What To Expect as a Co-Victim or Survivor of Homicide
The violent, unexpected death of a family member, intimate partner, or close friend is one of the most traumatic experiences a person can face, and it prompts a wide range of emotional reactions. Co-victims also may find that the "normal" grief of losing a loved one is further complicated by the trauma or stigma of the crime.
There is no right or wrong way to feel when someone close to you is murdered.
You may feel overcome with disbelief, anger, and sadness with an intensity never experienced before, or you may feel emotionally numb. It is normal for adults and children to experience such intense feelings in the days and weeks following a homicide, and then periodically over time. Survivors are at risk of developing posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other problems, where extreme anxiety, fear, and sadness or nightmares and intrusive thoughts remain constant for weeks or months. Additional support and counseling are often very helpful in managing these overwhelming emotions.
Many families must contend with financial issues as a result of the crime.
You and your family may need to quickly plan and pay for a funeral and cope with the loss of income resulting from the death of the family’s primary wage earner. Each state administers a victim compensation program that may provide you with financial reimbursement for expenses such as funeral and burial costs, counseling expenses, and lost wages. It is important to keep receipts and records for these and other out-of-pocket costs related to the homicide. We can provide information and assist you in filing a claim from the violent crime compensation fund.
The investigation and criminal justice process following a homicide may be confusing and traumatic for co-victims.
Family and friends may have many questions about the manner in which their loved one died. It is often important for you and your family members to remain in contact with the investigators, prosecutor's office, and victim assistance professionals assigned to the case in order to receive periodic updates about the investigation and court hearings, if there is an arrest.
Family members and friends often feel that they have little control over the criminal justice process or results. Investigations do not always lead to an arrest, arrests do not always end in prosecution, prosecutions do not always end in convictions, and convictions do not always lead to stiff sentences. If there is an arrest, the length of time from arrest to final disposition varies from case to case. Court rules and continuances can be very frustrating. It is important to remember that most states guarantee certain fundamental rights for crime victims, and you may feel empowered by the opportunity to exercise your rights throughout the criminal justice process. Please visit our services section regarding a victim impact statement.
Also note that it is not uncommon to feel re-victimized by the media immediately following the crime or throughout the criminal justice process. The media may report inaccurate information, portray the victim in a negative light, or not report the crime at all. Victim assistance professionals or investigators can suggest ways for you to deal with such media issues.
Most co-victims feel that they are forever changed by the homicide. However, like many other survivors, you may discover untapped reserves of resourcefulness and resilience that enable you to cope successfully in the aftermath of a tragic personal loss.