49.8 percent were black.  For 3.7 percent of victims, race was classified as “other” or “unknown.”7
8.    In 2010, homicide was generally intra-racial where the race of the victim and offender were known: white offenders murdered 83 percent of white victims, and black offenders murdered 90 percent of black victims.8
9.    In 2010, for homicides in which the type of weapon was specified, 68 percent of the offenses were committed with firearms.9
10. Knives or cutting instruments were used in 13 percent of mur­ders, and personal weapons (e.g., hands, fists, feet, etc.) were used in approximately six percent of murders.10
11. In 2010, where the victim-offender relationship was known, 37.4 percent of homicide victims were killed by an acquain­tance; 22.2 percent were killed by a stranger; 18.4 percent were killed by an intimate partner (husband, wife, boyfriend, or girlfriend); 15 percent were killed by a family member; and 5.5 percent were killed by a friend.11
12. In 2010, homicides occurred in connection with another felony (such as rape, robbery, or arson) in at least 14.8 percent of incidents.12
13. At least six percent of murder victims in 2010 were robbed in conjunction with being killed. 13
14. During 2008, 1,740 children died due to child abuse or ne­glect. More than three-quarters (80 percent) of these children were younger than four years of age.14
15. Law enforcement cleared (by arrest or exceptional means) 64.8 percent of the murders that occurred nationwide in 2010.15
16. In 2009, 48 law enforcement officers were feloniously killed in the line of duty; 47 were male and one was female.16
17. Of the 48 officers feloniously killed in 2009, 15 of the slain officers were ambushed; eight were involved in arrest situa­tions; eight were performing traffic stops; six were answering disturbance calls; five were involved in tactical situations (e.g., high-risk entry); four were investigating suspicious persons/ circumstances; and two were handling, transporting, or main­taining custody of prisoners.17
                 
1 Federal Bureau of Investigation, “Crime in the United States, 2010,” (Washington, DC: GPO, 2011), Table 1, http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2010/crime-in-the-u.s.-2010/tables/10tbl01.xls (accessed September 27, 2011).
2 Federal Bureau of Investigation, “Crime in the United States, 2010: Expanded Homicide Data,” (Washington, DC: GPO, 2011), calculated from Table 3, http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2010/ crime-in-the-u.s.-2010/tables/10shrtbl03.xls (accessed September 27, 2011).
3 Ibid.
4 Ibid., calculated from Table 1, http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2010/crime-in-the-u.s.-2010/tables/10shrtbl01.xls (accessed September 27, 2011).
5 Ibid., calculated from Table 3.
6 Ibid.
7 Ibid., Table 2, http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2010/crime-in-the-u.s.-2010/ tables/10shrtbl02.xls (accessed September 27, 2011).
8 Ibid., calculated from Table 6, http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2010/crime-in-the-u.s.-2010/tables/10shrtbl06.xls (accessed September 27, 2011).
9 Ibid., calculated from Table 11, http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2010/crime-in-the-u.s.-2010/tables/10shrtbl11.xls (accessed September 27, 2011).
10 Ibid.
11 Ibid., calculated from Table 12, http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2010/crime-in-the-u.s.-2010/tables/10shrtbl12.xls (accessed September 27, 2011).
12 Ibid., calculated from Table 10, http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2010/crime-in-the-u.s.-2010/tables/10shrtbl10.xls (accessed September 27, 2011).
13 Ibid.
14 Children’s Bureau, “Child Maltreatment, 2008,” (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2010), 55, http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/pubs/cm08/cm08.pdf (accessed September 27, 2011).
15 Federal Bureau of Investigation, “Crime in the United States, 2010: Table 25,” (Washington, DC: GPO, 2011), http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2010/crime-in-the-u.s.-2010/tables/10tbl25.xls (accessed September 27, 2011).
16 Federal Bureau of Investigation, “Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted: 2009,” (Washington, DC; GPO, 2010), http://www2.fbi.gov/ucr/killed/2009/summary_leoka.html (accessed November 12, 2010).
17 Ibid.

