The first was a panel of crime survivors at Common Justice’s conference, “Accounting for Violence: How to Increase Safety and Break our Failed Reliance on Mass Incarceration.” EJUSA was honored to get a shout on for our long history working with crime survivors during the conference’s opening remarks. Then our Trauma Advocacy Initiative Director, Fatimah Loren Muhammad, moderated the panel on survivor-centered responses to violence.
Survivor-leaders from across the country shared their experiences and perspectives on how the current reliance on incarceration fails crime survivors and their communities. Fatimah and the other speakers emphasized that effective responses to violence must focus on addressing trauma and helping survivors heal.
Imagine surviving human trafficking, sexual abuse, assault, domestic violence, and gang exploitation all before the age of 13. Pastor Gwendolyn Cook sees it every day. She is the founder and director of Women Walking in the Spirit (WWITS) Girls Mentoring Program in Camden, NJ. Her organization works with young girls returning from juvenile detention at Hayes Secure Care Facility for Girls in Bordentown, NJ. The girls have survived severe and often multiple forms of trauma.
I’ve worked with Pastor Cook for over a year, helping WWITS to frame a narrative for their work and building a program model so they can gain new funding sources. WWITS is one of dozens of grassroots organizations across the country that I’ve had the honor to support over the last year and a half. These groups are providing healing for communities wrecked by violence, victimization, and trauma. I help them build capacity to access and maintain federal Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) funding, preparing them for long-term success and creating more resources for healing. I am most inspired by the many groups who work with little to no funding, with volunteers as the lifeline — groups like Pastor Cook’s.
This profile is part of EJUSA’s series on National Crime Victims Rights Week.
Reimagining Justice This Month highlights stories about effective responses to violence – responses that disrupt cycles of violence, heal trauma, and address structural racism.
This month, we have a special digest to commemorate National Crime Victims’ Rights Week. This month’s stories focus on crime survivors, their needs in the wake of violence, and challenges facing communities to address those needs.
Christie’s neglect leaves crime victims without help, The Star-Ledger
Only 1/3 of the money that New Jersey is supposed to spend on crime victims actually reaches them. That is devastating for groups who are providing healing services in the most marginalized areas of their communities, addressing unmet needs, specifically in in neighborhoods of color. Through our Police/Community Initiative, EJUSA’s Fatimah Loren Muhammad is working with crime survivors and police in Newark and beyond to reimagine a system in which survivors get what they need in the wake of harm. Continue Reading →
Our current criminal justice system harms millions of people – from crime survivors to the justice-involved and their families.
Reimagining Justice This Month highlights communities that are organizing for effective responses to violence – responses that disrupt cycles of violence, heal trauma, and address structural racism.
“When Killer and Victim’s Mother Meet, Paths From Grief, Fear and Guilt Emerge,” The New York Times
A restorative justice program in Kansas brings together people whose lives are inextricably linked violence and death. Through “victim-offender dialogues,” those who commit harm come face-to-face with those who were harmed.
“Gun Violence Should Be Treated As A Public Health Crisis, Study Says,” NPR
The study helps show that “there must be a more coordinated approach to drive gun violence down, one that treats it as a public health epidemic and not just a policing problem.” Continue Reading →
Florida has opened an application process for organizations to apply for funds (pdf) through the Federal Victims Of Crime Act (VOCA). If you are an organization in Florida that works with crime survivors, you may be eligible to apply through this RFP process.
Through our VOCA Funding Toolkit, and assistance from our Grassroots Capacity Building Specialist, EJUSA can help groups determine if they are eligible, answer questions about the process, and provide some support for your group’s application. Please contact Latrina Kelly-James at firstname.lastname@example.org or (203) 823-5826 or download the toolkit here.
Full information about Pennsylvania RFP process:
Note: the deadline is fast approaching February 24, 2017. Organizations must register in Florida’s E-Grants system in order to access the RFP.
EJUSA has released its updated “Apply for VOCA Funding: A Toolkit for Organizations Working with Crime Survivors in Communities of Color and Other Underserved Communities.” This revised toolkit reflects the new guidelines released by the federal Office of Victims of Crime (OVC). Many of new guidelines recognize the marginalization of underserved survivors and are a step in the right direction in terms of meeting EJUSA’s goals of brining equity to services for survivors.
It is more urgent than ever that we honor victims of violence by responding with healing, racial equality, and prevention. That was the message in an op-ed by EJUSA Executive Director Shari Silberstein and Dorothy Johnson-Speight from Mothers in Charge, published this week in the Philadelphia Inquirer.
To commemorate the National Day of Remembrance for Murder victims, Shari and Dorothy joined together to call for a new approach to addressing violence – one that recognizes that violence and homicide are a public-health crisis that needs a public-health solution, and that solution must be rooted in racial equity.
Homicide is the leading cause of death for African American males ages 15 to 34. For too long, the response to this crisis has been aggressive policing and incarceration. But mass incarceration, traumatizing police interactions, and a lack of care and support for people who experience violence have all worked to further devastate low-income black communities.
More and more policymakers, public-health officials, and law enforcement officials are coming to realize that we can’t arrest our way out of this problem. Yet the public dollars spent on violence prevention and survivor support are dwarfed many times over by the billions of dollars spent on corrections. The survivor support that does exist is far below the need, and it rarely gets to communities of color, even though they experience the highest rates of homicide and gun violence.
If we’re serious about building safe and healthy communities – and rebuilding communities most impacted by violence – our public dollars must reflect a different set of priorities.
Statement by Shari Silberstein, Executive Director
“Every year there are more than 14,000 people murdered in America. Countless grieving parents, brothers, sisters, children, and other loved ones are left behind to pick up the pieces of their lives. And young men of color are the most likely to be victims of this public health crisis.
“It’s time to commit to a new path forward. We need trauma-informed responses to violence that save lives, rebuild communities, and prevent future violence. We need to understand the pain in communities of color built up over generations of racism, violence, and poverty, and ensure that responses to violence help instead of harm. We need to stand up as a nation to honor those killed by taking care of those left behind.
Last month, the federal Office of Victims of Crime (OVC) released revised guidelines for the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) funding. The new guidelines are the result of public feedback and developments within victim services over the last 15 years. Some of the new guidelines recognize the marginalization of underserved survivors and are a step in the right direction in terms of meeting EJUSA’s goals of brining equity to services for survivors.
EJUSA attended the 6th Annual Healing Justice Alliance Conference, a convening that brought together crime survivors, innovative community-based violence prevention programs, hospital-based violence reduction programs, and other criminal justice and public health partners.
EJUSA is pleased to have been a part of a number of convenings in recent months that break down silos between public health, criminal justice, violence prevention, and victimization – including our recent meeting at the White House and a presentation at the DOJ National Conference on Youth Violence Prevention. The powerful Healing Justice Alliance conference was no exception.
More and more Americans are embracing the idea that mass incarceration has failed communities most impacted by violence, particularly devastating communities of color, and that we need a new approach.