Consultation for Permanent Victims Commissioner

I’ve covered the Interim Victims Commissioner a couple of times in the past, and there has been some discussion on various aspects of the role. The Victims Unit announced last week that the consultation process to establish a permanent post of Victims Commissioner was beginning and would last until September 15th. This was never going to be an easy job, and having such a role raises many issues on the definition of victim in the first instance, the treatment of all who consider themselves to be victims, and the idea of only having a Victims Commissioner for those affected by the Troubles. There hasn’t been much enthusiasm to extend the role to cover ALL victims, to have a champion in society for people who feel they havent been able to get justice or adequate compensation as a result of a non-Troubles related crime. One day, we may need to accept that the Troubles have been essentially over for half a generation and we will need to move forward and out of our state of collective victimhood.

  • ben

    Norn Iron has a lot of Permanent Victims — they need their own Commissioner. Those feckin’ Interim Victims have been spoiled for too long. Splitters.

  • bertie

    “One day, we may need to accept that the Troubles have been essentially over for half a generation and we will need to move forward and out of our state of collective victimhood.”

    ……and the trauma and the physical injuries will majically disappear and those that have not been able to earn a living or have had their ability to do so severly compromised will suddendly have financial burdens lifted. Somehow I’m doubtful.

    There are issues that non terrorism victims have in common with terrorism victims bit there are also things unique to those circumstances.

  • dantheman

    Might I recommend this gentleman here:

    http://www.beo.ie/2006-03/Willie Frazer.jpg

    Just dont tell the ambulance service.

  • maura

    MissFitz:’One day, we may need to accept that the Troubles have been essentially over for half a generation and we will need to move forward and out of our state of collective victimhood. ‘

    Miss, I agree wholeheartedly. Why are so many reluctant to do so, and in that reluctance what alternatives are they offering?

  • wild turkey

    ‘One day, we may need to accept that the Troubles have been essentially over for half a generation and we will need to move forward and out of our state of collective victimhood.’

    ‘whisper words of widsom. let it be’

    a very wise post/blog.

    question. it is this. might there not be something to be learned from the efforts, on both sides, re new generations and new possibilities in south east asia? and yeah, i do talk as a ‘ veteran’

    keep up the good work

    wild turkey

  • Miss Fitz

    Bertie
    With the utmost respect, I appreciate that traumatic loss is very different to normal loss, and that giving voice to the static grief is important.

    However, the point I was making is that at some point, we will need to appreciate that the victimology is mainly in the mind set of people who may have experienced any trouble at all.

    Many people still need to tell their story, and that is an important part of what needs to be done. The actual pratical issues that you allude to dont appear to be as important as the psychological work that needs to happen.

    But is having a Ministry of Victimhood good for anyone? And what about the other victims, the victims of rape and assault and burglary and murderous attackes. Do they get no voice? What about their compensation?

    Time is moving on, and time has made an appreciable difference. For one example, the NI Memorial Fund no longer has a small grants scheme as the need has been met.

    Bertie, you will need to give a bit more than rhetoric to make the point here and validate the need for this

  • bertie

    MissFitz

    I don’t mean to have a go at you personnally but there are many things that need to be challenged

    “However, the point I was making is that at some point, we will need to appreciate that the victimology is mainly in the mind set of people who may have experienced any trouble at all. ”

    Not sure what you mean by victimology being in anyone’s mind, victimology is the science and study of victims issues and it often has to be in the kinds of others as they have a big part fo play. If you mean claiming the status for themselves, you could be right but there are many victims out there still in dire straits. However there is also the opposite problem of people who have not been bereaved of physically injured but as witnesses of either the event of the aftermath have had their lives scared and who have never felt comfortable in claiming victim status and the help that they so badly need.

    As the the practicalities. They are important too, but the guikt that people have in expressing them is a barrier to them being dealt with.

    A Ministry of Victimhood is a horrible concept. A Victims Ministry isn’t. I think that there should be a Victims Ministry but with in that or parrallel to it, to ensure it gets sufficient focus is one relating to NI related terrorism.

