SENSITIVITY 101 ( If this could help anyone or help improve conditions for families it was worth the write)

Sensitivity 101  Published in the CT Victims Voice news letter 

On a sunny day sunglasses are needed to protect our eyes, however the glasses need to be removed to see clearly in dark places. Almost  8 years ago, I was wearing a t-shirt which read, "Life is good" and my glasses were in place. I felt bad when I heard stories of tragedies befalling families. Somehow I thought my family had a cushion of protection. I was blinded to the reality of crime - guilty as charged. Today I know - no one is exempt from crime infiltrating their lives. In order to correct the problems in society we need to remove our rose colored glasses and open our eyes; we need to look, listen and take action.

My family as I knew it- Dad, Mom, Billy and Paula- came to a sudden halt almost 8 years ago when my son, Billy, was violently torn away through what I believe now to be an act of violence. The horror of hearing that my son had gone missing led us to the police department, believing that we would find assistance there. We did not know nor expect that the police would lack the necessary training to assist us, telling us to return, and suggesting our son was on a vacation, drinking beer. We left the police department, fumbling about like fish out of water.

Today, I struggle with a new identity - the mother of a son gone missing. Since that first horrific day, on August 24, 2004, I have daily inter-actions with law enforcement. I can share with you that I have been on the receiving end of hurtful comments by law enforcement officers and often wonder, why this repeatedly occurs. I honestly believe that many of these offensive comments are for the most part unintentional and a direct result of today’s law enforcement officer’s lack of training regarding how to interact with a crime victim and their family mem-bers. And yet, the smallest gesture could take steps to healing a broken heart.

No one is perfect, I understand that, and when a child, whether adult or a minor, goes missing, law enforcement becomes a lifeline for fami-lies. The interactions with law enforcement have the potential to harm or comfort. The purpose of a law enforcement officer, from my vantage point, is to protect and serve the community to which they are affiliated. During my journey to bring Billy home, I and my family have had to endure comments and judgments that have left us broken, including:

"No Body- No Case"; "He is probably in Europe drinking beer and he will be home when he is ready"; "It is five o’clock and I don’t get paid after five"; "You care about your son, but no one else does."

I hesitated to write this, but if I can help one other parent or family member not suffer, it’s worth it to me. As the years ticked by, I have learned a lot about human nature. What emerged, enlightened me and woke me to reality has been, if my voice can change the interactions with one law enforcement officer and a victim or their family, that it is worthy my speaking.

 

I am not alone in these experiences. Two close friends were vacationing when they received a phone call from a detective who said, "Come home your daughter has been murdered". Reeling from the news, their long trip home was a nightmare compacted by the insensitive words of the Officer.

 

I will share several other remarks by law enforcement and authorities that have been shared with me and other crime victims over the past few years.

"It’s a waste of time putting up fliers."

"When you find him he’s going to run away again." (but, there was no history of running away)

"99% of them walk back in a couple of days."

"Be prepared he went off to commit suicide."

When no body was found the comment "Oh, he just went off to start a new life."

"There are no signs of foul play." (This makes it sound like an excuse to not investigate and it’s hurtful to families who are very fearful that something has happened).

"He is probably in Mexico having margaritas with his friends."

"He could have been abducted by aliens, I guess"

"He’s an adult. It’s not a crime for him/ he has the right to walk away from his life."

My life has changed. I now advocate every day for crime victims, missing persons and their families. My heart is crushed when I learn of another family joining the ranks of crime victims, desperately looking for help and guidance, pleading to find their loved one. Everyday gone is a day wasted. That is why I have advocated for a statewide/nationwide database to assist in the location of missing persons. Since my son went missing, we have successfully changed the law, and a family no longer must wait 24 hours to report a missing person - although I still hear families who have not been informed of this new law. THERE IS NO TIME TO GRIEVE! How do I impress upon society! Day in and day out we have become detectives ourselves.  

  Never never give up hope.... Expressing thoughts can help make a better tomorrow...It Takes A Village of good people!

Author: Janice Smolinski

www.justice4billy.com

Please note:

The OVA is not suggesting that every law enforcement agency or representative is insensitive to the needs of crime victims, however this is the factual occurrence of this familie’s experience.

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Comment by Pam Digna on April 2, 2012 at 11:15am

sorry for all the mispellings my nnnnn ist working Neither is myspace bar and I thought I corrected them all.

 

Comment by Pam Digna on April 2, 2012 at 11:08am

Jan ,I love the momma bird protecting her two youg babies. It reminds me of the time when I lived in California not sharig the Exact City as we lived in several. Thiswas before Alicia was born. However I had her oldest sister, her brother, and I was very large due to expecting her imediate sister that was her costat companion being only 1 1/2 year older. so I had to take a bus with two children 4 years and 1 and a half years old beig 6 months pregant or so. Waitig in a large Califoria city With a girlfriend and her young son. For a bus transfer, when upwalks this unknown black man, casuals as can be.  He offers me $10,000 for each of my tow headed children and doesn't miss a beat, when he offers me another $10,000 for my unborn child. Now I am not niave, not unsavory, have been taught how to fight in self defence by my veteran army Father.  But ever in my wildest dreams, Had I ever imagined that I would be caught i a situation where I might be runnig for my life in a great metropolosist, with 2 todlers at 6 months pregnant.  I was wonderig who was there waiting to grab one or both of my kids take off i different directions and how I could take off running after one and not chose another and still how far I could with out losing my unborn child.  Even though I was i execlent shape. So all I could do was say no get as close to the bus with my friend as we could get and the curb. The man just went back and sat down. Because to my dismay, there were so many people that were willing to sell their children. That he just had to sit there ad wait for the right oe to come along.  The lesson learned that day to never take My children on a bus in a crouded city.  I lived i a Military town and I had to scrape by to pay for taxi's to get to base for groceries. But I ever regretted my decission. I found a Cab driver from Harlem New York who, Understood how it was and we called him every time and because of that one lesson. My talking to him about the experience, he never ripped me off and he went out of his way to be available when we needed him. I hope This story will help one person, My husband was out to sea for 10 months a year and I had 3 then 4 kids to protect alone for long periods of time. I never thought My daughter would go missing she was a home body, she didn 't trust many people. However It can happen to anyone, anywhere.  I have more story's of people trying to get my girls on vacationg and while traveling on interstates going to boot camp graduations. So never under estimate the evil people that can think up ways to trip you up.

Comment by Karen Sue Stratton on March 10, 2012 at 9:32pm

Jan,

You have all the goodness in you with the hope, love, and strength that only God gives you. It is hard to hear all the words that has been thrown at you and your family. You just keep on with your strength as a mom. One thing these sort of people can not get through their own stupidity is that they can not break your spirit. 

Comment by Rick Morse on March 10, 2012 at 6:06pm

Jan, you and Hubby are heroes to all the families!

I wish I couls bring answers for all the victims.

Comment by Maureen Trask on March 10, 2012 at 7:56am
Interesting article, with a valid message. Our experience with the Police has been positive, but there is always room for Sensitivity 101 training. We need to address the gap where our loved ones are missing, but foul play or crime is not in the picture. If we can't turn to the Police to help in our search, who do we turn to?  Jan, thanks for speaking out on this very important topic.
Comment by SHERYL BURT on March 9, 2012 at 7:38pm

Thanks for guiding us & speaking out for us Jan!!!!

Exactly what & how it happens & how we feel during our nightmare!!!!

Hope & Appreciation,

SHeryl

Comment by Maureen Reintjes-Peace4 Admin on March 9, 2012 at 7:19pm

Thanks for sharing this on here Jan.....you did a great job!

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