Community-Led Services for Survivors
Last Updated: 3.3.2023
The Problem: The Lasting Impact of Gun Violence
Every day, more than 120 Americans are killed with guns, and more than 200 are shot and wounded.1Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. WONDER Online Database, Underlying Cause of Death. A yearly average was developed using four years of the most recent available data: 2018 to 2021. Everytown For Gun Safety Support Fund, “EveryStat: United States,” https://everystat.org/. Based on analysis of 2019 HCUP nonfatal injury data. Each of these shootings leaves behind survivors, extending beyond the direct victim to families and loved ones, all of whom must confront a series of financial, physical, and personal challenges in the months and years to follow. Community-led services for survivors provide critical support to victims of gun violence. Survivors of firearm homicide or assault are especially concentrated in Black and brown communities, where services have been historically underfunded and left without adequate resources.2Everytown For Gun Safety Support Fund, “Impact of Gun Violence on Black Americans,” accessed February 2, 2021, https://everytownresearch.org/issue/gun-violence-black-americans/; Everytown for Gun Safety, “The Impact of Gun Violence on Latino Communities,” September 15, 2020, https://www.everytown.org/report/the-impact-of-gun-violence-on-latino-communities/; Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund, “Gun Violence in Cities,” April 24, 2019, https://everytownresearch.org/report/gun-violence-in-cities/. In these communities, survivors of gun violence are overwhelmingly adolescent, particularly young Black males, many of whom sustain wounds that result in lifelong physical and emotional complications, limiting their opportunities far into adulthood.
Community-led services can assist survivors by responding to incidents of gun violence in their community and providing ongoing care in the months and years that follow. Such services are provided by community organizations or advocates who shepherd survivors through complex healthcare and criminal justice systems, and may also support survivors through mental healthcare, financial assistance, and court advocacy.
Robust services for gun violence survivors are also a critical component of gun violence prevention, because one of the strongest predictors of future violence for young people is surviving it.3Jennifer N. Shaffer and R. Barry Ruback, “Violent Victimization as a Risk Factor for Violent Offending among Juveniles,” Juvenile Justice Bulletin, (Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, December 2002), https://bit.ly/32j52yu; Simon I. Singer, “Homogeneous Victim-Offender Populations: A Review and Some Research Implications,” Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology 72, no. 2 (1981): 779–88; Wesley G. Jennings, Alex R. Piquero, and Jennifer M. Reingle, “On the Overlap between Victimization and Offending: A Review of the Literature,” Aggression and Violent Behavior 17, no. 1 (2012): 16–26, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.avb.2011.09.003; Robert J. Sampson and Janet L. Lauritsen, “Violent Victimization and Offending: Individual-, Situational-, and Community-Level Risk Factors,” in Understanding and Preventing Violence, Volume 3: Social Influences, ed. Albert J. Reiss and Jeffrey A. Roth (Washington, DC: National Academies Press, 1994). In order to interrupt this cycle and facilitate physical and emotional healing, survivors need short- and long-term wraparound services. Meeting the needs of survivors furthers community healing and can stop the perpetuation of gun violence. Local, state, and federal policymakers should support the community-led programs that provide care and are filling these gaps and limiting further violence in their community.
The Solution: Community-Led Survivor Services
Many agencies around the country employ victim advocates within police departments, prosecutor offices, and departments of corrections. While these system-based advocates are often of great service, community advocates can fill the service gap for marginalized communities and help individuals who do not engage with the criminal justice system. Community-led organizations are often composed of credible, local, active messengers who may themselves be survivors of gun violence.4William Wical, Joseph Richardson, and Che Bullock, “A Credible Messenger: The Role of the Violence Intervention Specialist in the Lives of Young Black Male Survivors of Violence,” Violence and Gender 7, no. 2 (2020): https://doi.org/10.1089/vio.2019.0026. Due to shared experiences and cultural competence, these community members are often more successful in engaging with survivors than advocates employed within the criminal justice system, particularly where community relationships with law enforcement are fractured. Who these individuals are and the roles they serve in their community are critical to how they provide the services outlined here.