    “Time is moving on, and time has made an appreciable difference.”

    I don’t agree. Or at least any difference that has been made is nowhere near scaping the surface of the need.

    For one example, the NI Memorial Fund no longer has a small grants scheme as the need has been met.”

    I really don’t know what you mean by this. Please explain.

    How would anyone know that the need has been met?

  • Miss Fitz

    Bertie
    I think we are coming from the same place, but slightly different perspectives.

    Trauma transformation is not an exact science, and certainly not a linear process. The type of studies that have been done internationally demonstrate that survival is possible, and that integration of the traumatic experience can occur with a resumption of normal, or near normal life again.

    I maintain that this is the progression we should be encouraging.

    You talk about victims being in dire straits? I could start skating on thin ice here, but I think we need to be careful too whose interest anyone is working in. I wont be able to put my hand on a paper I did on this some time ago, but we have what is close to being a victim industry here, with 60 or 70 separate victim groups. I dont know of any victims group that exists with the purpose of putting itself out of business.

    If people are in dire straits, sure-questions need to be asked. But are you telling me that there are people who havent had compensation, assistance with benefit claims, access to pain clinics and limb programmes? Not only the voluntary groups, but the TAPs have worked assiduously in closing those gaps.

    Again, the point I make is that after 12 years of cease fire and the absence of large scale violent incidents, there is a decreasing need for the acute assistance you are describing.

    We are in the chronic-recuperative stages now, where the need is on the psychological focus and healing.

    I know that to watch the SLugger boards, one would be forgiven for thinking that we are stuck as a nation, but on the ground, I believe the experience is different.

    Reconciliation programmes are flourishing, story telling schemes, memorials, commemorative events… these are indicative of a society starting to move on.

    Perhaps a new perspective on this would be to appoint a permanent VC who would look to the needs and requirements of all victims, and I believe this would contribute to our normalisation.

    Not taking any of this personally at all Bertie, I think you are making excellent points

  • bertie

    MisFitz

    It’s a big topic and I fear it is impossible to do justice here.

    “Trauma transformation is not an exact science, and certainly not a linear process. The type of studies that have been done internationally demonstrate that survival is possible, and that integration of the traumatic experience can occur with a resumption of normal, or near normal life again.”

    I’m profoundly suspicious of “studies”. All too often they have been tailored to the studiers prejudices and victims being victims can have a predisposition to tell people what they want to hear. It is partly what they have to do for survival. The pressure for people to recover can lead them to, well for want of a better term – “fake it”!

    “I maintain that this is the progression we should be encouraging.”

    I understand the good intentions behind this but my alarm bells are ringing loud.
    I maintain that it not for anyone but the victims to decide where they need to go. Others should be supporting that. Victims are already under too much presure to recover.

    “If people are in dire straits, sure-questions need to be asked. But are you telling me that there are people who havent had compensation, assistance with benefit claims, access to pain clinics and limb programmes? Not only the voluntary groups, but the TAPs have worked assiduously in closing those gaps.”

    Yes, oh yes, I’m afraid so.

    There are many victims who fall by the wayside, those not living in NI, those who as I say are not able to give themselves permission to consider themselves victims but who were witnesses to the event or the aftermath. Anytime they might get near to doing so they think of the bereaved or physically injured and their shame takes over. There are those who may seem to more obviously fit the defintion of “victim” but who are still ashamed of the fact that they can’t cope and their energies are spent hiding that fact from others. They are not able to avail of help. There are some who would love to come forward but cannot see the possibility of anything lessening their burdens and don’t want anyone else to waste their time on them. For others who may have the practical needs they are too affected to cope with dealing with the people that they would need to to get the practical help.

    We are in the Dark Ages in respect to understanding the most accute of the suffering and the isolation that it brings. Where “help” is an option for the “normal” brave souls. Some people do not even know that their difficulties in life are down to their traumatic incident. A Falkland Island veteran thought that he was fine for years. He used to do a lot of running but had an accdent which stopped him. He went downhill and started drinking. He put it all down to the accident. However it turned out that the running was how he escaped dealing with the trauma and when he couldn’t do that he blotted it out with drink.

