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Crime survivors suffer long-term ripple effects

Monday’s cartoon about school time lost to the repercussions of school violence is a sad commentary on the plight that teachers, administrators, parents, our children and youth and law enforcement experience due to school shootings. All families and friends of homicide victims face these same intrusions into their lives.

Our son, Kevin, was murdered along with his friends, Matt Hunt and Luis Garcia, on May 29, 1999. My experiences as a victim, and my own recovery as a victim advocate for the Resource Center for Victims of Violent Death, where I help homicide “living victims” – the victims’ friends, families, partners and coworkers – (have) taught me the sad realities of what happens to those left behind after a homicide. Because our communities, whether it be geographical or on school property, are traumatized radically with each victim that is taken by violence, we are becoming tragically less shocked with each event due to over exposure to trauma. With over 25 victims of homicide falling to violence in 2019 in Albuquerque alone, we need to focus on the survivors, our children and youth, who are struggling every day with unique needs for which resources are limited in providing relief. All survivors lose precious time at school or at work due to murder. Many will need rehab to recover from the self-medication that is easily used to overcome the agony of loss. Too many children and adults have gone to funerals of murdered friends and family members, and all are in need of grief counseling. The PTSD associated with homicides make survivors feel that they are living in a constant state of fear similar to active-shooter reality.

Youth especially struggle when siblings, other family members or friends are killed. Teens who would never have used drugs or gotten into the criminal justice system themselves find that they have few, if any, internal resources to deal with death and unrelenting pain that swamps their lives. Self-medication and wanting revenge can lead youth to make choices they probably would never have made without the pain of the homicide; school work and behavior suffer. Even worse, depression and suicide walk alongside with the self-medication; our youth suicide rate is frighteningly high in New Mexico. Their families must deal with the incredible grief, overwhelming pain, rage and confusion in a criminal justice system that is defendant-based and not victim-based, continually worrying about their children, and many unique other needs that most people will never have to deal with. Financial ruin is often closing in close behind. The Resource Center for Victims of Violent Death is helping as many families as possible with very limited resources; we try our best to do what we can with what we have to serve hurting people.

There are overwhelming challenges for those trying to find answers to stem the violence. I hope to play a small, but I hope important, part in trying to save those whose losses are unimaginable. The staff of the Resource Center for Victims of Violent Death stands ready to help if you or someone you know has suffered a homicide of someone you/they loved. Call our office 505-243-2222, check out our website BridgesForVictimsOfViolentDeath.org or come by our office between 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

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