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.’”

Reckoning with historical trauma | 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.

‘They Was Killing Black People:’ In Tulsa, one of the worst episodes of racial violence in U.S. history still haunts the city with unresolved questions, even as ‘Black Wall Street’ gentrifiesThe Washington Post
The historical trauma of slavery and lynching continues to impact entire communities and destroy lives. In Tulsa, reckoning with that historical trauma means excavating and not only acknowledging the devastation of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, but addressing unresolved questions about mass graves of Black people and repairing the ongoing harm. If justice means preventing violence and creating accountability and safety, this kind of history needs to be uncovered and recognized.

Bringing a dark chapter to light: Maryland confronts its lynching legacyThe Baltimore Sun
Our justice system is rooted in the legacy of slavery and lynching, and the impact of structural racism from police shootings to mass incarceration is felt across entire communities. Acknowledging that history, as well as both the historical trauma and present day harm of caused by the system, is essential for reimagining justice that can create equity and healing. This is how people in Maryland are making sure we remember the history of lynching so that we can transcend it. Continue Reading →

“Restoring Lost Trust”

USA Today and our friends at the Marshall Project made a great video about our program in Newark, which is bridging communities of color and police and breaking cycles of trauma. Please take a moment to watch the video and share it with your family and friends.

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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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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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Watch our transformative work in Newark

Last week, The Grio published an amazing video featuring our program in Newark, which brings police and communities of color together to break barriers and fight to change police culture and behavior. Please take a moment to watch the video, and then share it with your friends and family.

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Newark Healing Community Meeting – January 13

In the past two years, hundreds of community residents and police officers have spent hours exchanging stories about their own trauma and learning about the trauma of the other.

Join us for an action session that highlights our work and identifies opportunities to break the cycles of violence and trauma in Newark to:

  • Improve community-police relations
  • Support the healing of trauma in our community
  • Break the cycle of violence

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EJUSA Evangelical Network promotes violence prevention, support for survivors, restorative justice, and death penalty repeal

EJUSA Evangelical Network websiteWe are proud to announced the formation of the new EJUSA Evangelical Network. It is comprised of Evangelical leaders – from across the nation and political spectrum – who seek to transform the justice system by promoting responses to violence that are rooted in the values of racial equity, healing, public health, and restoration.

“Evangelicals are active in a lot of criminal justice reform campaigns,” said Shari Silberstein, Executive Director of EJUSA. “In our work with Evangelicals on the death penalty, we consistently heard that they wanted to advocate for something, and not just against broken policies. Our Evangelical Network provides that affirmative platform for future advocacy.”

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EJUSA’s Police-Community trauma trainings featured on local New Jersey TV

Our program in Newark aims to bridge the divide between police and communities of color to foster learning, healing, and action. Local PBS news station NJTV visited a recent training and captured both sides sharing their stories, break down barriers, and beginning to build trust.

See the full story at NJTV Online.

EJUSA Receives $150,000 Grant from Andrus Family Fund

EJUSA is pleased to announce that it has received a $150,000 grant from Andrus Family Fund. The grant will support our Police/Community Initiative on Trauma-Informed Responses to Violence, a project currently piloting in Newark, New Jersey. The project focuses on changing police policies and practices by using the analysis and frame of trauma to create the necessary space to shift narratives about violence, create empathy and mutual understanding, and lay the foundation for a healing justice system.

The Police/Community Initiative begins with trauma training and builds towards advocacy to implement police reforms. In the training, police and community members develop mutual understanding of the links between unaddressed trauma and involvement in the justice system, the impact of trauma on responses to violence, the impact of PTSD on officer use of force, and historical trauma such as slavery.

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