Friday, July 30, 2010

The Elephant in the Room

Society provides wellness and support for those whom are survivors of various types of illnesses but what about crime survivors? Mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, children and communities are impacted by violent crimes such as rape, robbery, felony assault, hate crimes, domestic violence and child abuse. Surviving victims of crimes require healing that goes deeper than simply bringing the person responsible to justice. Crime survivors often find themselves grappling with difficult questions: How am I move forward with my life? What will happen next? Will I ever feel safe again? Where can I get information? What are my rights? Who will simply listen to me and respect my feelings and decisions? Why is surviving a violent crime always the silent "elephant" in a room?


Ask them to talk about what happened to them. Listen and support what they are sharing with you. Do not offer opinions, judgments or advice about what you hear and read about in other cases or the news. Encourage the person to describe what they: Saw . . Heard . . . Thought . . . Smelled . . . Felt . . .

It is important to tell them they are valued and your caring for them has not changed. Tell them how much you appreciate them as a person and in your life.

Simply listen: Listen to his or her emotions as well as the story.

Understand that people communicate in other ways than with their words. Try to understand and take cues from your loved one's expressions and body language. Maybe they are nervous and fighting with their hands embarrassed by the crime. or afraid you will judge them merely because they are disclosing something they feel is embarassing. Take your hands and hold theirs as they speak to you.

Encourage them to set priorities and problem-solve with input from family and close friends.
Allow time to heal. Don’t tell them to "get over it." Remember that every day they may be re-experiencing the event through dreams, memories, emotions or injuries that take time to heal.

No one expects a broken bone to heal over night, but often people expect loved ones to "get over" trauma after a day or two.

Think of healing as a group issue, not an individual one. As a caring person, you are impacted too. Take time for yourself, be gentle with yourself and with others.

Facilitate support from your church, family members and friends.

Laughter as Ward Foley author of "Thank My Lucky Scars" and Why God Did Not Make Me a Woman Because I have Enough Problems" will tell you humor is the best medicine. Use humor (preferably not about the event.) Try to lighten up if you can. And whatever you do if you cannot say something nice then zipper up your lip and keep it to yourself.

Give hugs daily.

After some time has passed, review what has happened. Concentrate on how each person has changed or grown.

Crime Survivors often lack an appetite. And they will not eat, especially if they are isolated or left alone for long periods of time. Make their favorite meal and eat with them.
Surviving a violent crime takes courage and inner strength.

Plan outside activities, even if it is a walk around the block. Fresh air and excercise are very important.

Look on the Internet and research support groups of crime or assualt. Talk to the person about joining a group or ongoing discussion.

Plants and flowers in a home of a crime victim survivor are also very important. Perhaps create a project and plant blubs and flowers in their yard. Create a garden of items that they might enjoy that you could create on a window sill. It does not always have to be in a yard. Consider asking the church for volunteers to help with things from their garden that a person might enjoy.

Surviving crime victims deal with the aftermath three hundred and sixty-five days a year, seven days a week. Providing friendship and hope for just one day is a day less of painful thought and memory in the mind of a crime victim survivor.

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