 

For additional information, please contact:

National Center for Victims of Crime 2111 Wilson Blvd., Suite 300 Arlington, VA 22201 (703)276-2880 (703)276-2889 (fax) E-mail: ncvc@ncvc.org Web site: www.ncvc.org

U.S. Department of Justice Federal Bureau of Investigation Uniform Crime Reports Clarksburg, WV 26306-0154 (304)625-4995

National Criminal Justice Reference Service U.S. Department of Justice National Institute of Justice, Box 6000, Rockville, MD 20849-6000 (800)851-3420 (301)519-5500 km. Web site: www.ncjrs.org

Reprinted, not in its entirety, from Crime and Victimization in America, Statistical Overview, National Center for Victims of Crime, 2012 edition

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Am I a Co-Victim?
 

A co-victim is a term used synonymously with the word survivor. A co-victim is anyone who has been impacted by the death of a homicide. The term is usually used to describe immediate family, significant others and close personal friends. To an extent, teachers, co-workers, and other professionals who had dealing with the deceased may be considered co-victims.

 

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Co-Victim Grief

The Homicide Differential: Elements Unique to the Homicide of a Loved One That Negatively Impact Co-victims

In order to understand the breadth and depth of homicide, it is necessary to recognize that (1) death by homicide differs from other types of death due to a number of specific reasons and (2) cultural attitudes toward death and spirituality influence societal perceptions of homicide. Just as there are unique physical, mental, emotional, social, and financial components to every sudden death, there are spiritual ramifications as well. Those who have never thought much about God before will often do so after a loved one has died under traumatic circumstances. Persons of faith who assume that what happens to them is God's will are forced to reshape their faith positions to incorporate the fact that bad things do indeed happen to good people (Lord 1996).

We have been conditioned throughout the ages to accept that each life is destined for the inevitability of death, which is as natural and predictable as birth. The normal repetitive circumstances of death are disease and old age. When death is due to the unnatural circumstance of homicide, it is sudden and without forewarning. It is now widely accepted that there are specific elements associated with homicidal deaths that distinguish the impact upon the surviving family members from other forms of dying. They include:

  • The intent to harm. One of the most distinguishing factors between homicidal death and other forms of dying is the intent of the murderer to harm the victim. Co-victims must deal with the anger, rage, and violence that has been inflicted upon someone they love.
  • Stigmatization. Because society sometimes places blame on murdered victims for their own death which translates into blame on the victim's family when it is believed that they should have controlled the behavior that led to the death, "co-victims of homicide often feel abandoned, ashamed, powerless, and vulnerable" (Redmond 1989).
  • Media and public view. Regardless of public sympathies surrounding homicidal deaths, they almost never remain private. Co-victims are quickly thrust into public view and become fair game for public consumption. While some journalists exercise consideration and objectivity in their reporting of homicidal events, the degree of intrusion into the lives of co-victims of homicide constitutes a major homicide differential.
  • Criminal or juvenile justice system. Unlike family members of individuals who die of natural deaths, co-victims of homicide are the most likely population of victims to be thrust into a complex system of legal players and jargon. Co-victims must quickly become acquainted with a world of crime scenes, evidence, and autopsies. Co-victims of homicide have much to learn about the investigative, prosecutorial, and judiciary branches of the criminal justice system in a very short time. They are often expected to quickly comprehend a system that may in some instances be insensitive and specifically designed to protect the rights of the accused (with little regard for the victim). In addition, co-victims may encounter many cognitive and environmental stimuli that remind them of the crime such as contact with the defendant and/or reviewing the traumatic details of the crime in the courtroom. This experience often results in the kind of avoidance behavior that leads co-victims to cancel or not show up for appointments with criminal justice system officers or victim advocates.
  • Bereavement. As early as 1983, E. K. Rynearson, M.D., determined that bereavement after homicide is so prevalent that it deserved clinical attention. His clinical studies involving the family members of murder victims revealed that all of his subjects had previously experienced bereavement following the natural death of a relative; and the psychological processing of homicide was accompanied by cognitive reactions that differed from previously experienced forms of bereavement. Rynearson's research forms the basis for the shift from viewing the co-victims' grief issues separate and apart from the impact of trauma associated with the death of a family member. Traumatic grief over homicidal death distinctly differs from other forms of grief.

