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The Peace Institute is heartbroken by the murder of a Burke High School student from our community. We are holding his family in our prayers, and we are here to support them in whatever way they may need.

We, like many of you, are deeply saddened such a young life was taken – he was only seventeen years old. There has been a lot of focus on the numbers related to this murder – this seventeen year old who was killed around 1:00pm was the thirteenth homicide in 2016. We want to lift up another number that’s weighing heavily on our spirits: for every person who has been murdered there is an average of 10 close family members who are grieving their loved one’s loss. This year alone there are at least 130 survivors of homicide victims, and this number does not include the dozens of classmates, teachers, co-workers, friends, extended family members, and neighbors who are also traumatized by violent death. That number also does not include all of us who became survivors of homicide victims last year, or five years ago, or twenty-five years ago who feel like we are reliving our own loved one’s murder all over again whenever another homicide happens.

We have heard from our elected officials and community leaders that the right response to this homicide is outrage, and we agree that anger is justified. We also must make room for the sadness and the fear that families are feeling in this moment. We are still mourning our loved ones. We are afraid for our living children. We are afraid of retaliation. We are also scared of the shame and the blame and the scrutiny that our families and communities face in the aftermath of homicide. This shame and blame prevents many of us from seeking the support and services we need to heal.  Shame and blame also makes it harder for our families to work with authorities and officials while we are reeling from the impact of our loved one’s murder.

In addition to proceeding effectively with the homicide investigation and addressing real public safety concerns, survivors of homicide victims have needs that must be met. All families impacted by murder deserve dignity and compassion regardless of the circumstances surrounding their loved one’s death. The Peace Institute is here for families to provide emotional and practical support in the first 24-72 hours after a homicide so that families can lay their loved ones to rest with respect. The Peace Institute also offers a safe and confidential space for families of murder victims at any point of their healing process. Here you can find one-on-one guidance from staff who are also survivors, group trainings, healing practices, and referrals for mental health and bereavement services. Surrounding families of murder victims with understanding, support, and services is an essential component of interrupting cycles of retaliatory violence.

We have already received many calls and emails asking us about our response to the murder of this young boy at the Burke High School.  We are overwhelmed with sadness, and we are here to serve.

Here is how we are responding this murder, and how we respond whenever a homicide happens:

Families of murder victims, you are welcome here at the Peace Institute. Please call on us or come by our center of healing, teaching, and learning. We are here to listen to what you need, guide you through the funeral/burial process, and offer options for dealing with the ongoing and long-term impacts of grief, trauma, and loss. You are not alone. Many of us are also feeling re-triggered and re-traumatized. We invite you to take the best care of yourself and your family as you can. Ask each other how you are feeling. Share what you are remembering about your loved one who was murdered. Drink plenty of water and rest when you can. This is a heavy burden we are carrying. Some survivors find it helpful to pray, to write, or to take a walk. If you feel you are struggling to manage grief on your own, we can refer you to clinicians and counselors who are ready to support you.

Community, we can be aware of how we are talking about our neighbors and neighborhoods when a homicide happens. We can express our anger, sadness, and fear and also express our support and understanding for fellow families. If you are so moved, you can have a positive impact by donating to the Rest in Peace Fund. All money given to this fund will go directly to families of murder victims who do not have the financial means to bury their loved one. Providers, we can reach out to one another and work together to deliver services that are coordinated, consistent, and compassionate. As a provider community, we can remember to reach out to families who may be re-triggered and re-traumatized when another homicide happens.

As a society, we need to transform the way we respond to homicide. It is important, yet it is not enough to ask the community to come forward with leads. It is important, yet it is not enough to address the flow of guns into our communities. We also need a shared understanding of what we do as a city and how we take care of all impacted families when a homicide happens. This includes the way that we talk about victims, their families, and their neighborhood in the media. Homicides cause physical, emotional, and financial stress that can have a destabilizing effect on entire communities. Effective and equitable homicide response is an essential component of violence prevention.

The Peace Institute has put out a public call and we renew that call again today: we are asking Mayor Marty Walsh to convene all the public health officials in his cabinet and all the public health agencies to agree on a city-wide homicide response protocol that is coordinated, consistent, and compassionate. We are here and ready to work toward this shared goal with all of our partners, including the faith community. Boston is a resource-rich city, yet we struggle to distribute those resources equitably. Some families are denied needed support and services depending on the circumstances surrounding their loved one’s death or who they may be connected with.

As we take time to feel outrage, sadness, and fear – the Peace Institute hopes we also feel a sense of commitment to each other and to our community. We invite you to find the role you can play in peacemaking and join us in transforming society’s response to homicide so that all families can experience healing, reconciliation, and accountability.