Churches do pretty well with weddings, babies, failing health like surgery or hospice patients, and funerals. Issues related to family care following a violent death, divorce, incarceration, financial collapse, long-term illness, mental illness and the like, not so much. Too often when we don't know what to say we stay away. Really there is not a lot that can be said, but there a deep need to have someone listen, to be heard. We need someone to assure us that we are still acceptable, still valued, despite "unspeakable" challenges.
Larger police departments now hire someone to liaison with families of homicide victims and surviving victims of crime, but during the investigation, especially where family members wait to be cleared of suspicion, there is a fine line about what to share and with whom. This leaves victims and families frustrated and increasingly anxious, often while dealing with significant financial challenges within shattered families. If an offender is identified, goes to trail and pleads or is found guilty, there are increasing opportunities for victim impact statements as part of the sentencing process. But for folks whose case is never heard, there are extra barriers to moving forward.
All states have funds available for victims of crimes and survivors of homicide victims. You can check yours out by "googling " 'victim compensation and your state). You will be doubly glad that you are not a victim of crime because there are many barriers to receiving any help. Many non-profit service providers apply for funds (and this seems more emphasized on my state's website than are direct to victim's help, but even established service providers struggle to get funding to them in a timely manner so their staff and utilities can be paid.) Judges who think they are being kind to forgo court costs and fees are not being kind to low-income families in desperate need of victim compensation funds and services.
For victims of crime in my state (once many barriers are overcome) a maximum benefit of $25,000 may be awarded on eligible claims and may not exceed:
- $400 per week for lost wages for crimes occurring on or after Aug. 28, 2015 (equivalent to 20,800 annual salary - roughly the poverty level for a woman escaping domestic violence with two children).
- $5,000 for funeral expenses
- $2,500 per claim for counseling expenses (Sometimes provided as a possible future benefit "if needed".)
- $250 for personal property such as bedding and clothing seized by law enforcement as evidence in the crime for which the compensation is being sought
Often victims express a desire to speak with a convicted offender, but this is rarely facilitated even though it is often both healing for victims and a step towards an offender understanding more clearly the cost to people he or she has never even met. This is a revelation to too many offenders whose upbringing offered little opportunity learn empathy. It is an essential part of a successful return to a productive life in communities.
We need to remember that 95% of people who are incarcerated today will eventually return to their communities. We all benefit if they return with the skills needed to rebuild their family relationships, function as able employees, and generally strive to benefit rather than damage their community. Victims most of all benefit having their loss respected within the legal system.