Community-led services for survivors generally fall into two categories: (1) immediate response services in the aftermath of gun violence and (2) ongoing services that continue following a firearm injury or death. Immediate response and ongoing service models are both essential to providing survivors with comprehensive, wraparound assistance.
Immediate Response Services
“When I was shot, it changed my life—and the lives of everyone in my family—completely.”Karina Sartiaguin was the unintended target of a 2010 drive-by shooting outside of her school, Central High School, in Aurora, Colorado.
In the aftermath of a shooting, survivors face a complex and potentially overwhelming set of challenges. Their physical health, mental well-being, and financial security, among other things, may be compromised. As survivors begin to confront these challenges, some interact with a variety of formal system structures, including law enforcement and emergency medical care. However, survivors require additional information, referrals, and support following a firearm injury or homicide, and community-led services can provide these resources.
I began screaming, took our youngest child to my in-laws, and sped to the hospital. We watched from the parking lot as Felix was wheeled out onto the helicopter by EMTs. They wouldn’t let us go near our son. That hurts me to this day. I couldn’t go near him, neither to comfort him nor let him know we were there. As the helicopter left, an officer told us to go ahead to Topeka, and we left. I can’t handle the sound of a helicopter. The hardest thing was that no one told us what was going on. We found out during the court process.
Crisis Response and Rapid Accompaniment
Community-led services in the initial period following an incident of gun violence can be critical in supporting survivors. Survivors are suffering the physical and emotional pain of their wounds or loss, and are also often expected to interact with law enforcement and the media, which can exacerbate a survivor’s distress.5Eileen Rinear “Psychosocial Aspects of Parental Response Patterns to the Death of a Child by Homicide,” Journal of Traumatic Stress 1, no. 3 (1988): 305–22, https://doi.org/10.1002/jts.2490010304. During this time, community outreach can feel more personal and accommodating for some individuals than system-based services, and can also connect individuals to critical care providers.6Victim Support Services, “System-Based and Community Based Advocacy—The Need for Both,” November 7, 2013, https://victimsupportservices.org/system-based-and-community-based-advocacy-the-need-for-both/. These services can include assisting with media requests, hospital access, funeral arrangements, or referrals to agencies for other necessary services. Groups like the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute in Massachusetts and the Victim Assistance Program in Ohio provide immediate crisis response and follow-up to violent crime, both assisting survivors through the variety of emotional and practical challenges they may face and for which they may not be prepared. These programs help survivors of violent crime by arriving on the scene to alleviate their emotional concerns and questions, and to connect them with the resources they may need moving forward.
Hospital-based Violence Intervention Programs (HVIPs)
As noted previously by Everytown, hospital-based violence intervention programs (HVIPs) are based on the premise that there is a unique window of opportunity to engage victims of violence and prevent retaliation in the immediate aftermath of a traumatic injury. As such, HVIPs are typically located in trauma centers and emergency departments, where service providers partner with patients and families immediately after and during the months that follow the injury to ensure that they have the support and resources necessary to heal and remain safe.7The Health Alliance for Violence Intervention, “What Is a Hospital-based Violence Intervention Program (HVIP)?,” accessed January 8, 2021, https://www.thehavi.org/what-is-an-hvip.
In Baltimore, a study found that individuals who did not participate in an HVIP program were six times more likely to be rehospitalized for a violent injury and four times more likely to be convicted of a violent crime than individuals who received the intervention. HVIP participants also saw their employment rate double, while employment fell for those not in the program.8Carnell Cooper, Dawn M. Eslinger, and Paul D. Stolley, “Hospital-Based Violence Intervention Programs Work,” Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery 61, no. 3 (September 2006): 534–40, https://doi.org/10.1097/01.ta.0000236576.81860.8c.
Survivors of gun violence accrue unplanned expenses in the aftermath of a shooting. These expenses may include medical and mental health counseling costs, funeral and burial costs, lost wages or loss of support, and relocation expenses. Community-led service providers can assist survivors in obtaining financial assistance. One avenue for monetary aid is Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) victim compensation funds, for which survivors can apply to receive reimbursement for their expenses. Community-led organizations can help survivors in applying for and tracking reimbursement from state agencies.
