overview - Survivors of Violent Loss

By Connie Saindon, MFT
Founder and Director
Where does one go…?
 When the worst has happened?
 When someone you love has been murdered or died in a
violent way?
 When first responders leave?
 Who knows and understands?
Violent Deaths Include:
Terrorist Fatalities
Our Logo…
(story on our website at www.svlp.org)
Why our program….?
 We are there when others leave…
 We are the only program in San Diego County, as well as one
of the few in the Nation to provide specialized violent
services after Violent Death.
 We are trained in the kind of grief that does not go away
with time.
 We offer opportunities for Survivors to be with each other.
 We can provide information on other adjunct providers and
 Our approach includes lessons from survivors.
Our Mission
“Your support is our mission”
“ Provide a Lifeline of Hope and Healing”
Build a community of support
50,000 violent deaths annually
10-12 additional “co-victims”
(doesn’t count DUI, terrorist fatalities and war)
Co-Victims Defined
The term “co-victim” was created due to a lack of recognition
for the needs of survivors, and therefore were underserved.
Office of Victims of Crime Bulletin, August 1998
This department provided funds to train other cities in 1998.
You become a member of a club you never
wanted to join.
• You have paid the highest dues.
• You have a lifetime membership.
C. S.
 111 Homicides
 370 Suicides (SANDAG)
 115 Drunk Driving Fatalities (MADD)
 Twelve people significantly impacted = 7,152 each year
Statistics provided by: San Diego County Sheriffs Department, 2007, San Diego
Community Health Improvement Partners and MADD 2006.
Survivor quote…
“No one understands the
magnitude of this. You end
up a body with no life in it.”
Co-Victim of Homicide, 1998
Multiple Levels of Complexity
 Murder
 No body
 Suicide
 Multiple suspects/trials
 DUI fatality
 First arrest-26 years after
 Shaken baby death
 No suspect
 Happened in another state
 Killer found not guilty
 More…
 Gang killing
 Terrorist fatality
 Murder/suicide
Multiple Players and Roles
 Detectives
 District Attorney
 Paramedics/EMT’s
 Employers/Schools
 Medical Examiners
 Religious/Spiritual
 Media
 Morticians
 Victim Advocates
 Cemeteries
 Clean up Services
 Security
Unnatural Death is Different
 Violent
 A Violation- a wrong doing
 Volitional-on purpose
 Voyeuristic- private becomes public
Three basic Assumptions may be
shattered following trauma:
 The World is Safe
 Life has Meaning
 I have worth
Shattered Assumptions by Ronnie Bulman-Janoff , 1992
Violent Loss is
Beyond Words!
When one’s world comes apart
A survivor said it well
with this cartoon of
what if feels to be her…
Unplugged from
Another survivors said: “Life is like a Dali painting”
Impact of loss is incomprehensible!
The complexity and competing aspects of each loss can
easily overwhelm the family, the community and service
professionals who all work to regain a sense of safety,
meaning and hope.
Additional Stressors
Reconciling how loved one died
Threat(s) may continue to exist
Media making public what was private
Crime Scene Demands
Victim Identification
Medical Exam requirements
Legal imperatives
Second Wounds….
 When co-victims are blamed for not preventing what happened
 When the legal system does not give them a role
 Courts seem to treat criminals better than victims
 When family members are treated and considered suspects
The pain of homicide bereavement (and other violent
deaths) is described as intense, unprecedented, and
The response of the community to survivors is often so
inadequate that it has been called ‘‘secondary
Amick-McMullan, Kilpatrick, & Veronen, 1989. 1991; Getzel & Masters,
1984; Redmond, 1989; Rynearson, 1984; Sprang, McNeil, & Wright, 1989; Spungen, 1998
Normal reactions…
Can be:
 Being possessed with what
has happened
 Compulsive care-giving
 Compulsive inquiry
SVLP founder and sister “Tiny"
To abnormal events
“It will bring you to your knees;” says a father
whose daughter who was killed.