Reprinted from 1999 National Victim Assistance Academy Text, Chapter 11: Homicide, authors: Carroll Ann Ellis and Janice Lord, editors: Grace Coleman, Mario Gaboury, Morna Murray, and Anne Seymour

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Types of Homicide
 


Homicide begins as an act. It is committed under individual conditions, within certain parameters, and eventually classified into general categories. Each case has its own circumstances that vary as greatly as each single act. Victim service providers working with co-victims should be knowledgeable about some of the general types of homicides.

SPOUSAL HOMICIDE

The killing of a spouse, life partner, or other significant individual of the same or opposite sex with whom one has lived for some time and formed a stable relationship.

The FBI reported in 1997 that 26 percent of female homicide victims are slain by husbands or boyfriends, and 3 percent of male victims are slain by wives or girlfriends. Among legally married persons, regardless of geographic region in the U.S., African- American females were at greatest risk of being killed by African-American spouses or partners. Specifically: in the West, African-American males were 11 times more likely to be victims of spousal homicide than white males, almost 7 times more likely than white females, and 1.4 times more likely than African-American females. (Segall and Wilson 1993).

In a study by Christine Rasche (1993) of 155 "mate" homicides in Jacksonville, Florida, between 1980 and 1986, the most salient motive for spouse murder was possessiveness (48.9 percent) that included the inability of the offender to accept the termination of the relationship and/or the sanctity or security of the relationship (jealousy, infidelity, and rivalry). Feelings arising out of arguments (20.7 percent) and self-defense (15.5 percent) were second and third principal motives respectively.

CHILD HOMICIDE

The killing of a person under the age of 18.

Sixty percent of child murders in 1994 were at the hands of family members (22 percent) or acquaintances (38 percent). During this year, 11 percent of all murder victims were under the age of 18 (Greenfield 1996).

Based on 45 states reporting in 1996, the National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect (1997) states that 996 children were known to have died as a result of abuse or neglect. The majority of these deaths were children 3 years of age or younger.

Pediatric deaths as a result of handgun violence have also risen as an issue of significant concern during the last few years.

SHAKEN BABY SYNDROME

The violent shaking of a young child that causes permanent brain injury or death.

Because shaken baby syndrome is still a relatively new classification of death or injury, it is difficult to say for certain how many children are victims of it each year. However, one source reports that 10 to 12 percent of all deaths due to abuse and neglect are attributable to the syndrome (National Information Support and Referral Service 1998). Perpetrators of shaken baby syndrome are about 80 percent male--37 percent biological fathers and 20.5 percent boyfriends. The remaining 17.3 percent were female babysitters, and 12.6 percent biological mothers. Sixty percent of the victims are male. Between 1,000 and 3,000 children are diagnosed with shaken baby syndrome every year, and about 100 to 120 of them die. Outcomes for victims who live include cerebral palsy, blindness, deafness, seizures, learning disabilities, and vegetative states (Shaken Baby Alliance 1998).

PARRICIDE

The killing of one's parent.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports in the study Murder in Families (Dawson and Langan 1994) that 1.97 percent of murder victims were killed by their children. This translates to about 300 cases per year. Relatively rare when compared to other forms of homicide, parricide has begun to attract the attention of family violence researchers.

In a review of 10 studies that examined adolescents who had killed their parents, Kathleen Heide (1993) discusses 3 types of parricide offenders: the severely abused child, the severely mentally ill child, and the dangerously anti-social child. She points out that ascertaining the driving force behind a parricide is complex but factors in the family that often contribute to the homicides include a pattern of violence, easy access to guns, and alcoholism or heavy drinking. Adolescent offenders expressed helplessness in coping with stress in the home and feelings of isolation and suicidal ideation. They had failed in their attempts to get help with little (if any) adult intervention, and had failed in their efforts to escape, with a history of running away.

Heide (1993) acknowledges that adolescent parricide offenders do include the severely mentally ill and dangerously antisocial, but in smaller frequencies compared to severely abused children. Components of child maltreatment pervasive in some families that also may lead to parricide are physical, sexual, emotional, and verbal abuse, and physical, medical and emotional neglect.

