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Enough is Enough: The Experience of Black Homicide Survivors in Boston

Fri, March 22, 7:45 to 9:15am, Baltimore Convention Center, Floor: Level 1, Exhibit Hall B

Integrative Statement

Homicide is the leading cause of death in the United States for black males ages 12-17 (Johnson, 2014). In Boston, MA, there has been a 10% increase in the number of homicides in African-American communities (BPD, 2017). Homicide can be a devastating event for those who survive the loss, and research on coping with grief after a homicide for blacks is limited (Sharpe et al., 2014). Furthermore, an examination of factors such as stigma associated with the death, whether the homicide is solved, access to support services and relationships with police detectives that influence how this population copes with this trauma is absent from the literature (Sharpe, 2015). The disproportionate representation of black survivors of homicide victims places this population at a higher risk for mental health issues (Sharpe, 2015). Homicide is not only a loss and traumatic for surviving loved ones, but also for the communities and its residents. Black youth who are exposed to violence are at higher risk for effects on their development in areas such as academics, health and mental health (Ozer & Weinstein, 2004; Elite & Turner, 2002).
Therefore, this qualitative study explores the experience of black homicide survivors in Boston and the impact these murders has on communities, families, and youth using a phenomenological approach. The homicide survivors were referred from a local organization that provides support services to black women impacted by homicide. The key informants were referred by a homicide survivor who has worked closely with many city officials around resources for survivors. The theoretical framework guiding this study is the Model of Coping for African-American Survivors of Homicide Victims, which posits that homicide survivors make meaning of homicides and cope in conjunction with their racial processes and experiences (Sharpe, 2015). Three black homicide survivors and three individuals that included a police detective, a homicide support organization director, and a newspaper journalist from organizations that address the aftermath of homicides participated in semi-structured interviews. They were asked about how their loved one was murdered, access to support services, what the murder means for the community, and what can be done to decrease the amount of murders.The interviews were transcribed and thematic analyses were conducted.
Preliminary findings shed light into multi-layered difficulties black families deal with after the murder. Homicide survivors indicated there are not enough support resources available and that it is difficult to maintain relationships with the detectives assigned to their case. They have little hope that the high levels of community violence occurring in black neighborhoods will decrease. Key informants discussed how difficult it is to cope with seeing consistent murders of young people and there is a stigma associated with seeking out support services as a city official. This study has implications for how culturally-sensitive support services and interventions can be provided to black homicide survivors as well as for future research and practice.

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