VOCAL Inc NSW believes it has a unique perspective. Not only has VOCAL Inc NSW functioned very effectively as a Homicide Support Agency for far longer than other agencies (commenced 1989), its care of people affected by homicide is individual, multi-dimensional, and holistic. VOCAL assists for as long as it takes.
One of the things most appreciated by VOCAL clients is they are free to talk about any issue they need or want to. We find most people want help with a particular issue or issues that arise because of the death, but not necessarily about the death.
For example people may need assistance with:
- how to manage the media
- will we go with them to identify the body
- whether to video-tape the funeral
- crime scene clean-up issues
- legal issues (estate, wills, property, funeral costs, compensation)
- financial implications (Centrelink, taxation – etc.)
- inability to work
- the children
- how to handle disrespectful people
- family dynamics and clashes
- grieving processes and individual differences
- the systems involved in these situations – police, counselling, bureaucracies, courts, mental health, legal system, parole, etc.
And that’s really just in cases where the systems “work”. It takes quite a lot to achieve that.
It usually requires that:
- a body is found
- cause of death can be determined
- leads to identify the killer
- the killer can be located and arrested
- evidence is sufficient for a prima facie case
- the committal process is successful
- enough competent Crown witnesses are found, stay alive, willing, and can withstand character and competency assassinations by the defence
- the defence witnesses do not collude against justice
- the right killer was caught and found guilty
- the appeal was unsuccessful
- the killer wasn’t regarded as insane at the time
- the dead victim can’t be vilified to imply the death was self-defence or provocation, or be said to be involved in a crime at the time
This list is not exhaustive. Failing in any one of these factors may mean the case cannot or will not proceed, and will complicate life after crime for the survivors.
Responses to Murder & Suspicious Death
The sudden violent, criminal, or suspicious death of a person is something we hear about every day in the media. These cases may make us sad, and grateful that it did not affect us. Then there is terrorism. The type that blows apart ordinary people going about their ordinary business, that burns and murders indiscriminately. That’s a bit more real, that makes us shudder with revulsion and concern – could it happen to us?
In movies we watch people being killed and it means little. Crime shows are increasing. They teach us that cases are solved by a hair’s DNA, that bodies are neat and clean on a morgue slab. They teach us why we should trust “justice” and how it works. The police are always dedicated or else they themselves come to grief. Good versus evil, with good the winner.
Outside of our normal understanding of life and death, there are no rules for how an individual will react, cope, grieve, respond, act, think, or behave if someone they love is murdered or dies in suspicious or criminal circumstances. There are many beliefs, expectations, procedures and practices to undergo, to live up to, to expect, yet we can almost guarantee that it will be nothing like any previous “normal death” experience, or any other sudden death experience, and nothing like what we’ve seen on TV, read, or imagined.
In the real system – where a body is actually found – at the same time that the survivors are trying to come to terms with the fact the crime has happened, let alone that someone they love is dead, then murdered – with all the emotions that then flow, they will at the same time be thrust into complicated and crucial legal decision making from which consequences can and will flow.
Life after a sudden, suspicious death can and does often exacerbate already fragile relationships, and not all family members and others may behave respectfully and cooperatively in the circumstances. People may already be embroiled in many life challenges and stages before a member of the family or a friend is murdered, or suffers what is termed a “suspicious death”.
What they say and do may be subject to police scrutiny. Some families of homicide victims develop an excellent relationship with their police officer which lasts forever. Others do not.
Over and over victims tell us that what they are led to expect will happen – and what actually happens are two entirely different things. They say that responses from supposed professional workers in the field, the police, courts, and comments and reactions from friends, family and others, often just astound and re-victimise them in their grief.