Care, Dignity, and Respect: A Survivor’s Perspective

Some people are born into a vocation—whether it’s teaching, making art, or training to be a physician. They know from an early age and pursue their goals with laser focus. For others a career path winds and shifts directions as life intrudes and uncovers opportunities that weren’t previously apparent. Lisa Good belongs in that latter group.

Today, Lisa is the founder of Urban Grief, an organization based in Albany, NY, that provides critical, trauma-informed support for victims of violence while also acting as a fierce advocate for awareness and policy change to reduce violence. (Lisa is also a vital member of the EJUSA board of directors.) But she is the sum of her parts, and to understand how she came to her calling, you have to go back to her youth and understand that she is a crime and sexual assault survivor several times over.

Lisa Good (right) is the founder of Urban Grief

She told her story to Vogue in 2017. Lisa grew up an only child, so several cousins became her siblings. When she was 17, one of those cousins, Jay, was murdered during a robbery. For Lisa, it was the same as losing a brother.

“That really took me on a path of self-destruction,” said Lisa, in the Vogue essay. “I found myself in a lot of high-risk situations, drinking and hanging out with a bad crowd.”

After being raped, she also found she wanted vengeance. Luckily, she had a friend who kept her from making a tragic situation far worse.

Lisa soon married a man who would violently abuse her for years, even after she had left him. Her trauma continued to accrue, even when her ex-husband was himself murdered. She feels fortunate that she was able to go to therapy for free to get some help. “People need to know it’s okay to get help,” she said. “Access to programs doesn’t necessarily lead to utilization when it comes to this kind of pain.”

By 2001, Lisa had already spent nearly a decade helping those struggling with substance abuse, first as a counselor and then as the program director of a residential substance abuse facility. But she felt pulled to start Urban Grief. “It was a call from God in the face of overwhelming grief and trauma that I witnessed firsthand after violence,” said Lisa. “I wanted to know who was helping, so I did a needs assessment. This included interviewing survivors and I found that no one was offering help.”

One of the cornerstones of Urban Grief’s mission is to perform outreach to shooting victims and the families of those who have been murdered. Over the course of her career, Lisa continued to uncover gaps that weren’t being addressed. “My overall observation is that people of color don’t generally know about victims’ services,” she said. “They are not given basic information and sometimes feel re-victimized by their interactions with systems.  A lot of the time, this means that the criminal justice system was traumatic for them and didn’t provide real justice or address the need for safety.” The consequence of this is that the cycle of trauma and violence, when unaddressed, perpetuates.

The week of April 7 is National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, an ideal time to talk about what survivors need as they deal with trauma. Over the course of 18 years of doing this work, and informed by the trauma she’s survived plus her training and expertise on the traumatic impact of violence, Lisa has zeroed in on some fundamental needs that all survivors should get: care, dignity, and respect. It seems so simple, and yet so often reality tells a far different story.

“Sometimes when I hear families describe their encounters, they’re treated more like criminals,” she said. “They come away feeling like they’re being treated as suspects and without any empathy.”

Lisa’s advocacy is critical, whether she’s raising awareness throughout a community about the impact of violence and trauma in their own lives or sitting with a survivor in the immediate aftermath of violence. In that moment, especially, she has found that keeping it simple is the way to go.

“The first step is I just ask: ‘How can I help? I’m here to help.’”

EJUSA holds first national convening on trauma and the criminal justice system

EJUSA National trauma convening group photo

EJUSA has taken a big step toward building a national network of people impacted by trauma across the criminal justice system by hosting our first convening in mid-March.

Twenty-four leaders came together – traveling from all over the country – for two days of sharing, healing, learning, and planning. They included crime survivors, people who were formerly incarcerated, families of the incarcerated, and law enforcement. All of the participants have worked alongside EJUSA at some point: as advocates within our death penalty work, as leaders of grassroots violence intervention and survivor organizations that EJUSA supported in capacity building, or as participants in our Police-Community Trauma Program in Newark.

