Chapter 16


Its Impact and Consequences

Abstract: Homicide presents an enormous challenge for law enforcement and victim service providers each year. Tens of thousands of survivors of homicide victims suffer shock and grief at the loss of a loved one, friend, family member, neighbor, co-worker or acquaintance. The material for this chapter will be presented in two parts. Section One will describe the scope of homicide and identify who is at greatest risk for homicide. Section Two will discuss the impact of homicide on surviving family members and friends. The victim assistance needs of survivors will be described, and suggestions for helping and supporting these secondary victims are provided.

Learning Objectives: Upon completion of this chapter, students will understand the following concepts:

1. The extent and nature of homicide.

2. The relationship between victims and offenders in different types of homicides.

3. Key issues that survivors of homicide victims are likely to face.

4. The stages of grief that survivors will experience following the murder of a loved one.

5. The various services that survivors of homicide victims may find helpful.

Statistical Overview

Section One: Victims and Survivors of Homicide

Homicide includes all deaths caused by willful murder and non­negligent manslaughter. One homicide typically affects many people. The homicide victim is usually survived by family and friends who are often referred to as a secondary victim of crime. Survivors of homicide victims include family members, relatives, close friends, neighbors, and community members. Conservatively estimating that each victim is survived by at least three loved ones who will be permanently affected by the loss, the annual homicide victimization rate soars to over 130,000 persons. This does not include the hundreds of thousands of people traumatized as a result of viewing, hearing or reading reports of the killings.

Sudden violent deaths do not allow family members time to prepare for the loss of a loved one. The murder of a significant other is devastating for family and friends of the victim. Survivors may not be psychologically prepared to appropriately deal with the sudden violent death of a loved one.

Besides the loss of a family member, the survivors must almost immediately cope with the restructuring of family roles and responsibilities. Families must also learn to cope with the financial hardship of loss of income and support provided by the victim. Educational plans are disrupted, survivors may be forced to find employment, or re-enter the job market. Section Two of this chapter will discuss more fully the impact of homicide on survivors.

Domestic Homicide

A survey of murder cases that were adjudicated in 1988 in the courts of large urban counties indicated that 16 percent of murder victims were members of the defendant's family. The remainder were murdered by friends or acquaintances (64%) or by strangers (20%). Between 42% (Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence) and 52% (Carmody & Williams, 1987) of murdered women are killed by their intimate male partners. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, in 1994, 6.5% of murder victims were killed by their spouses (Dawson and Langan, 1994).

Risk Factors in Spousal Homicide

The results of an eight year study by Segall and Wilson (1993) involving spousal homicide are of particular importance in understanding risk factors. By comparison the characteristics associated with these cases include the following:

As a result of Segall and Wilson's study, the authors suggest that researchers include an examination of both the subculture of violence and socioeconomic theories to better understand spousal homicide.

In order to assist victims more effectively, it is important for victim service providers to be familiar with the risk factors that are associated with domestic homicides.

David Finkelhor (1983) offers five types of commonalities in family violence which can lead to homicide.

The primary factors reported in domestic homicide include:

Victims report being subjected to a process of dehumanization and subjugation. Part of this process may include the use of death rituals to control the victim. Death rituals are part of the process or homicidal route. As the level of violence escalates, so does the pattern in which it is administered. The abuser first talks about weapons, then displays weapons, then brandishes weapons, all while making threats to the victim. An abuser may take his partner for a drive out into a deserted rural area in the middle of winter, force her to disrobe in the snow, and tell her that if she ever tries to leave him he will bring her out here again and kill her.

Death rituals suggest a very dangerous level of implied and actual violence. The victim is forced to live in fear of her life, even when her partner is showing kindness. The more death rituals are acted out, the more likely the abuser is to finally carry out his threats. Potential victims and counselors must be aware that weapons are deadly ultimatums. They represent the anger and rage of the abuser. Eventually, weapons become extensions of the abusers as the offender comes to believe he not only has the power to use the weapons but that he has the right to do so. Providers should also inquire about rituals performed by the abuser.

In a major study by Christine Rasche (1993) of 155 "mate" homicides in Jacksonville, Florida, between 1980 and 1986, Rasche delineated and attributed motives for spousal killings. The following is a rank order of those motives:

The most salient motive for murder in the Rasche study was "possessiveness" which included the inability of the offender to accept the termination of the relationship as the greatest sub­category. Also included, as part of the definition of possessiveness, was sanctity or security of the relationship (jealousy, infidelity, and rivalry).