STRANGER HOMICIDE

The killing of a person or persons by an individual unknown to the victim.

In 1993, for the first time in history, Americans were more likely to be killed by a stranger or unknown killer (53 percent of cases) than by a family member of friend. By 1996, the trend had reversed slightly with 49 percent of homicide victims killed by strangers (FBI 1998).

MASS MURDERS

The murder of several victims within a few moments or hours of each other.

Currently in the United States, there is approximately one mass murder per week, including public homicidal events in shopping malls, government offices, schools and random street shootings as well as families annihilated by a troubled parent or sibling. Although researchers have only begun to collect data on mass murders, certain commonalties have begun to emerge (Hickey 1991). The offenders are primarily white, male, and span a wide age range; they use semiautomatic guns and rifles to kill swiftly; and their victims are often but not always intentionally selected by the killer.

Those who commit multiple homicides appear to do so in an irrational effort to regain, even for a brief moment, a degree of control over their lives. To the observer, the severe mental imbalance behind these horrible acts is clear. To the killer, however, his or her thoughts and actions may make perfect sense, given his or her psychological disorientation. Feelings of rejection, failure, and loss of autonomy create frustrations that inevitably become overwhelming, and the murderer cultivates a psycho-pathological need to strike back.

SERIAL KILLING

An offender who kills over time. They usually have at least 3 to 4 victims, and their killing is characterized by a pattern in the type of the victims selected or the method or motives used in the killings.

Serial killers include those who, on a repeated basis, kill within the confines of their own home, such as a woman who poisons several husbands, children, or elderly people in order to collect insurance. They may operate within the confines of a city or a state, or even travel through several states as they seek out victims. Some murderers select their victims because of their status within their immediate surroundings such as vagrants, prostitutes, migrant workers, homosexuals, missing children, and single and often elderly women.

Some argue that anyone who kills, especially serial killers, must be mentally ill. However, the vast majority of serial killers are not only judged sane by legal standards, but are indistinguishable from non-offenders as they move about and within our communities.

Reprinted from 1999 National Victim Assistance Academy Text, Chapter 11: Homicide, authors: Carroll Ann Ellis and Janice Lord, editors: Grace Coleman, Mario Gaboury, Morna Murray, and Anne Seymour

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Co-Victim Reaction
 


Although many emotional responses are shared by family members when a loved one is murdered, each surviving family member will experience distinct emotional responses. In addition to the sudden, violent death of a loved one, co-victims may experience additional stress if the deceased was subjected to acts of torture, sexual assault, or other intrusive, heinous acts. They may have a constant need to be reassured that the death was quick and painless and that suffering was minimal. If the death was one of torture or of long duration, they may become emotionally fixated on what the victim must have felt and the terror experienced. They may fixate on the race of the offender to try to understand the motive behind the murder, and may develop a biased view of a certain race or culture based on the actions of the offender. If the offender was a family member or friend, co-victims may experience additional interfamilial discord as family members choose sides for support.

PLACEMENT IN THE FAMILY

Murder of a child. In the natural order of things, parents precede their
child(ren) in death. The death of one's child is one of the least expected experiences in life. Parents serve as protectors for their child(ren). This sense of protectiveness often promotes parental guilt and self-blame. The feelings even occur when the deceased child is an adult.

The killing of a child is particularly complex when there are other small children in the family whose needs must be met as well. It is not uncommon for a parent (or parents) to idealize the deceased child, attributing qualities that are idealistic, not real. This can cause siblings to conclude that the "wrong child died."

Fathers often deal with their emotions by retreating into silence and denying the presence of intense emotions. This may be their way of remaining strong for the mother, and this motive may be misunderstood or interpreted as a lack of caring or concern. If the family structure incorporates stepparents, the roles and display of appropriate emotions may be even further complicated. The biological parent may feel that the stepparent could not possibly understand the type of pain he or she is feeling. This may lead to alienation of the stepparent in the grieving process.