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Orlando murder victims’ families of color express frustration. Their basic needs are not being met.

Orlando press conference
While Florida considers expanded rights for crime victims, local murder victims’ families are expressing their dismay that the voices of local victims are too-often ignored and that current resources and agencies aren’t sufficiently meeting the needs of many victims of color.

Over a dozen murder victims’ families held a news conference Thursday morning in front of the Orlando Police headquarters. Those participating are members of local victims’ support groups, including Let Your Voice Be Heard Inc., Beautiful Safe Beginnings, and Men of Purpose.

Thursday’s speakers included the parents and children of individuals murdered in the Orlando area. They asked the Orlando Police Department for an official meeting to hear about victims’ and surviving families’ needs in the wake of violence, to express concerns about how the Orlando Police Department has interacted with communities of color, and to work toward better communication going forward.

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Who Has Access to Healing?

Reimagining Justice This Month highlights stories about effective responses to violence – responses that disrupt cycles of violence, heal trauma, and address structural racism.

States Set Aside Millions of Dollars for Crime Victims. But Some Gun Violence Survivors Don’t Get the Funds They Desperately Need, The Trace
Elizabeth Van Brocklin asserts that all victims – whether harmed by mass shootings or neighborhood gun violence – should receive the support they need in the wake of tragedy. She points out the lack of services for those injured in incidents of gun violence, who are disproportionately young black men. Now, Van Brocklin says, some states are beginning to improve access and funds for underserved victims.

Can Police Change Their Mindset from Warriors to Guardians?, The Crime Report
A Fordham Law School panel highlights the recurring tragedy of police-caused homicides in the U.S. One panel member contends that these tragedies should be addressed by “reengineering” police procedures and trainings in ways that encourages them to save lives, not take them.

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What Happened to Crime in Camden? | Reimagining Justice This Month

Reimagining Justice This Month highlights stories about effective responses to violence – responses that disrupt cycles of violence, heal trauma, and address structural racism.

What Happened to Crime in Camden?, CityLab
Five years ago, the police department in Camden, NJ was disbanded, reimagined, and born again with fewer officers, lower pay, and a strategic shift toward community policing. In 2017, they had their lowest homicide rate since the 1980s.

‘Bold step’: King County to look at youth crime as public-health risk, The Seattle Times
King County, WA, home of Seattle, announced that its Juvenile Detention Services will aim to create a “trauma-informed” approach to incarcerated youth. The ultimate goal is zero youth incarceration: “Credible research suggests that we can reduce crime by bringing a rehabilitative, public health approach to juvenile justice.” Continue Reading →

Healing for Vegas | Reimagining Justice This Month

Reimagining Justice This Month highlights stories about effective responses to violence – responses that disrupt cycles of violence, heal trauma, and address structural racism.
“Healing for Vegas,” The Marshall Project
EJUSA Executive Director Shari Silberstein reminds us that the survivors of the unthinkable violence in Las Vegas will have extensive and varying needs in order to recover from their trauma. “If we’re serious about supporting the survivors of Vegas, we would make sure every one of them has ongoing access to trauma and mental health services. We would ensure that those services were culturally appropriate and geographically accessible. We would support their financial and logistical needs while they rebuild their lives. We would respect their need for information, the desire some have for privacy and others for interaction. We would recognize there is no timeline for healing, or support.”

“Trauma is real for Newark residents and police,” The Star-Ledger 
Since 2016, EJUSA has trained nearly 200 NJ residents in our Police/Community Initiative on Trauma-Informed Responses to Violence trainings in Newark. The trainings encourage honest, open dialogue about race, policing, and community engagement from various perspectives. This story highlights the powerful storytelling and the moments of mutual understanding that have become hallmarks of our program: “Both sides understood each other’s plight on Tuesday as they took the first step toward bridging a chasm that has widened from years of mistrust.” Continue Reading →

We carry the stories with us in our fight towards justice | Reimagining Justice This Month

Reimagining Justice This Month highlights stories about effective responses to violence – responses that disrupt cycles of violence, heal trauma, and address structural racism.