Key (1992) created five homicide survivor patterns showing how survivors of homicide cope with losses. The patterns were highly correlated with lifestyles and social settings of the victim and survivors in relation to the various types of homicide. In domestic abuse, the survivors may feel guilt for not having intervened earlier, before it was too late.

Law enforcement and victim service providers must recognize the correlation between escalating patterns of threatening behavior and increased risk of homicide. While risk assessment and predicting behavior are difficult tasks, the identification and application of risk factors can prevent some cases of domestic homicide.


In a recent report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, Murder in Families (Dawson and Langan, 1994), 1.97% of murder victims were killed by their children. Parricide is the killing of one's parent. The fact that over 1,200 children in the U.S. are killed each year by their parents or guardians has overshadowed homicides of parents at the hands of their children. Relatively rare when compared to other forms of homicide, parricide has begun to attract researchers interested in the etiological foundations of family violence.

Parricide usually is not the result of a one­time family eruption, but rather the culmination of unresolved conflicts. Teenagers are still more likely to end their own lives than harm their own families. Media exploitation of parricide cases has done much to underscore pathology within some families. The infamous Menendez case, where two sons were convicted in a second trial of murdering their parents, has been publicly scrutinized for several years.

Adult or juvenile children who resort to parricide often find themselves in familial relationships filled with repeated failures to gain approval and love from a parent or parents. Killing their parents becomes the ultimate form of expression where the victim will not have to risk rejection, disappointment, conflict, or failure. Indeed, the child perceives freedom from the dysfunctional bonds that so painfully estranged him or her. Parricidal ideation mirrors suicidal thoughts and feelings.

Characteristics of Parricide Cases

Kathleen Heide (1993) reviewed ten studies that examined adolescents who kill parents. The following characteristics appeared as the most predominant factors among these studies:

Heide goes on to outline several parameters of child maltreatment that are pervasive in the pathology of family relationships which may lead to parricide:

  1. Physical abuse
  2. Sexual abuse (e.g. incest)
  3. Emotional abuse
  4. Verbal abuse
  5. Neglect: physical, medical or emotional

Recognizing and intervening in child abuse and domestic violence cases can be important methods of preventing parricide, a crime that is devastating to both the victim, the child or adult killer and the community in which they live.

Multiple Homicides in the United States

Although Eitzen and Timmer (1985) report that the majority of murders result from domestic and community conflicts, they also suggest that perhaps as many as one third of all murders are perpetrated by strangers. Because of a marked increase in stranger­to­stranger homicides, as many as 25% of all murders go unsolved each year. The increasing number of multiple and serial murders is believed by some experts to account for many of these unsolved cases (Holmes & DeBurger, 1988). Over the past 20 years, the murder and manslaughter rates increased 300%, while police clearance rates for these crimes have declined from 93% in 1962 to 74% in 1982 (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 1984). Currently, the clearance rate is approximately 68%.

Ressler and his colleagues (Ressler, Burgess, & Douglas , 1988) also documented a dramatic rise of stranger­to­stranger homicides, or murders with no apparent motive. According to their research, these murders represented 8.5% of all murders in 1976, 17.8% in 1981, 22.1% in 1984, and 22.5% in 1985.

Mass murders, defined as a murder of several victims who are killed within a few moments or hours of each other, appear to be occurring with greater frequency. Currently in the United States, there is approximately one mass murder per week. This includes multiple homicides of families as well as public homicidal events. Some of these cases involve offenders walking into shopping malls, restaurants, or government offices and randomly shooting bystanders.

In other cases, entire families have been annihilated by a troubled parent or sibling. In recent years there have also been several instances of assailants walking into elementary or secondary schools, or sometimes just standing by playgrounds and randomly shooting children.

Common Characteristics of Mass Murders

Although researchers have only begun to collect data on mass murders, certain commonalities have begun to emerge (Hickey, 1991):

  1. The offenders are primarily white, male, and span a wide age range.
  2. Handguns or semiautomatic guns, and rifles are used to kill suddenly and swiftly.
  3. Victims are often intentionally selected by the killer. For example, a former boss, an ex­wife, a friend, or other persons who happen to be in the area, often also become the prey of the mass murderer.
  4. Groups of victims who bear no relationship to the perpetrator.