Murder of a sibling. Younger brothers and sisters of murdered children are often unintentionally overlooked by parents who try to protect them from painful information and experiences. In addition to losing a sibling, they may also have lost their best friend. Parents simply do not have enough energy to deal with them. Initial community and extended family support usually focuses on helping the grieving parent, what they are feeling or what they need.

Siblings may worry about their own safety and possible death. They may become overly fearful of losing a parent or other sibling in the same manner. Many younger siblings have an extremely difficult time when they reach the age at which their sibling was murdered.

Adult siblings may worry that the stress of their sibling's murder may hasten their parents' deaths. They may also resent their parents' pre-occupation with the victim and their idealization of the deceased.

Murder of a spouse. The feelings and emotional needs of a surviving spouse will depend on the nature of the marital relationship. If there was discord or dissension, co-victims may suffer intense guilt feelings. If it was a loving partnership, the feelings of loss may be overwhelming. The age of the spousal co-victim will also play an important factor in the emotions of the co-victim. Elderly co-victims and younger co-victims may not do as well as the middle-aged co-victim (Steele 1992). Steele's study of 60 widows and widowers found that spouses between ages 20 and 35 faced significant financial stress and became exhausted with working, rearing grieving children, and attending to maintenance of the home and family. This anger is then followed by guilt. Murder of a young spouse also may leave the surviving spouse choosing never again to remarry because of the fear it will happen again. They may feel they have lost their future. Those 66 to 85 in the Steele study also experienced more stress than the middled-aged group. They may be displaced from their home because they are not able to care for themselves. They may have lost partners of many years and, with their lives so intertwined, feel that they are no longer needed or important.

Murder of a parent. Young surviving children naturally worry about who will care for them. Smaller children tend to experience the death as desertion since they have little ability to understand what has happened or to conceptualize death. They are angry because the parent was not the "superhuman" they envisioned. They wonder why the parent did not fight harder or run faster, and may blame the victim for his or her own death.

Traumatic death in the family is especially hurtful to children and youth. Bradach (1995) studied 181 young people aged 17 to 28 and found that those who had experienced a traumatic death in the family when they were children had greater depression, more global psychological stress, and lower individuation and separation from the family than those who had experienced more common losses. They also had more difficulty forming intimate relationships (Bradach and Jordan 1995).

For older or adult children, anger levels may increase because they feel their parent's death was not the dignified one that they deserved or expected. If the family was experiencing discord, children may feel intensely guilty there was not enough time to rectify the familial problems.

Reprinted from 1999 National Victim Assistance Academy Text, Chapter 11: Homicide, authors: Carroll Ann Ellis and Janice Lord, editors: Grace Coleman, Mario Gaboury, Morna Murray, and Anne Seymour

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Common Problems for Co-Victims
 


Co-victims themselves provide the most accurate information regarding their experiences during this period. They become experts in explaining their problems and needs. In addition to personal trauma, Parents of Murdered Children, Inc. (1989) lists 8 additional problem areas co-victims must endure.

  1. Financial considerations. Expenses related to funeral, burial, medical treatment, psychiatric care for family members, and other costs are all part of the aftermath experienced by co-victims. These considerations are grave and contribute in a major way to the continuing distress experienced.

  2. The criminal or juvenile justice system. Co-victims of homicide have a vested interest in participating in the criminal or juvenile justice system and understanding the complex issues of a cumbersome legal system.

    When members of a homicide support group (Fairfax Peer Survivors Group) in Fairfax, Virginia, were polled about their needs during the legal process, the single most important issue for them was their ability to obtain information from the prosecutors, detectives, and other professionals. They wanted to know exactly how, when, and why their loved one was murdered and who committed the murder; wanted to know if their loved one suffered; wanted to know the truth about the events of the death and elements needed to support the charge; and, expected to feel better if the case was successfully prosecuted.

    Discounting the family's contribution to a case discounts the pain of their victimization. Co- victims feel devalued when they are not allowed input into plea decisions and when they are barred from criminal or juvenile justice proceedings. They are distraught when the imposition of a technical rule, e.g., a "gag order" which prevents them from attending the trial, may in turn eliminate their last opportunity to do something for their loved one (Sobieski 1994).