Obtaining VOCA victim compensation funding can, however, be rife with obstacles. In some states, survivors with past criminal convictions are not eligible for funding,9 Alysia Santo, “States Have Millions of Dollars to Help Victims of Crime, but Seven Ban Aid for People with Criminal Records. A Close Look at Two States Shows How This Hurts Black Families the Most,” Marshall Project, September 13, 2018, https://bit.ly/3rdIxFl. and survivors may be required to report a crime to law enforcement.10National Association of Crime Victim Compensation Boards, “Crime Victim Compensation: An Overview,” accessed February 1, 2021, http://www.nacvcb.org/index.asp?bid=14. Additionally, because VOCA compensation is reimbursement-based, there is a period of waiting between expenditure and payment, which takes a financial toll on survivors and their families.
We survivors talk publicly about the impact of gun violence on our state of mind, relationships, activities, and more. But less publicized is how it affects us financially. In the years since, the emotional aftermath I experienced has directly cost me tens of thousands of dollars: in choosing costly housing that provided ultra-high-level security; equally high-security garages; bills for counseling, taxis, and other services solely to make me feel safe. These were not expenses I ever anticipated; this was earned income that rightfully belonged in my savings. But instead, I’ve had to pay a lifelong emotional and financial penalty due to one criminal with a handgun.
Survivor families need continued resources to address grief, mental health, and their overall well-being. Untreated grief turns into anger, anger can turn into retaliation where the victim becomes the perpetrator, thus contributing to the cycle of violence we see in communities of color.– Oji Eggleston, executive director of Chicago Survivors, a community-based organization that provides wraparound services to families who have lost a loved one to violence in Chicago, Illinois
The physical and emotional wounds of gun violence often stay with survivors throughout their lifetime. Ongoing services that are tailored to the long-term experiences of gun violence survivors in the months, years, and decades following gun violence are essential to the support process.
Long-term Medical Care and Costs
Gunshot wounds are the third leading cause of spinal cord injuries.
National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center. Facts and Figures at a Glance. University of Alabama at Birmingham. 2018. https://bit.ly/2EM0jcl.
About 45,000 Americans are paralyzed from gunshot wounds.
Gambacorta D, Ubiñas H. Shot and forgotten: America’s hidden toll of gun violence: shooting victims face lifelong disabilities and financial burdens. Philadelphia Inquirer. November 28, 2018. https://bit.ly/2C9xPZo.
Survivors of gunshot wounds may live with lifelong physical disabilities: gunshot wounds are a frequent cause of spinal cord injuries;11National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center, “Facts and Figures at a Glance,” (University of Alabama at Birmingham, 2018), https://bit.ly/2EM0jcl. nearly 14 percent of all cases of paralysis are caused by violence, primarily using a gun.12National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center, “Facts and Figures at a Glance.” Guns are a leading cause of traumatic brain injury in the US. 13American Association of Neurological Surgeons, “Gunshot Wound Head Trauma,” accessed February 2, 2021, https://bit.ly/2NLbbuS. Of those who survive a gunshot wound to the head, about 50 percent suffer from seizures.14American Association of Neurological Surgeons, “Gunshot Wound Head Trauma.” Recovering from a brain injury is unpredictable, and many patients suffer long-term disability, including significant memory, cognitive, and behavioral problems.15UCLA Health, “Patient Services–Brain Injury Program,” accessed February 1, 2021 https://bit.ly/2C8cuQ8.; Melissa Healy, “Beyond the Bullet: Surviving a Shot to the Head Carries Host of Challenges,” Medical Press, January 28, 2011, https://bit.ly/2UroPGi.
Twelve percent of all traumatic brain injuries are attributed to firearms.
Of those who survive a gunshot wound to the head, about 50 percent will suffer from seizures.