The mass murderer appears to give little thought or concern to his or her inevitable capture or death. Some are killed by police during the attack, whereas others kill themselves once they have completed the massacre. In some cases, offenders surrender to police and offer no resistance. With the exception of those who murder their families, most appear to commit their crimes in public places. In cases in which families are murdered, the killer usually leaves ample evidence to lead to his or her arrest.


Those who commit multiple homicide appear to do so in an irrational effort to regain, even for a brief moment, a degree of control over their lives. To the observer, the severe mental imbalance behind these horrible acts is clear. To the killer, however, their thoughts and actions may make perfect sense, given his or her psychological disorientation. Feelings of rejection, failure and loss of autonomy create frustrations that inevitably become overwhelming, and the murderer cultivates a sickening need to strike back.

For many killers, the best way to lash out against a cold, forbidding society is to destroy its children. Gunning down children on a schoolyard not only provides the needed show of power and control, but is also a way of wreaking vengeance where it will hurt the community the most.

Increased security at schools, office buildings and shopping malls is the usual community response, including improved social services to better identify potentially dangerous individuals. However, the track record at predicting criminal behavior thus far has been dismal. Recognizing potential mass murderers is usually a matter of hindsight; we are quick to attach motivating factors and personality defects to offenders once they have murdered their victims. The fact remains that mass murders, in relation to other crimes, even other forms of homicide, are relatively rare, and they appear to occur as randomly as serial killings do.

Serial Killing

To include all types of serial killers, the definition of serial murder must clearly be as broad as possible. The broadest definition of a serial killer is:

This includes murderers who, on a repeated basis, kill within the confines of their own home, such as a woman who poisons several husbands, children, or elderly people in order to collect insurance. In addition, serial murderers include those men and women who operate within the confines of a city or a state or even travel through several states as they seek out victims.

From a research perspective, the linkage of common factors among the victims is very important. For example, Egger suggests that some murderers select their victims because of their "place or status within their immediate surroundings (such as vagrants, prostitutes, migrant workers, homosexuals, missing children, and single and often elderly women)."

Some data and literature show leeway in formulating tentative models to explain the construction of serial murder. We do know that alcohol and other drugs are often cited as contributing factors. Some offenders even suggest it as a primary causal factor. Ted Bundy's declaration that pornography led him to his career in killing caused considerable debate regarding the degree of influence such material has on people who become murderers. Many people believe that pornography and/or alcohol cause people to kill. Yet millions of people in the United States frequently consume alcohol and indulge in pornography and never physically harm anyone other than themselves.

The current belief in pornography and alcohol as causal factors in multiple murder belies a much more complex set of variables. If our society were to ban pornography, should one expect the incidence of serial murder to decrease? If we restrict or ban the use of alcohol, would that affect serial murderers' behavior?

There are no quick answers for the question of serial murderers' behavior. Some say that anyone who kills, especially serial killers, must be insane. However, the vast majority of serial killers are not only judged sane by legal standards, but are indistinguishable from non­offenders as they move about within our communities.

Section Two: Homicide: Its Impact and Aftermath

"Comforting the mourner is an act of loving-kindness toward both the living and the dead" (Kitzur Shulkhan Arukh 193:11).


Homicide leaves a devastating legacy in its wake. Family members, friends, community and the nation are frequently left shattered, violated, vulnerable, betrayed, and wounded by the most reprehensible of all crimes -- murder. The dynamics of murder can best be understood by focusing on some theories of grief and trauma. When murder occurs, family members of the victim need time and space to grieve.

For homicide survivors, very often the grieving process is interrupted and delayed by elements and events of the criminal justice system. Survivors sometimes put their grief on hold to focus on the arduous task of seeing that justice is served.

The Impact of Homicide

Each single death due to homicide directly affects a wide circle of individuals. The impact of homicide is said to resemble the ever widening circles caused by a stone tossed into a pond. The circles continue to spread until they become one with that entire body of water -- permeating. Society, like the pond, is eventually and finally engulfed by waves of glaring trauma that go unnoticed, perhaps because we have become indifferent to the grisly reality of murder. As each murder is served up in the media for information, evaluation, and sometimes just entertainment, there remains a population of grieving and often forgotten survivors of homicide who are consumed by rage and saddled with pain.