  3. Employment. A co-victim's ability to function and perform on the job is diminished. Motivation is sometimes altered. They experience emotional bursts of crying or losing their tempers. They are impatient with trivia. Having to explain or apologize can create additional stress. Some co-victims use work as an escape to avoid working through their grief. They resist dealing directly with their pain by placing it on hold while at work.

  4. Marriages. It is common for marital partners to have difficulty relating, and they may even separate after a death due to homicide. (Divorces, however, are not as common as once believed.) Each partner may grieve differently. They may blame each other for the loss, particularly in the case of the death of a child. They may each wish to turn away from the memories that the other partner evokes. They are sometimes unable to help each other because they cannot help themselves.

  5. Children. Parents often fail to communicate with their children by either ignoring them when they are preoccupied with their own issues or hoping to protect them from unnecessary trauma. The children, in turn, fear adding to their parents' pain and simply withdraw. Children who witness the killing of someone they love experience profound emotional trauma, including post traumatic stress disorder, and may not readily receive adequate intervention.

    Furthermore, young people who report having to perform tasks associated with the fatal injury, such as telephoning for police or emergency medical services, or responding to the immediate needs of the injured person or the perpetrator, are often traumatized. When the issue of blame or accountability for the death is not resolved through police investigation, children may re-examine their behavior, believing that if they had done something differently, they could have prevented the death. Without support and an opportunity to explore the feasibility of such alternatives, children often continue to unnecessarily blame themselves.

  6. Religious faith. Questions for, anger at, and challenges to God surface regarding the reason for the death. How could a loving God allow it to happen? Where is the loved one? Some conclude, at least for a while, that "if there were a God, then God would not have let this happen. Since it happened, there must not be a God." Faithful co-victims seeking to understand sometimes look for answers from unorthodox sources. Over-simplistic comments and "answers" by clergy and church members sometimes create problems for co-victims who take their spiritual pilgrimage seriously.

  7. The media. Many homicide co-victims are subjected to the intrusion of what they perceive to be an insensitive media. The competitive quest for sensational, fast-breaking news items may override the need for privacy of anguishing families who may be experiencing prolonged scrutiny, inaccurate reporting, and gruesome reminders of the violence associated with the death.

  8. Professionals who do not understand. Co-victims report that too many professionals (police, court personnel, hospital personnel, funeral directors, clergy, school personnel, psychologists, and psychiatrists) demonstrate by their comments and actions that they do not fully understand the impact of death by homicide upon the remaining family members.

  9. Substance Abuse. Working with co-victims through the Separation and Loss Services, a program he founded in 1989 to address the special needs of co-victims of homicide, Dr. Ted Rynearson estimated that 30 percent of his clients had substance abuse problems (Rynearson and McCreery 1993).

Reprinted from 1999 National Victim Assistance Academy Text, Chapter 11: Homicide, authors: Carroll Ann Ellis and Janice Lord, editors: Grace Coleman, Mario Gaboury, Morna Murray, and Anne Seymour

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Approaches to Help

GENERAL

  • Co-victims should be allowed to grieve in whatever manner they wish and for as long as they wish.
  • Co-victims should be allowed to cry freely. It is a healthy expression of grief and releases tensions.
  • Co-victims should be allowed to talk about and personalize the victim. Allow the co-victim to criticize the victim and to talk about the good times and the bad times.
  • Allow co-victims to get angry at the criminal or juvenile justice system, the criminal or juvenile murderer, the victim, or simply the unfairness of life. Anger needs to be expressed.
  • Let the co-victims know you remember, too, by remembering them at holiday times, on the anniversary date of the murder, and the victim's birthday.
  • Allow the co-victims some occasional "time out" from day-to-day pressures. Encourage them to take a day off from work or a day out of the house, etc., and if possible, offer to help with the children.
  • Reassure the co-victims that the murder was neither their fault nor the victim's fault.
  • Tell co-victims that you are sorry the murder happened and it is horrible that someone they loved was killed.
  • Support co-victims in their efforts to reconstruct their lives, even if it means a major change in lifestyle.
  • Let co-victims know that you will remain their friend and they mean a great deal to you.

