Monday, November 23, 2009

Survivors of Homicide Victims Awareness Month

We have posted in the past about the work of Tina Chery, who founded the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute after her 15-year-old son was killed in Dorchester, Massachusetts. Here's the post that we ran as part of a "Preventing Violence" series we did a couple of years ago, and here's an excerpt from an article that discusses Tina's opposition to the death penalty.

One of the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute's initiatives has been to have November 20-December 20th declared Survivors of Homicide Victims Awareness Month in Massachusetts. Here's part of their announcement:

"The Governor shall annually issue a proclamation setting apart the period from November 20th to December 20th, inclusive, as a time for Survivors of Homicide Victims Awareness and recommending that the time period be observed in an appropriate manner by the people."

Why do we need it?
Nearly 35,000 people are killed every year in the U.S., leaving family members, friends and neighbors grieving. 1,156 people were murdered in Massachusetts between 1993 and 1998. For each of these victims, there are seven to ten close relatives – not counting significant others, friends, neighbors and co-workers. This means that while we have experienced a yearly decrease in the homicide rate in Massachusetts – from 248 in 1993 to 123 in 1998 – the number of survivors of victims of homicide continues to rise. In 2004 the City of Boston experienced 64 homicides leaving in its wake over 640 survivors, not including, friends, classmates, and neighbors.

When a man, woman, or child is murdered, all citizens are impacted by the devastating loss regardless or age, race, creed, education, religion, culture or ethnicity. Losing a loved one to homicide is among the most traumatic experiences that a person will ever have to endure. People who suffer a loss are confronted with tremendous upheaval and pain, which can lead to numerous emotional, physical challenges and difficulties and create a crisis response in day to day living.

The epidemic of youth violence in the United States takes a heavy toll on the nation’s health. It results in emotional and physical injuries, permanent disability and death; it consumes enormous health care resources; and it ultimately diminishes the quality of life of individuals, families and communities. These episodes of violence continue to destroy families, schools and communities.

We need this awareness month because our institutions and our society are uncomfortable dealing with the aftermath of murder. We don’t know what to say to survivors and often we don’t know what to do for them. This yearly observance provides a platform where, as a nation, we can learn how to better assist families who have been brutally impacted by violence and to support the efforts of survivors to inform our violence prevention, peacemaking, restorative and social justice movement.

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