The Aftermath

Professionals who work with victims must be aware of the specific problems that homicide survivors encounter in the aftermath of sudden, violent, death. Survivors experience a wide range of emotional responses, that continually resurface, delaying and often preventing recovery. Many survivors report that there is no recovery for what they experience in the wake of homicide -- they develop instead the ability to survive the waves of emotional pain. They live with an encompassing fear of the strange, new and unknown reactions that control their behavior. Safety issues diminish when compared to their fear of feeling and living each new painful moment. They must endure physical reactions associated with a traumatic event. Survivors themselves provide the most accurate information regarding their experiences during this period. They are the real experts in explaining their problems and needs.

Parents of Murdered Children, Inc. (1989) listed eight problem areas for survivors of homicide.

  1. Financial considerations: Funeral and medical expenses, psychiatric care for family members and various cost are all part of the aftermath experienced by survivors. These considerations are grave and contribute in a major way to the continuing distress survivors must endure.
  2. The criminal justice system: Survivors find themselves suddenly thrust into a complex system of legal players and jargon, where they believe that overwhelming consideration is given to the rights of the accused. They must become acquainted with a world of body bags, crime scenes, evidence, motives and autopsies. There is much to learn and understand about elements of the process, and survivors have a vested interest in obtaining as much information as possible.

    When polled, regarding their needs during the legal process, the Fairfax Peer Survivors Group (FPSG), a homicide support group in Fairfax, Va, indicated that the single most important issue for them after losing a love one to homicidal death was being able to obtain information from the key players within the system, prosecutors, detectives and other professionals.

  3. Impact on work: Surviving homicide often affects one's ability to function and perform on the job. Motivation is sometimes altered. Survivors report that emotional outbreaks of crying or shouting frequently occur. They indicate that having to explain or apologize contributes to their stress and anguish. Some survivors use work as an escape to avoid working through their grief. They resist dealing directly with their pain by placing it on hold.
  4. Relationships are affected: It is not uncommon for marriages to end after the partners have experienced a death due to homicide, particularly the death of a child. Each partner grieves in a different way and may blame the other for the loss. They may each wish to turn away from the memories that the other partner evokes. They are sometimes unable to help each other because they cannot help themselves.
  5. Children in the family: Children are sometime ignored by parents preoccupied with their own issues. The children fear adding to their parents' pain and simply withdraw. It must be noted that children experience the same psychological reactions that all survivors report. They often feel compelled to replace -- in the eyes of parents -- the dead sibling or family member.
  6. Religious faith is often shaken by the death: Questions for, anger at, and challenges to God surface regarding the reason for the death. How could a loving God allow it to happen? Where is the loved one? Seeking out spiritual answers, often from unorthodox sources, is not uncommon. Comments and philosophies of clergy and church members sometimes create problems for survivors. Every aspect of one's life is shadowed by a homicidal death -- religious and spiritual areas are not exempt.
  7. The media: Homicide survivors are subjected to the intrusion of an often insensitive media. The quest for sensational, fast breaking news items far overrides the anguish that a family may be experiencing by prolonged scrutiny, inaccurate reporting, and gruesome reminders of the violence associated with the death.
  8. Professionals who do not understand: Survivors report that professionals -- police, hospital personnel, funeral directors, clergy, school personnel, psychologists and psychiatrists -- demonstrate by their comments and actions that they do not fully understand the impact of death by homicide upon the remaining family members.

Theories Regarding Recovery

Lula Redmond, founder of Homicide Survivors Group, Inc., of Pinellas County, Florida has worked with hundreds of homicide survivors. In her professional's guide (Redmond, 1989), she puts forth two intriguing theories regarding the recovery process for homicide survivors. She suggests that intent and stigma must be overcome as barriers before healing and recovery can transpire.

In each crime category, there seems to exist some perception that typifies the cruelty of the act. In family violence, relationships are key in helping victims to recover from their victimization; with child sexual assault victims, one must be mindful of violation of trust and betrayal; power and control are associated with rape, while robbery victims grapple with fear and isolation. Intent plays a major role in the psychological reaction experienced by individuals as a result of the trauma of homicide.

