Yesterday, September 25th, marked the fifth annual observance of National Day of Remembrance for Murder Victims. This day honors the memory of homicide victims and acknowledges the long-term trauma experienced by families, communities, and the nation in the wake of a murder.
As part of seeking to honor life in Tennessee, TADP sponsored an event on September 22nd called Circle of Hope to connect with the National Day of Remembrance. Though sponsored by TADP, the event had nothing to do with the death penalty and instead focused on bringing together those directly impacted by homicide, no matter their feelings about the death penalty, to share stories and their on-going needs. National victims’ advocates Bill and Jennifer Bishop-Jenkins facilitated the event with 20 participating.
Here is a reflection on the event by one of TADP’s interns:
My name is Emily Denton and I am in my first month as an intern for TADP. I am also in my final semester at Vanderbilt Divinity school and am thrilled to spend my last few months as a student working to put the religious and justice ideals I study in the classroom into practice with this organization.
Last week I had the opportunity to attend an event sponsored by TADP, entitled Circle of Hope. This event was specifically designed for victims’ families and victims’ service organizations to offer support, dialogue opportunities, and resources for those affected by tragic loss due to homicide. Bill and Jennifer Bishop-Jenkins led the event and gave each of the participants a signed copy of Bill’s book, What to do When the Police Leave.
This group of roughly twenty people had each experienced tragic loss due to violent crime. They spoke of their experience of grief and loss and told stories of what it felt like to lose a loved one to violence. They had experienced dealing with funeral homes and government bureaucracy in the aftermath of homicide. Some also had useful professional or technical skills to offer. Each of their stories was different, but each testimony had a common thread of the necessity of mutual support and the inability to move forward alone.
I was deeply moved by the generosity and empathy behind this heartfelt outreach from survivor to survivor. It also got me thinking about the broader implications of the outreach and support that Bill and Jenifer were attempting to orchestrate. The need to share one’s story of loss and healing was a continual refrain, as Jennifer stated, “crime victims are often traumatized, and the more serious the crime, the greater the trauma. Traumatic memories are laid down in the brain in a different way than normal memories, and trauma has significant neurological and physiological impact on the human body and psyche.” One way to move forward and heal after traumatic loss is through sharing the story of your love and loss, and to hear the testimonies of others.
I was able to see first hand how outreach to surviving family members of murder victims helps build a holistic response to violence in which we can all stand together with one voice in a stance against injustice. None of us can overcome violence on our own, but if we as an entire community bring together all of our expertise and resources we increase our chances of creating positive change in our communities.
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