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James, E. M. (1998). Surviving the Social and Emotional Impact of Homicidal Loss Through Local Community Intervention. Unpublished Master Thesis; Lincoln University, Lincoln University, Pennsylvania

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James, E. M. (1998). Surviving the Social and Emotional Impact of Homicidal Loss Through Local Community Intervention. Unpublished Master Thesis; Lincoln University, Lincoln University, Pennsylvania

INTRODUCTION

This change project was conducted at the Grief Assistance Program known as G.A.P., located in the city morgue of Philadelphia, PA. The existing homicide group at G.A.P. was utilized to gauge what methods would help the relatives and friends of a homicide regain their emotional equilibrium. The word murder according to J. Thiroux in his book Ethics Theory and Practice describes murder as "the unlawful killing of one human being by another, especially with malice aforethought" (Thiroux, 1995, p.103). Corey (1992) states that bereavement groups provide helpful counseling, a safe environment for their self expression of grief, the capacity to adjust to new environmental stimulus, and to better assist group members to realize a new purpose and reason for living. The suddenness of a homicide does not allow for the remaining family members to process the bereavement experience in a timely fashion, therefore the grief experienced becomes severe and acute (Silverman, 1994). A key informant survey helped identify secondary victimization of the target population as the Judicial system exhibits apathy towards the surviving relatives. The surviving relatives and friends had identified one of the major problems as the method of notification of the demise of their loved one that traumatized them. The method of notification used by the judicial system is to contact the surviving relative by a either police officer, coroners office staff member, or District Attorney’s staff member. Judicial system apathy was defined by the target population as the insensitive treatment of the surviving relatives and friends by the aforementioned entities, in addition to the print and visual media, employer’s, co-workers, and friends. Due to the overwhelming nature of this problem the judicial system officials must detach themselves as much as possible as a defense mechanism to safe guard their personal emotional equilibrium. While this situation may be a perception that is solely trauma related it behooves the service provider to hear what the clients perceive as an issue. These are stressful “life circumstances [for this group] and the strain that these circumstances put on their capacity to cope. ...if [service provider’s] are to work effectively with [this population] they need to address how the powerless position contributes to individual client problems” (Rothman, 1995, p. 204).

The taking of a human life is one of the most heinous events that can occur in the human experience. According to the 1995 FBI Crime Report there are 14 people murdered everyday in the United States (Crime Free American Crime Data, 1997). In the city of Philadelphia from 1992 to 1996 there were 2,109 homicidal deaths, 1,794 were males and 315 were females (Philadelphia Online / Homicide Database, 1997). According to Wilson (1985) “there are certain universal crimes that preliterate and literate societies regardless of age, sex, education, or social class view as incongruous behavior these acts are: murder, theft, robbery, and incest” (p.22). Homicidal statistics and focus normally is directed at the individual(s) who are murdered. However, the impact of a homicide is not solely experienced by the individuals who are murdered, but there is a severe impact on the surviving family members. When a human life is taken away with malice aforethought it is called murder or homicide and this single act has the capacity to devastate the surviving relatives’ and friends’ value system, psychological well being, and sense of community. Homicide or murder is defined by Rev. Henry-Jenkins (1997) “as occurring when one human being deliberately, recklessly, or accidentally takes the life of another human being” (p. 13). One of the first phases of mourning and crisis families use denial as a self preserving mechanism to numb the emotional trauma experienced by the sudden loss of their loved one (DeMinco, 1995). It is due to the enormity of this event that the surviving relatives and friends of homicide experience great difficulty in coping with everyday events after the realization of their loss settles within their consciousness. Everyday events such as viewing pictures of the deceased can have traumatic reactions. Therefore, the surviving relatives and friends are at a high risk of: grief, hurt, bitterness, denial, rage, disbelief, and guilt due to the murder of their loved one. Homicide affects the lives of the surviving relatives and friends by first stigmatizing them for their loss. This stigmatization is acted out through communicating a sense of detached emotional affection, or uncaring comments that further injure the survivor. The stigmatization that results from the loss of a loved one through homicide greatly diminishes the survivor's ability to maintain established primary and secondary group affiliations. Thus family; friends;

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