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Losing a Loved One to Homicide: What We Know About Homicide Co-Victims From Research and Practice Evidence

NCJ Number
Date Published
July 2019
35 pages
This report by the Center for Victim Research summarizes research findings pertinent to the kind of services needed by homicide "co-victims," who are family members and friends of a homicide victim.
Regarding the prevalence of homicide co-victimization, nationally representative household surveys indicate that about 1 in 10 Americans will lose a loved one to homicide during their lifetime. Black and Latino Americans are more likely than other racial/ethnic groups to be homicide co-victims, and they also face more barriers to support services in the aftermath of the homicide of a loved one. Research shows that homicide co-victims experience a range of psychological harms, including posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, and prolonged grief. Because of this risk for long-term grief and other psychological harms, co-victims need access to a variety of early interventions, which are often not readily available to them. Few services are tailored to the long-term, complex needs of homicide co-victims, and few existing services have been evaluated for their effectiveness. One exception is called "Restorative Retelling," which is a group therapy program proven effective in improving homicide co-victims' psychological well-being. An aggravating factor particularly related to the criminal justice system includes lengthy investigations, trials, and subsequent prolonged appeals that do not take into account their impact on co-victims. Existing research findings challenge the field of victim services to develop wrap-around services and long-term care for homicide co-victims. This should include assistance in understanding and coping with the adverse impacts of the criminal justice system. This field also requires improved evaluation to determine which services are effective for various needs experienced by homicide co-victims. 1 table and 165 references