American Association of Neurological Surgeons. Gunshot Wound Head Trauma. https://bit.ly/2NLbbuS
Long-term medical care may include numerous surgeries, physical or occupational therapy, home health assistance, ongoing prescription medication, and the loss of paid employment that caregivers, often a family member, must forego to care for their loved ones in the aftermath of gun violence. Everytown has estimated the total economic cost to families from out-of-pocket medical and mental health bills from gun violence is $4.7 million per day, much of this is incurred long after the initial physical wound has been treated.16Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund, “The Economic Cost of Gun Violence,” February 11, 2021 (forthcoming). (Here’s url but it’s still password-protected: https://everytownresearch.org/report/the-economic-cost-of-gun-violence/.) This care can take a financial toll, and community-led organizations can advise survivors regarding options and benefits.
Criminal Justice Advocacy
Gunshot victims and survivors who report a crime and seek justice may find the process stressful or personally challenging. Court proceedings may bring up distressing emotions for victims, while cold cases may result in survivors feeling neglected or without avenues for justice. Community-led organizations can help ease that burden on survivors by providing education and empowerment for survivors who seek to work with the legal system. Community advocates can often provide more personalized and time-intensive support than systems-based advocates. Community advocates can assist with court documents and justice system navigation, work with them to prepare and deliver their Victim Impact Statement, and provide emotional support throughout.17Victim Support Services, “Help for Victims,” accessed October 26, 2020, https://bit.ly/39EF24M. The Maryland Crime Victims’ Resource Center, for example, offers comprehensive advocacy services throughout the legal process, along with pro bono legal representation. Parents of Murdered Children, a national nonprofit founded in 1978, provides thorough advocacy and court accompaniment to help to minimize the emotional pain and to restore a sense of power and control to the survivors, which includes anticipatory guidance to prevent revictimization during the criminal trial and full travel accommodations.
Law Enforcement Advocacy
Without full voice and information-sharing in the law enforcement investigatory process, survivors may not feel the sense of justice and support needed for them to heal. Community-led organizations, such as Chicago Survivors, can bridge the communication gap during the law enforcement investigation process. From arriving on the scene promptly and establishing contact with responding officers and investigators, with whom they very often already have relationships, to hosting an unsolved crime meeting for any homicide that has remained open for nine months, Chicago Survivors maintains contact between law enforcement officers and families.18Details on this work were provided by Chicago Survivors in a series of interviews, as well as gathered from information provided on their webpage and shared materials. Chicago Survivors, “How Chicago Survivors Helps”, accessed February 1, 2021, https://bit.ly/3rsp9ET. With emotions understandably running high, these organizations are critical to keeping families and law enforcement focused on their common goals of solving violent crime and bringing justice to victims. Chicago Survivors also works to proactively train police on best practices, obtain investigation updates, and advocate on behalf of crime victims who experience any disrespect, miscommunication, or need to file a formal complaint.19Chicago Survivors, “How Chicago Survivors Helps.” This work is critical to maintaining a sense of trust between survivors and law enforcement, which can create more productive outcomes for both parties.
My son was 14, he had just started high school, and he missed his brother. He was in a lethargic state, he wasn’t engaging, he was sleeping all day, he just wasn’t himself. We took him to the emergency room; they said there was nothing physically wrong with him; they said it was emotional.
- A mother who was served by Chicago Survivors, and who credited their counseling efforts for her son’s recovery.
Survivors of gun violence face innumerable challenges to their mental health that can be debilitating going forward. Survivors who have lost a loved one are likely to experience prolonged grief, and may suffer from other mental health consequences.20Sara Bastomski and Marina Duane, “Homicide Co-Victimization Research Brief,” (Center for Victim Research, 2018) https://bit.ly/2C7AVNu. A nationally representative survey found that one in five immediate family members of homicide victims experience post-traumatic stress disorder in their lifetimes,21Angelynne Amick-McMullan, Dean G. Kilpatrick, and Heidi S. Resnick, “Homicide as a Risk Factor for PTSD among Surviving Family Members,” Behavior Modification 15, no. 4 (1991): 545–59, https://doi.org/10.1177/01454455910154005. and research suggests they also face an increased risk of depression, anxiety, and substance abuse.22Bastomski and Duane, “Homicide Co-Victimization.” Counseling in the immediate aftermath of gun violence and in the years following can help survivors address their physical and emotional trauma. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a form of counseling that has not only been shown to assist with mental health challenges,23American Psychological Association, “What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?” accessed February 2, 2021, https://www.apa.org/ptsd-guideline/patients-and-families/cognitive-behavioral. but also has been demonstrated to reduce criminal behaviors, and is used in many gun violence intervention programs.24Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund, “Community-Led Public Safety Strategies,” October 15, 2020, https://everytownresearch.org/report/community-led-public-safety-strategies/.