Homicide survivors are tormented by the notion that someone designed, planned and made a decision to take the life of their loved one, no matter how instantaneous the act. This factor distinguishes death by homicide from accidental deaths, and death due to a fatal illness or suicide. Homicide survivors are enraged that life for their loved one, such a precious and valued element, was intentionally aborted.

Survivors feel tainted stigmatized by the effects of the murder. They abhor that their loved one will forever be linked with the villain responsible for the murder. Society is quick to blame the victim for his or her own death by suggesting that they placed themselves in harm's way. Blaming helps one to comprehend the horror of the murder and survivors sometimes resort to reaction. Homicide survivors change jobs, geographic location, and, in some cases, complete identities, in an effort to remove themselves from the stigma of homicide. Even as they seek to move away from the pain, they report feeling abandoned by friends, who are unable or cannot go the distance during the difficult recovery period.

Surviving and Recovery

Surviving homicide is possible. As painful as a survivor's journey may be, the human spirit can and will by nature endure. The loss of a loved one in this painful manner is abhorrent and traumatizing, high in the degree of complicated grief, and difficult in the provision of aftercare. One survives because it is the course of human development to do so. It is in the original order of things that people, nations and worlds persevere and continue to go on. Those who are dedicated to helping to restore the lives of survivors of homicide must accept that the real work is accomplished by not guiding, but through learning and understanding.

"It is much easier to tell a person what to do with his problem than to stand with him in his pain" (David Augusburger).

Bereavement Reactions of Homicide Survivors

Although many emotional responses are shared by family members when a loved one is murdered, each surviving family member will experience distinct emotional responses. In addition to the sudden, violent death of a loved one, survivors may experience additional stress if the deceased was subjected to acts of torture, sexual assault or other intrusive, heinous acts. They may have a constant need to be reassured that the death was quick and painless and that suffering was minimal. If the death was one of torture or of long duration, they may become emotionally fixated on what the victim must have felt -- the terror experienced. They may fixate on the race of the offender to try to understand the motive behind the murder, and may develop a biased view of a certain race or culture based on the actions of one. If the offender was a family member or friend, survivors may experience additional interfamilial discord as family members choose sides for support.

Relationship of the Victim and Emotional Ramifications

Murder of a Child: In the natural order of things, parents precede their child(ren) in death. The death of one's child is one of the least expected experiences in life. Parents serve as protectors for their child(ren). This sense of protectiveness often promotes parental guilt and self-blame. The feelings even occur when the deceased child is an adult.

The loss is often compounded when the victim is a young child. Parents must not only deal with their own emotions concerning the death of their child; they often have to attend to the emotional needs of the victim's siblings as well. It is not uncommon for a parent (or parents) to idealize the deceased child, attributing qualities that are idealistic, not real. This denies true feelings that the parent and siblings had for the child. Parents may become so focused on their own pain that they fail to notice the surviving children are in pain and need support and love as well. Family relations can become strained or permanently damaged. It is not uncommon for parents of a murdered child to divorce or separate.

Fathers often deal with their emotions by retreating into silence and denying the presence of intense emotions. Mothers may become more verbal and demanding. She may interpret her partner's silence as a lack of caring or concern. If the family structure incorporates step-parents, the roles and display of appropriate emotions may be even further complicated. The parent may feel that the step-parent could not possibly understand the type of pain he or she is feeling. This may lead to alienation of the step-parent in the grieving process.

Murder of a Sibling: Younger brothers and sisters of murdered children are often neglected in the delivery of services. Initial community and extended family support usually focuses on helping the grieving parent cope with the crisis. Rarely do service providers ask children how they are doing, what they are feeling or what they need. Siblings of a murdered child may suffer guilt that they are still alive while their sibling is dead. They may experience guilt over feelings of anger that the parents shows them little time, attention or affection. They may even believe this means that their parent(s) wish they were the one to die, leading to feelings of worthlessness.

Children may suffer guilt feelings because they do not agree with the idealizing of the deceased victim and resent being held to imagined standards that the deceased did not possess; and they often have lost not only a sibling but a best friend.

Siblings may be worried over their own safety and eventual death. They may become overly fearful of losing a parent or other sibling in the same manner. This can cause extreme feelings of helplessness and guilt.