FOR VICTIM SUPPORT PROFESSIONALS

  • Learn as much as possible about the case before speaking with the family. If the information is not flattering to the deceased but may affect the investigation of the case, alert the family to these facts as tactfully and sensitively as possible. Prepare them for media reporting of such information.
  • Determine co-victims' needs for contact. Some will require constant contact, while others will want minimal intervention. Temper your need to help if assistance is not needed or wanted.
  • Become familiar with the stages of grief and additional stress factors.
  • Personalize the deceased. Ask the family to tell you stories or show you pictures. Ask about the victim's hobbies, dreams, and desires.
  • Protect the co-victims from unwanted media attention but assist those victims who wish to speak to the media.
  • Determine if co-victims need assistance with funeral arrangements or other family notification responsibilities. If yes, offer to help.
  • Realize that financial considerations are paramount in any murder, but especially those in which the victim contributed significantly to the family's coffers. Help co-victims to file for insurance benefits, crime victims compensation, co-victims benefits under Social Security, etc., and to seek restitution orders through victim impact statements and pre-sentence investigation reports.
  • Provide co-victims with the names of mental health counselors or support groups.
  • Provide co-victims with information about the investigation and criminal or juvenile justice process. Keep them informed of its progress. (Please note that although most victims will want to know even the smallest detail, not all victims will want this information. Find out the victim's desire for information and act accordingly. It is helpful to identify one family member who will disseminate information throughout the family; however, do not focus all of your attention on this one family member.)
  • Realize that each family member will have individual needs. Work with all family members to determine their need for information and support. Do not forget to include grandparents, siblings (where age appropriate), or other extended family members.
  • Be aware that coping with the trauma of homicide can lead to substance abuse problems for co-victims. Make appropriate referrals, when indicated, to qualified mental health professionals who specialize in the assessment of substance abuse problems.
  • Review, as necessary, all autopsy and/or murder scene photographs to determine the suitability of family members remaining in the courtroom. Some co-victims will want to remain no matter how graphic the evidence is. Remember, the final decision is up to the co-victim.
  • Consider using a family friend or distant relative to identify the victim in any court proceedings if using an immediate family member will disqualify him or her from remaining in the courtroom throughout the trial. (Check beforehand with the prosecutor concerning state laws or court rules allowing this.)
  • Provide all court services to co-victims that are available to victims of other crimes such as court accompaniment or secure waiting rooms. Assistance in preparing victim impact statements, documenting restitution, or completing pre-sentence investigation reports is appropriate.
  • Alert the prosecutor or law enforcement representative of co-victims' concerns for safety or other emotional or physical concerns.
  • Inform co-victims of their rights to file civil suits against the offender or third parties, where applicable.
  • Prepare a brochure explaining the emotional ramifications of murder on the co-victims and, with permission of the co-victim, send materials or meet with co-victims' employers so that allowances can be made for missed days from work due either to court or emotional needs.
  • Be prepared to provide long-term victim assistance in cases involving the death penalty.
  • Help co-victims understand the appellate process and provide guidance through any/all appeals that the offender may file. An excellent resource guide to the appellate process is available from the Office of the Attorney General in Missouri.
  • Provide guidance to co-victims about rights and services available in the post-sentencing phases of their cases. Nearly all states and the federal government have corrections-based victim advocates who provide information and assistance regarding victim protection, notification of offender status and location, restitution, victim input, and parole release hearings.
  • Ensure that co-victims know their rights regarding parole release hearings (in applicable cases). These include notification of parole consideration hearings; victim protection to address real and perceived fears; restitution and other financial/legal obligations; the provision of victim impact statements (including both a record of the VIS at sentencing as well as oral, written, videotaped, or audio taped VIS at parole hearings); and information and referrals to supportive services in the community.
  • In death penalty cases, determine if the co-victims have the right to witness the execution. Many states provide specialized services and separate viewing areas for co-victims. It is also important to provide follow-on supportive services, such as accompaniment to the cemetery in which the victim is buried, and media intervention.
  • Determine if surviving family members have any desire to meet face-to-face with the criminal who murdered their loved one. While this concept may seem much too painful to some people, the state of Texas has over 300 surviving family members of homicide victims who want to meet with the murderers of their loved ones through its highly structured victim-offender mediation program. It is the victim's choice and, if the opportunity is available, it is important to offer co-victims this option.
  • For surviving family members who have reached a point of reconstructing their lives in the aftermath of homicide, determine if they would like to participate in programs such as victim impact panels. Some of the most powerful speakers about victim trauma and the injustices victims endure, for both convicted offenders and justice professionals, are people who have suffered the most immeasurable loss of a loved one through violent means.