In honor of National Day of Remembrance for Murder Victims (Sept 25), EJUSA’s staff extend deep-filled gratitude to the hundreds of family members of murder victims we have had the privilege to work with for the last 25+ years. We honor those loved ones you’ve lost and the stories you have shared with us. We carry them with us in our fight towards justice and healing for all. Read some of the stories about our work with families of homicide victims.

“Help The Trace Report on America’s Ignored Population of Gunshot Survivors,”The Trace
As part of its efforts to report on gun violence and its survivors, The Trace has pulled together a survey to try to help determine what services survivors need and which of those services they have trouble accessing. If you are the survivor of gun violence, please take a moment to fill out this survey, or if you know someone who has survived a gunshot wound, please pass this along. Continue Reading →

Let’s build a world where violence is rare | Reimagining Justice This Month

Reimagining Justice This Month highlights stories about effective responses to violence – responses that disrupt cycles of violence, heal trauma, and address structural racism.

Vice’s in-depth Charlottesville video is a horrifying look at hatredThe Boston Globe
Our country watched white nationalists descend upon Charlottesville, VA, to deliver messages of hate and bigotry. Vice’s viral 20 minute documentary, “Charlottesville: Race and Terror,” provides an on-the-ground picture of this dark historical moment: “Vice doesn’t lose track of what really happened over the weekend — the domestic terrorism, the chants of ‘Jews will not replace us,’ the police in full gear. The piece does not skimp on the horrors, including footage of the car plowing into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing Heather Heyer and injuring 19 others. We see a black woman bowing in despair and disbelief after the crash, letting out a grief-stricken scream.” EJUSA condemns white supremacy, white nationalism, and violent extremism in all forms. We are fighting to create a world in which violence is rare, and there is racial justice and healing.

Statement Opposing the President’s Comments Encouraging Use of Force Against Members of our Community, National Juvenile Justice Network
EJUSA joined with several other justice organizations to condemn President Trump’s comments to law enforcement officers late last month, in which encouraged the use of force against community members. Continue Reading →

Community-driven, trauma-informed solutions to public safety | Reimagining Justice This Month

Reimagining Justice This Month highlights stories about effective responses to violence – responses that disrupt cycles of violence, heal trauma, and address structural racism.

Race, History, Policing: A New Vision of Public Safety Conference, National Network for Safe Communities
This video features EJUSA’s Trauma Advocacy Program Director Fatimah Loren Muhammad on a panel talking about community-driven, trauma-informed solutions to public safety. The biennial conference brought together over 300 public safety stakeholders, national organizations, academics, and community groups to talk about advancements in the field.

Blueprint for a New NewarkThe New York Times
This week marks the 50th anniversary of the Newark Rebellion, in which the police killing of a black cab driver ignited a city to fight for freedom from oppression and divestment. In this op-ed piece, Ryan Haygood, President of the NJ Institute for Social Justice and a collaborator of EJUSA, highlights this historical trauma and opportunities to create new police/community relationships today. EJUSA is proud to support the Newark community in forging these new relationships. Continue Reading →

Funding available for groups serving Native American Populations in California

California has opened an application process for organizations to apply for funds through the Federal Victims Of Crime Act (VOCA). If you are a Native American tribe, tribal nonprofit/community-based organization, or tribal consortium operating within a Tribal Court system in California, you may be eligible to apply through this RFP process.

The maximum grant award is $200,000.

Through our VOCA Funding Toolkit, and assistance from our Grassroots Capacity Building Specialist, EJUSA can help groups determine if they are eligible to apply, answer questions about the process, and provide some technical assistance for your group’s application. Please contact Latrina Kelly-James at latrinakj@ejusa.org or (203) 823-5826 or download the toolkit here.

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