Adult siblings may worry that the stress and loss of a sibling may hasten their parent's deaths due to increased stress and heartbreak. They may resent and rebel against the aging parent's pre-occupation with the victim and his or her idealization of the deceased.

Murder of a Spouse: The feelings and emotional needs of a surviving spouse will depend on the nature of the marital relationship. If there was discord or dissension, survivors may suffer intense guilt feelings -- they are to blame. If it was a loving partnership, the feelings of loss may be overwhelming. The age of the spousal survivor will also play an important factor in the emotions of the survivor. Elderly survivors may not recover as well as younger survivors. They may be displaced from their home because they are not able to care for themselves. They may have lost partners of many years and, with their life so intertwined with that of the deceased, loss of the relationship is catastrophic.

Feelings of anger at the deceased victim tend to increase with the number of responsibilities left to the survivor such as child rearing responsibilities and/or assuming all financial obligations. This anger normally is replaced by guilt. Murder of the younger adult may leave the surviving spouse with a disillusionment of future marital relationships. They may suffer feelings that they have lost their future.

Murder of a Parent: If the surviving child has not reached adulthood, he or she may worry about "who will take care of me?". They tend to see the death as a desertion by the parent since they have little ability to conceptualize death. They may experience bouts of anger that the parent was not the "superhuman" they envisioned. They wonder why the parent didn't fight harder or run faster and may blame the victim for his or her own death. Some studies have shown that children who survive the murder of a parent have persistently low self-esteem.

For older or adult children, anger levels may increase because they feel their parent's death was not the dignified one in which they deserved or expected. If there was familial discord at the time of death, there may be intense feelings of guilt that all wrongs were not righted prior to death.

Stages of Grief

There are several common grief stages everyone experiences in the acceptance of death, no matter its cause. However, these stages can be significantly compounded when the death results from an intentional murder. The following outline of grief stages supplies the reader with information on the various stages of grief and includes, where appropriate, narrative specific to survivors of homicide:


Even in deaths caused by illness, in which there is previous notification of impending death, few loved ones really accept the impending death of a loved one. While not all illnesses allow for the planning and acceptance of the death of a loved one, illness and natural death are normal occurrences with which we are all familiar.


After the flurry of activities surrounding the ritual of burial is complete, family members -- for the first time -- have an opportunity to confront the permanence of loss.

Anger and/or Abandonment

It is not uncommon for the surviving loved one to become angry at the deceased. Even though the deceased had little or no control over his or her death, surviving family members become angry they have been left alone to raise children, deal with the day-to-day problems of life; or to be left without a loving, caring partner.


Even in expected deaths, there may be feelings of guilt -- guilt that one is gone, but others have an opportunity to continue living and enjoying life.


This is considered to be the last stage in the grief process. Final goodbyes and a closure to the death are made during this stage -- signaling the survivor's readiness to move back into the world of the living.

The trial may provide an avenue of release for survivors experiencing feelings of guilt. The trial may allow the survivor a feeling of protecting the victim one last time ,i.e., defending the victim's good name, showing public love and support, making sure justice is served, etc. However, the trial can also lead to increased frustrations if the defendant is acquitted, allowed to plead to lesser charges, or not apprehended at all. Closure for these survivors may only be partially complete or not at all.

(The preceding section is liberally drawn from (1) Focus on the Future: A Systems Approach to Prosecution and Victim Assistance, a project funded by the U.S. Department of Justice, Office for Victims of Crime and sponsored by the National Victim Center, Arlington, VA; Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Irving, TX; and the American Prosecutors Research Institute, Alexandria, VA, and (2) Mapping Strategies for Services, an Office for Victims of Crime funded project conducted by the National Victim Center and the National Organization for Victim Assistance, Washington, D.C.)

Special Considerations

Children Who Witness Homicide

Among those who survive homicide, but are nonetheless victimized by this most extreme form of violence, are large numbers of minority children who witness homicides. Although the effects of such an experience can have profound consequences and produce emotional trauma, child witnesses seldom receive human service intervention. However studies show that these children often suffer from Post-traumatic Stress Disorder characterized, for example, by startle reactions, intrusive images of sounds, traumatic play or dreams, avoidant behavior and psychic numbing. Frequently described by children, and recorded with case transcripts, are the verbal or physical threats directed toward the child by the perpetrator.

