New York Daily News
By Kimmi Herring
August 5, 2022
The daily reports of gun violence in New York are piercing. The national toll of reported incidents has risen to more than 45,000 since the start of the pandemic in 2020. This astounding number makes it clear that many people in our society are suffering the effects of gun violence.
When we count up “victims” of gun violence, we typically look at the number of people who have been struck by a bullet. As someone who has spent years working to mitigate the serious aftereffects of gun violence, I can tell you those numbers don’t even come close to capturing the suffering.
The strike of the bullet is where the suffering begins — not where it ends.
For people who experience a shooting or lost someone to gun violence, their lives are forever changed. Their quality of life is never the same. They learn how to manage their grief and pain, but they never “get over it.”
I’ve seen over and over again in my decades of supporting victims of gun violence and families who have lost a loved one to gun violence, that when the trauma left behind isn’t addressed, victims experience mental, emotional and even physical anguish.
Survivors also suffer through the depths of guilt, thinking about what they might have done differently and how and why this happened to them. They lose trust in the police and the legal system when their cases go unsolved. This is especially true for people of color, whose cases are disproportionately unsolved, leaving them to struggle with feelings of helplessness and dehumanization.
Many survivors, especially in communities that experience high rates of gun violence, aren’t able to go outside, go to school, use their favorite park, go to church or go to the grocery without reliving the shooting.
We need common-sense gun reforms. We also, especially with shootings on the rise, need to help the people left behind.
At Safe Horizon, and at many community organizations across the city, professional counselors work one-on-one with survivors to help them heal. Feelings of despair, post-traumatic stress disorder, mistrust, and having to navigate their daily lives with tremendous grief and fear are some of the overarching traumatic stress survivors struggle with.
Organizations like Safe Horizon need funding to keep pace with the increase in shootings.
We can also do more collectively to support the healing of survivors.
Support systems are key for survivors to have someone to lean on. If you know someone who is a survivor, reach out to them and lend your support. Recognize that their healing is just beginning and is a lifelong process.
And encourage them to reach out for help. We, and many other organizations, are here when we are needed.
Kimmi Herring oversees Safe Horizon’s work with survivors of gun violence and families who have lost loved ones to homicides.