    “Again, the point I make is that after 12 years of cease fire and the absence of large scale violent incidents, there is a decreasing need for the acute assistance you are describing”

    Sorry again I don’t accept that we can possibly know this. It is part of the problem that we don’t know how big the problem is.

    “We are in the chronic-recuperative stages now, where the need is on the psychological focus and healing.”

    We are in a stage of monumental ignorance about what is needed.

    “Reconciliation programmes are flourishing, story telling schemes, memorials, commemorative events… these are indicative of a society starting to move on. ”

    Sorry I very strongly beleive that these are indicative of a society that needs to beleive that it is moving on (or rather that is moving on and either leaving the victims behind them or dragging them along to satisfy their – not the victims’ – needs)

    “Perhaps a new perspective on this would be to appoint a permanent VC who would look to the needs and requirements of all victims, and I believe this would contribute to our normalisation. ”

    Again the undue haste towards “normalisation”.

  • ben

    The only thing worse than a study is no study — just anecdote and hearsay. You think studies are tailored to someone’s prejudice but what comes off the top of your head isn’t?

    How can haste towards normalisation be “undue”? I think this is the deeper point — do you want Norn Iron to become a grown-up civil society, or an insane paramilitary Mrs. Havisham? The past should be remembered, but it shouldn’t be institutionalised. Most importantly, it must be PAST, we can’t keep this ludicrous European Religious Wars Re-Enactment Society going any longer. Having a permanent body of this nature is unhealthy, it’s counterproductive, it’s wrong.

    Those who have suffered should not be forgotten, dismissed, or left behind, nor should their experience be minimized. But those who are determined to keep reliving that past can’t and won’t hold everyone else back. Travelling the world looking for people who aren’t able to give themselves permission to be victims so that we can kick ourselves more about our Dark-Age monumental ignorance is masochistic, pointless, and ghoulish. It doesn’t heal — it festers.

    We can’t weep and gnash our teeth forever. Onwards and upwards, towards a society without permanent victimhood, and without new victims. Far from that being undue haste, we’re already several centuries too late.

  • ben

    “Miss” Havisham, obviously, that’s the whole point.

  • bertie

    “The only thing worse than a study is no study—just anecdote and hearsay. You think studies are tailored to someone’s prejudice but what comes off the top of your head isn’t?”

    No I haven’t done a study si the question of my prejudice doesn’t arise. If by anecdote you mean real cases and situations then they should be used to challange.

    “We can’t weep and gnash our teeth forever. Onwards and upwards, towards a society without permanent victimhood, and without new victims. Far from that being undue haste, we’re already several centuries too late.”

    I’m not asking you to weep and gnash your teeth at all, ust not to put pressure on victims to be where you want them to be.

    “Those who have suffered should not be forgotten, dismissed, or left behind, nor should their experience be minimized. But those who are determined to keep reliving that past can’t and won’t hold everyone else back. ”

    If what some victims need to do is to relive the past as their only way of being able to deal with it, they should.

    “Travelling the world looking for people who aren’t able to give themselves permission to be victims so that we can kick ourselves more about our Dark-Age monumental ignorance is masochistic, pointless, and ghoulish. It doesn’t heal—it festers. ”

    You miss the point. The motivation and focus is about reponding to victim need. The comment “so that we can kick ourselves” is another indicator that for many people dealing with victims is about what it menas for other people and not the victims.

    It matters not a jot if we lick ourselves or not. The important thing re the issue of victims is not to come at it from the standpoint of responding to everyone else’s need, including the needs of the “industry”.

    As to the Havisham comment. Far from the truth. Miss Havisham wants to preserve something that she saw as good. I want to get away from victims issues having to be dealt with or not dealt with to make everyone esle feel better about themselves. We have never been in an era re victims needs that I wish to cling onto.