Young people also report having to perform various tasks associated with the fatal injury. These tasks can involve telephoning for police or emergency medical services, or responding to the immediate needs of the injured person or the perpetrator. These actions always present serious conflict or dilemmas. A 12 year-old girl described her feelings after witnessing her father fatally wound her mother:

While using a towel and attempting to help stop her mother's bleeding, she felt she needed to be cautious and take care not to implicate herself by getting blood on her clothing. She was afraid that the police would see blood on her clothes and blame her for her mother's death.

For child witnesses, the issue of blame or accountability for the death is not always resolved through police investigation. Depending on age and circumstances, children may re-examine their behavior and determine responses, they judge, if done differently would have prevented or altered the death. Without support and opportunity to explore the feasibility of such alternatives, child witnesses too often continue to unnecessarily blame themselves. The need for immediate intervention and support is clear.

(The preceding section is excepted from materials produced by the Family Bereavement Center, 1441 St. Antoine Street, Detroit, MI)

Participation in the Justice Process

When someone is murdered, the natural order of grief is greatly interrupted. In addition to the normal ritual of burial for the dead, the survivor is forced to delay the emotional healing due to participation in the criminal justice system. As mentioned earlier, delays in hearings may cause the survivor added emotional stress as each hearing delay may require the survivor to unnecessarily relive the murder or confront his or her healing emotions. Being barred from proceedings may lead some survivors to feel "devalued" or to feel a lack of personalization for the deceased. They may feel betrayed by the justice process that their last chance to protect the victim has been taken away.

The survivor may develop very biased views of the justice process because laws seem unfairly to favor the offender and his or her family. Most important, however, may be feelings of unfairness and anger if survivors are not allowed input in determining fair plea settlements; if juries acquit; if findings on lesser charges occur; or sentences are not in line with what the survivor expected. The survivor may experience intense feelings of guilt that they have let the victim down.

Survivors involved with death penalty cases will likely experience additional stress. The final outcome may not be known for years. As they attempt to move forward with their lives, they are called back to relive the murder with each appeal and each execution date set.

Media and the Homicide Survivor

Survivors of homicide may face additional emotional stress caused by dealing with members of the news media. Pain, shock and raw emotion insures viewer audience, and nowhere are the emotions strongest than when a murder has been committed. The death of a small child invokes powerful feelings of outrage within a community and thus, the coverage of such an event can take on the appearance of a circus atmosphere with the family members serving as the "entertainment." A particularly heinous crime will cause a similar reaction.

Survivors confronting shock and denial and needing privacy are often harassed or ambushed by media who seek the most vivid, emotional response to the crime. As no one is ever prepared for a murder, survivors will most often be unaware of what to say and what (if any) rights they have in dealing with the media.

Victim assistance providers can help to protect the victim from media onslaught until the family is ready. Educating the media about the burdens that unwanted media attention places on victims in crisis is also important. As discussed in the chapter on news media coverage of crime, the media need a "code of ethics" in covering crime and victimization and, in particular, survivors of homicide victims. As a community, victim service professionals can boycott or otherwise fail to support offending networks or publications. This often works not only to the benefit of the victim, but to the entire community as well.

Methods Anyone Can Employ to Help

Survivors of Homicide

Promising Practices

For Victim Support Personnel

Self Examination Chapter 16


Its Impact and Consequences

1) Which of the following groups is at greatest risk of being killed by an intimate partner?

a) Latinos

b) White females

c) Black males

d) Black females

e) White males

2) According to Rasche, what is the most predominant factor in spousal homicide?

a) Self­defense

b) Abuse by offender

c) Arguments

d) Possessiveness

e) Drug usage

3) Name five key issues that most survivors of homicide victims will have to confront.

4) What are the stages of grief and how are they impacted by murder?

5) What are five support factors anyone can provide to a survivor of homicide?

References, Section 1

Carmody, D.C., & Williams, K. R. (1987). Wife Assault and Perceptions of Sanctions. Violence and Victims 2, 1:25­38.

Carrillo, R. (1995, July). Seminar on lethality in domestic violence. Fresno, CA.

Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence. The data used for analysis came from the FBI's 1988­91 Uniform Crime Report (UCR). Boulder CO: University of Colorado, Institute for Behavioral Science.

Dawson, J. M., & Langan, P. A. (1994). Murder in families. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Eitzen, D. S., & Timmer, D. A. (1985). Criminology. New York: Wiley.