Support groups are widely available services and many offer free assistance to survivors of gun violence.25Sara Bastomski and Marina Duane, “Losing a Loved One to Homicide: What We Know about Homicide Co-Victims from Research and Practice Evidence,” (Center for Victim Research, July 2019), https://bit.ly/3rjASVR. These support groups provide opportunities for survivors to share their experiences or their grief and to support one another.26Bastomski and Duane, “Losing a Loved One to Homicide.” Grief support groups are available in cities and towns nationwide, one example being the Mother’s Healing Circle in Chicago, a group of women, many of whom have lost children to gun violence, who gather for counseling and group discussion.27Sarah Conway, “Mothers on Both Sides of Chicago Violence Find Sisterhood in Loss,” Chicago, February 5,2018, https://www.chicagomag.com/city-life/February-2018/Mothers-on-Both-Sides-of-Chicago-Violence-Find-Sisterhood-in-Loss/. Other groups, such as the Virginia Victim Assistance Network, coordinate support groups across a state to make them as accessible as possible.28Virginia Victim Assistance Network. “Homicide Survivor Support Groups,” accessed February 2, 2021, https://vanetwork.org/homicide-survivor-support-groups/.
The Obstacles: Access to Services and Sustained Funding
Access to Services
Despite being disproportionately impacted by gun violence, young Black and brown men typically face substantial challenges accessing support services.29Danielle Sered, “Young Men of Color and the Other Side of Harm: Addressing Disparities in Our Responses to Violence,” (Vera Institute of Justice, December 2014), https://www.vera.org/publications/young-men-of-color-and-the-other-side-of-harm-addressing-disparities-in-our-responses-to-violence. Survivors face challenges in accessing services due to complicated requirements,30Lisa Newmark et al., “The National Evaluation of State Victims of Crime Act Compensation and Assistance Programs: Trends and Strategies for the Future,” (Urban Institute Justice Policy Center, April 2003), https://www.urban.org/sites/default/files/publication/59206/410142-The-National-Evaluation-of-State-Victims-of-Crime-Act-Compensation-and-Assistance-Programs-Trends-and-Strategies-for-the-Future-Executive-Summary-.PDF; National Association of Crime Victim Compensation Boards, “Crime Victim Compensation.” or a reluctance to identify oneself as a survivor.31Sered, “Young Men of Color and the Other Side of Harm.” Moreover, many of the supportive services they need may require individuals to report the crime,32National Association of Crime Victim Compensation Boards, “Crime Victim Compensation.” have no criminal record,33Santo, “States Have Millions of Dollars to Help Victims of Crime.” or be in no way culpable for the shooting.34Newmark et al., “The National Evaluation of State Victims of Crime Act Compensation and Assistance Programs.”
