July 27th, 2012
In the wake of the Aurora, Colorado, tragedy last week, the public’s attention has been focused on the senseless loss of life, the devastation of the victims’ families, and the ongoing recovery of those injured. Our hearts break as we listen to grieving family members share wonderful stories about their loved ones, murdered while enjoying a night at the movies. We cannot imagine the pain, and our thoughts and prayers continue to be with these families.
In a recent NBC News article, JoNel Aleccia reminds us that there are other people involved in these tragedies who are hurting too, though the attention they often get is quite different from the experience of the victims and their families. These are the families of the killers, who are often the targets of blame and who are ostracized by their communities.
Renny Cushing, founder and executive director of Murder Victims’ Families for Human Rights (MVFHR), explains in the article how families of murderers suffer in a different way than those who lose loved ones to violence. “I became really painfully aware of the ostracism that takes place,” said Cushing, whose father was murdered in 1988 and whose brother-in-law was murdered in 2011. “Immediately, there’s this thought that families must have done something to cause this, that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”
“Families of murderers are grief-stricken after such a tragedy, but, unlike the families of the victims, they may feel they have no right to their feelings,” said Bud Welch, whose 23-year-old daughter, Julie, was killed in the Oklahoma City bombings in 1995. Welch reached out to Bill McVeigh, the father of Timothy McVeigh who was executed in 2001 for the bombings. “Bill McVeigh can never say anything publicly about anything Tim did that was nice.”
Welch is a member of MVFHR and also personally offers support for the families of those who murder. He has met with the parents of Eric Harris, one of the Columbine shooters, and is thinking of reaching out to the victims of the Aurora shootings- both the injured and the families of those killed, as well as the family of James Holmes. “These family members in Aurora, they’re going through so much grief. They need so much help,” he said. “The family of shooter? God only knows they’re going through hell, too.”
This article is an important reminder to all of us that the families of these individuals who destroy so many lives are also affected and devastated by the actions of their loved ones. Though they do not commit the crimes, they are sometimes treated as if they did. We are grateful for this article and for the members of MVFHR, who don’t let themselves forget all those who are suffering in the wake of these tragedies and ask us not to forget either.
(Photo by UPI/Trevor Brown, Jr )