Federal Bureau of Investigation. (1984). Crime in the U.S.: Uniform Crime Reports. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice.

Finkelhor, D. (1983). Common features family abuse. In D. Finkelhor, R. J. Gelles, G. T. Hotaling, and M. A. Strauss (Eds.) The dark side of families: Current family violence research. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.

Heide, Kathleen. (1993). Adolescent parricide offenders: Synthesis, illustration and future directions. In Homicide - the Victim/Offender Connection by A. V. Wilson. Cincinnati, OH: Anderson.

Hickey, E. (1991). Serial murderers and their victims. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Holmes, R. & DeBurger, J. (1988). Sexual murder. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

Mackellar, F. L., & Yanagishita, M. (l995, February) Homicide in the United States: Who's at risk? Washington, D.C.: Population Reference Bureau, 21.

Rasche, C. E. (1993). Given reasons for violence in intimate relationships. In A. Wilson, (Ed.) Homicide (pp.75­100). Cincinnati, OH: Anderson.

Ressler, R. K, Burgess, A. W., & Douglas, J. E. (1988). Sexual homicide. Lexington, MA: Lexington Books.

Segall, W. & Wilson, A. Y. (1993). Who is at greatest risk in homicides?: A comparison of victimization rates by geographic region". In Homicide: The victim­offender connection (pp.343­356). Cincinnati, OH: Anderson.

Additional Suggested Readings, Section 1

American Psychiatric Association. (1994). Diagnostic statistical manual (DSM­IV) (4th ed.) (pp.243­246). Washington, D.C.: Author.

Cline, Victor (199O). Privately published monograph, Department of Psychology, University of Utah, Salt Lake City.

Danto, B. (1982). A Psychiatric View of Those Who Kill. In J. Bruhns, K. Bruhns & H. Austin (Eds.), The Human Side of Homicide (pp. 3­20). New York: Columbia University Press.

Eth, S. & Pynoos, R. S. (1985). Developmental Perspective on Psychic Trauma in Childhood. In C.R. Figley (Ed.), Trauma and its wake: The study and treatment of post­traumatic stress disorder (pp. 36­52). New York: Brunner & Mazel.

Hazelwood, R. R., & Warren, J. (1989, January). The Serial Rapist: His Characteristics and Victims. FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin (pp. 10-17). Washington, DC: Department of Justice.

Nettler, G. (1982). Killing one another. Cincinnati, OH: Anderson.

Prentky, R. A. & Burgess, A. W., & Carter, D. L. (1986). Victim responses by rapist type: An empirical and clinical analysis. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 73­98.

Strauss M., Murray A. & Baron, L. (1983) . Sexual stratification, pornography, and Rape. Durham, NH: University of New Hampshire, Family Research Laboratory.

Tanay, E . (1976). The murderers. Indianapolis, IN: Bobbs­Merrill.

References, Section 2

Parents of Murdered Children, Inc. (1989). Additional problems of survivors of a homicide. Excepted from report on first 18 months of operation of Families of Homicide Victims Project. New York: Victim Services Agency.

Redmond, L. (1989). Surviving when someone you love was murdered: A professional's guide to group grief therapy for families and friends of murder victims. Clearwater, FL: Psychological Consultation and Education Services.

Additional Suggested Readings, Section 2

Burgess, A.W. (1975, April) Family Reaction to Homicide. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry.

Furmann, E. (1974). A child's parent dies. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Harris, J., Sprang, G., & Komsak, K. (1987). Those of us who care: Friends of a victim describe the aftermath of murder victims and people who assist them. Fort Worth, TX: Mental Health Association of Tarrant County.

Lord, J. H. (1987). No time for goodbyes: Coping with sorrow, anger and injustice after a tragic death. Ventura, CA: Pathfinder.

Nudel, A.R. (1986). Starting over: Help for young widows and widowers. New York: Dodd, Mead & Co

Osterweis, M., Solomon, F., & Green, M. (1984). Bereavement: Reactions, Consequences, and Anger. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

Rando, T. A. (1986). Parental loss of a child. Champaign, IL: Research Press Co.

Wass, H. & Corr, C. (1984, 1982). Helping children cope with death: Guidelines and resources.. New York: Hemisphere.

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