Reporting a violent victimization to law enforcement is often the entry point for survivors to receive these services, so survivors of violent crimes that go unreported are significantly less likely to access victim support services.35Lynn Langton, “Use of Victim Service Agencies by Victims of Serious Violent Crime, 1993–2009,” (Bureau of Justice Statistics, August 2011), https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/uvsavsvc9309.pdf. Among Black and brown Americans, crime reporting is reduced due to distrust in law enforcement, especially following a notable incident of police violence.36Giffords Law Center, “In Pursuit of Peace: Building Police-Community Trust to Break the Cycle of Violence,” January 2020, https://giffords.org/lawcenter/report/in-pursuit-of-peace-building-police-community-trust-to-break-the-cycle-of-violence/; Matthew Desmond, Andrew V. Papachristos, and David S. Kirk. “Police Violence and Citizen Crime Reporting in the Black Community.” American Sociological Review 81, no. 5 (2016): 857–76, https://doi.org/10.1177%2F0003122416663494. In a country where Black individuals are nearly three times more likely to be shot and killed by police than white people,37Everytown analysis of 2018 to 2022 Mapping Police Violence (accessed February 22, 2023) and population data from the US Census. National Violent Death Reporting System 2009-2012 (17 states participating) and also shows Black Americans killed by police at a rate 2.8 times higher than white Americans, see DeGue et al., 2016. CDC’s data on 2010-2014 deaths categorized as legal intervention shows a rate of police killing of Black males aged 10+ 2.8 times higher than white males 10+ years old, see Buehler, 2017. this distrust is unsurprising, but tragically reduces the care survivors receive and perpetuates cycles of violence—exacerbating issues of distrust further.
For these reasons, accessible, community-led services detached from criminal justice agencies must be a priority for ensuring immediate response and ongoing care to survivors of gun violence.
Underresourced Community-Led Organizations
Community-led service organizations can facilitate meaningful access to services, particularly in the communities of color disproportionately impacted by gun violence. Many of these services are provided by organizations led by Black and Latino survivors. These organizations employ community advocates who work on the front lines of gun violence prevention, building relationships and trust within communities, often by drawing on their own experiences with gun violence and survivorship.
However, these impactful community-led organizations and advocates are often underresourced.38A 2016 analysis found that only 7 percent of philanthropic dollars go to communities comprising ethnic or racial minorities. Christopher Shea, “State of the Work: Stories from the Movement to Advance Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion,” (D5, April 2016), http://www.d5coalition.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/D5-SOTW-2016-Final-web-pages.pdf. A 2020 report from Echoing Green and the Bridgespan Group found that Black-led organizations have revenues 45 percent smaller than those of white-led organizations.39Cheryl Dorsey, Jeff Bradach, and Peter Kim, “Racial Equity and Philanthropy: Disparities in Funding for Leaders of Color Leave Impact on the Table,” (Bridgespan, May 2020),www.bridgespan.org/bridgespan/Images/articles/racial-equity-and-philanthropy/racial-equity-and-philanthropy.pdf. The National Committee for Responsible Philanthropy also published a report in 2020 that found “the combined funding to Black communities is 1 percent of all community foundation funding while the combined Black population is 15 percent, resulting in an underfunding of Black communities of $2 billion.”40Ben Barge, et al., “Black Funding Denied: Community Funding Support for Black Communities,” (National Committee for Responsible Philanthropy, August 26, 2020), https://www.ncrp.org/2020/08/black-funding-denied.html. In addition, these organizations often take a lower priority and are the first to be cut during periods of austerity, creating challenges in sustained funding.
Local, state, and federal policymakers must ensure that the vital services for gun violence survivors described in this report are easily accessible and sustainably funded within the communities most impacted by gun violence. Policymakers can do this in two steps: identifying the needs in their communities and addressing these gaps by funding community-led survivor services.
Policymakers must recognize services for survivors of gun violence as an inextricable component of gun violence prevention efforts. Everytown has previously reported on the need for community-led public safety strategies, which successfully reduce violence by implementing alternative public safety measures, including HVIPs.41Survivors who receive supportive services in the aftermath of gun violence experience better long-term outcomes than those who do not and are less likely to be pulled into a cycle of violence. Survivors receiving services via a hospital-based violence intervention program experienced a low recidivism rate. Teresa M. Bell, et al., “Long-Term Evaluation of a Hospital-based Violence Intervention Program Using a Regional Health Information Exchange,” Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery 84, no. 1, (2018):175-182, https://dx.doi.org/10.1097/TA.0000000000001671. In considering survivor services as a critical component of violence prevention, local officials and policymakers must evaluate their current rate of service provision to survivors and consider what, if any, barriers exist to survivors accessing supportive services in their communities.