Research is recent in its finding that violent loss
bereavement can be even more painful than
other losses and often involves symptoms of
unremitting depression and PTSD
(posttraumatic stress disorder)
(Kaltman & Bonanno, 2003, Zisook, Chentsova-Dutton, & Shuchter, 1998)
Traditional ways of dealing with grief are
inadequate and put unrealistic expectations on
survivors because they don’t “get over it”.
Lack of predictability and controllability are
central issues for the development and
maintenance of PTSD.
Clinical picture may include
PTSD; experiences of intrusive reenactment and avoidance.
Major Depression, DX not given until 2 mo. After loss.
Traumatic Grief/ Complicated Bereavement.
Victimization; rage and a sense of defilement .
Compulsive inquiry; a social and psychological need for
investigation and punishment of the murderer.
It is the malicious intent in deaths
such as homicide and terrorism that
increase stressors
9/11 Study
Sample size N=2,752
11% - PTSD
37% - mild-moderate PTSD symptoms
51% - evidenced resilient outcomes with 1-0 PTSD symptoms
Problem with the study: relied on phone interviews for
(Galea, Ahearn, Resnick et. , al. 2002)
BEGS for further research
Veterans with PTSD are more likely to
have heart attacks years later
 Medical authorities first accepted PTSD as a psychiatric
condition in 1980 at the urging of Vietnam Vets
 This new study is the first to link PTSD with health
problems 10-15 years later
Laura Kubzansky, Harvard, 2007
 Separation distress occurs as a result of
the loss of a loved one as understood by
attachment theory
 Trauma Distress which relates more to
how someone died
Re-membering loved ones: Memento Box
The Challenges
1. Help deal with the loss of your loved one and
your longing for reunion.
2. Help you get past revenge and re-enactment
imagery that is intrusive.
3. Foster your ability to self-soothe to help contain
overwhelming emotions.
4. Navigate the many competing complexities
Survivors Club
 Co-victim volunteers who have become Survivors
and part of the team to help others
 Open to all participants who are members of a
club they never wanted to be a member of
Survivors Club
Activities include:
 Candle Light vigil
 Holiday Memorial,
 5K Walks/Light the Night Against Crime
 Tree Planting/Crime Victims Oak Garden
 Potlucks & Picnics
 Fundraising
Candlelight Vigil – Crime Victims Week
Victim Assistance
Coordinating Council
Tree planting at the Crime Victims Oak Garden
Fundraiser car wash for the Homicide Support Project
Crime Victims Oak Garden Markers
Lavender Fields Trip
Annual Holiday Memorial
Tenth Anniversary, 2008
Annual River of Remembrance
Inspirational Speakers
such as Cherry McCoy
UCSD Appreciation Dinner
Volunteers and Staff
Community of Supporth has included…
 District Attorney, Bonnie Dumanis
 Cynthia Charlebois, Director Victim/Assistance
 Lt. Tom Bennett, SD Co. Sheriff
 Michelle Del Conte, San Felipe Foundation
 Joyce Knott, Cara Knott Foundation
 Jim and Wilma Knott, Crime Victims Oak Garden
 Victim Assistance Coordinating Council
 Parents of Murdered Children
Community of Support continued:
 Paula Myers, MADD
 Survivors Club Members
 Anna Knuth, SDPD-Crisis Intervention Team
 Wendy Maurer, Ph.D, Red Cross, Disaster Mental Health
 Carmela Caldera
 Yolanda Boyd
 Eric & Lisa Hoffacker, www.CarterDesignWorks
 Elizabeth Munroe, webmaster
People say the darndest things…
Do say…
My regrets to you…
Their loved ones name
Just listen
Don’t say you know how they feel unless you too have lost
someone in a violent way
More on our website under Support www.svlp.org
Add yours to our list at [email protected]
The Journey
Ten steps to learning to
live with Violent Death:
Adult Survivors Individual
workbook kit
& accompanying
Calming Exercises CD
Order yours now
[email protected]
Upcoming Events
Current Postings at
Website http://www.svlp.org
Or Call 616-685-0005
[email protected]
“Tiny’s” Role
December 8, 1961 at age of
17, my sister, “Tiny”, the third
child of eight, was murdered.”
Connie Saindon
Iris is her symbol
Represents HOPE