Each year, thousands of Linn and Johnson County residents will directly or indirectly be the victim of a violent crime. Even as you read this paragraph, the images of several recent, violent homicides in Linn and Johnson counties probably re-emerge in your minds. Imagine how you would feel if you had actually been an unwilling participant in any of those events ... caught in the crossfire or seeing a crime while doing your weekend shopping? Besides the direct targets of violent behavior — witnesses, family members, friends, law enforcement officers, even jurors, may also suffer lingering psychological and emotional effects of a horrific crime.
Horizons Survivors Program advocates evaluate crime victims and survivors holistically so that they can provide resources to lessen secondary trauma and to address issues created by their victimization. The advocates provide survivors education regarding the criminal justice process and support as they adjust to a “new normal” following a traumatic event. Staff members provide connections to necessary resources such as therapists, assist in the filing of victim compensation paperwork, and collaborate with other professionals to help clients resume functioning in all aspects of their lives.
A 19-year-old, just beginning her life, had spent the day at the Iowa State Fair before getting in the car with a drunken driver. The speed of the vehicle was estimated at 100 miles per hour on an Iowa highway when it crashed. She will never experience her 21st birthday, she will never graduate college. She was a daughter, a sister, a girlfriend, a co-worker, and a student. The parents had their child ripped out of their lives, but had immediate and seemingly impossible responsibilities to handle. Victim compensation helped with funeral costs, counseling helped with nightmares and never-ending grief and support groups and the candlelight vigil helped with honoring and remembering a young life.
This year during National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, April 10-16, Horizons Survivors Program joins other area organizations in an effort to raise awareness for the rights of crime victims. This consortium invites you to attend one of the scheduled events. Visit http://ovc.ncjrs.gov/ncvrw to learn more about our area’s survivors and how they cope. Your cubicle neighbor, next-door-neighbor or even a family member could be a survivor. Violent crime doesn’t discriminate. You can help.
• Christy Gladden is mental health and wellness director at Horizons, A Family Service Alliance.