State and federal grant programs should then be used to support services for gun violence survivors. For example, the federal Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) allocates billions of dollars to states and territories annually to fund direct services to victims of violent crime. Many community-led gun violence organizations are eligible to receive VOCA victim assistance grants, and VOCA state administrators should prioritize funding these organizations to provide services to gun violence survivors. Gun violence survivor service models eligible for VOCA funding include HVIPs, peer-to-peer support groups, counseling, and criminal justice advocacy. At the state level, state legislatures should establish violence intervention program grants to fund community-led services for gun violence survivors. These grant programs award funds on a competitive basis to evidence-driven program models that serve communities with disproportionately high rates and numbers of homicides and other incidents of violent crime, including crisis responses by credible messengers and HVIPs. New Jersey, California, and several other states have established such funding streams through legislation, and many other states have introduced legislation to do the same.42NJ P.L.2019, c.365; Cal. Pen. Code §14131; TN SB2046, https://bit.ly/32O9NPM; MS SB NO. 2618 https://bit.ly/3iVRYXd.
Some local policymakers recognize the need for these services and direct resources to support them. In 2020 Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced $7.5 million in investments in violence interruption services and trauma-informed services, including a request for proposal for $1.5 million allocated to trauma-informed victim support in an effort to remove gaps in services between communities. The mayor’s press release read in part, “With these investments, the City is taking the first step to build a network of services to provide victims of gun violence and their families with trauma-informed counseling, immediate crisis intervention and ongoing social support, including access to mental health, housing and food assistance.”43City of Chicago, Office of the Mayor, “Mayor Lightfoot Announces RFPs for $7.5 Million Investments in Violence Interruption Services and Trauma-Informed Victim Supports,” press release, January 16, 2020, https://www.chicago.gov/city/en/depts/mayor/press_room/press_releases/2020/january/RFPSViolenceInterruptionServices.html. Six organizations received funding through this grant: Universal Family Connection, Institute for Nonviolence Chicago,44Institute for Nonviolence Chicago, which is further supported by Everytown through its Community Gun Violence Grant Program, also conducts lifesaving violence intervention work through street outreach efforts. Survivor services are often complementary to this community-led work, which is outlined along with other violence intervention programs, in Everytown’s Community-Led Public Safety Strategies fact sheet. Breakthrough Ministries, BUILD, New Life Ministries, and UCAN.45City of Chicago, Office of the Mayor, “Mayor Lightfoot Announces $7.5 Million Awarded to More Than 10 Community-Based Street Outreach and Victim Services Organizations in Communities at Highest Risk of Violence,” press release, April 21, 2020, https://www.chicago.gov/city/en/depts/mayor/press_room/press_releases/2020/april/StreetOutreachViolenceGrants.html.
No two incidents of gun violence are the same, nor is the damage done to survivors of gun violence. Survivors experience both physical and psychological harms, including but not limited to post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, numbness, anger, grief, guilt, and anxiety.46Bastomski and Duane, “Losing a Loved One to Homicide.” The burden of these feelings, on top of the financial challenges that are brought on, often cannot be healed through exclusively system-based services. Full wraparound coverage should include assistance from community-led organizations and support groups. These efforts must begin at the onset of a firearm injury or death and continue throughout a survivor’s life. The advocates and organizations providing these services must be adequately resourced and funded to help survivors heal and to interrupt cycles of violence. Policymakers have the tools necessary to support and sustain these efforts.
Resources for Survivors of Gun Violence
Nearly six out of every 10 gun deaths are suicides.47Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. WONDER Online Database, Underlying Cause of Death. A yearly average was developed using four years of the most recent available data: 2018 to 2021. Survivors of suicide may not be eligible to receive support through some victims services. More information on how to find support for people who are impacted by suicide can be found on our resources page.
Everytown Research & Policy is a program of Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund, an independent, non-partisan organization dedicated to understanding and reducing gun violence. Everytown Research & Policy works to do so by conducting methodologically rigorous research, supporting evidence-based policies, and communicating this knowledge to the American public.