Life can continue after the homicide of a loved one. As painful as a co-victim's journey may be, the human spirit can (and will) by nature endure. The loss of a loved one in this painful manner is abhorrent, traumatizing, and difficult in terms of providing aftercare. One survives because it is the course of human development to do so. It is in the natural order of things that people, nations, and worlds persevere and continue to go on. Those who are dedicated to helping to restore the lives of co-victims of homicide must accept that the real work is accomplished not only through guiding but also through learning and understanding.

Reprinted from 1999 National Victim Assistance Academy Text, Chapter 11: Homicide, authors: Carroll Ann Ellis and Janice Lord, editors: Grace Coleman, Mario Gaboury, Morna Murray, and Anne Seymour

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References

Jenkins, Bill. What to Do When the Police Leave: A Guide to the First Days of Traumatic Loss. WBJ Press, Richmond, VA. 1999.

Lord, Janice Harris. No Time for Goodbyes: Coping with Sorrow, Anger and Injustice After a Tragic Death. Pathfinder Publishing of California, Venture, CA. 1987.

PARENTS OF MURDERED CHILDREN (POMC)
www.pomc.com
100 East Eight Street, Suite B-41, Cincinnati, Ohio 45202
(513) 721-5683
Toll Free: 1-888-818-POMC

Offers support for families as they work through the grief process and learn what to expect from the criminal justice system. Helps with practical information, referrals, telephone contact, legal ramifications of murder and any problems that may be faced by bereaved families of homicide victims. Has over 300 contact persons and chapters.

THE COMPASSIONATE FRIENDS
www.compassionatefriends.org
P.O. Box 3696, Oak Brook, Illinois 60522
(630) 990-0010

A nationwide self-help organization for parents and family members who have experienced the death of a child or sibling. Assists them in positive resolution of the grief experienced upon the death of a child. Provides referrals to local chapters, publishes pamphlets and books on parental and sibling grief, and maintains a resource catalog.

MOTHERS AGAINST DRUNK DRIVING (MADD)
www.madd.org
511 E. John Carpenter Freeway
Suite 700
Irving, TX 75062
877-275-6233
972-869-2206 Fax

MADD is more than just moms – we're real people – dads, young people, and other concerned individuals who want to stop drunk driving, support the victims of this violent crime, and prevent underage drinking.

NATIONAL ORGANIZATION FOR VICTIM ASSISTANCE (NOVA)
http://www.trynova.org/
NOVA, 510 King Street, Suite 424
Alexandria, VA 22314
Phone: 703-535-6682
Fax: 703-535-5500
Toll-Free: 1-800-TRY-NOVA (1-800-879-6682)
E-mail: nova@try-nova.org
The National Organization for Victim Assistance is a private, non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization of victim and witness assistance programs and practitioners, criminal justice agencies and professionals, mental health professionals, researchers, former victims and survivors, and others committed to the recognition and implementation of victim rights and services.

NATIONAL CENTER FOR MISSING AND EXPLOITED CHILDREN
www.missingkids.com
699 Prince Street
Alexandria, VA 22314
1-800-843-5678
703-224-2150
703-224-2122 Fax
 
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) serves as a national clearinghouse and resource center on issues relating to child victimization, specifically the abduction and sexual exploitation of American youth. Opened in June, 1984, the National Center works in cooperation with the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) at the U.S. Department of justice in an effort to reduce crimes against children and better address the needs of victim families and the professionals serving them.

The National Center operates a 24-hour, toll-free hotline for parents to call to report a missing child; the public to relay information which could lead to a child's recovery; or for citizens m request free information on child protection. Since the National Center's establi