“Stepping Outside the Box” Focusing
on the Evolution of Victim Assistance

On Easter Weekend of 2000, our daughter, Cory, 20-years-old, was murdered by an ex-boyfriend who couldn’t handle the rejection of being told that an on again, off again relationship was finally over.

We took our grandson into our care the same day that Cory’s body was found stuffed under a cottage at a resort community some 50 miles north of her home. We had no idea of the abuse our daughter had succumbed to, only suspicions that would be confirmed in the preliminary hearing. We were also glaringly ignorant of what our grandson experienced the night his Mom was murdered and the effect it would have.

During that first year, we were given much attention by the agencies charged with assisting families through crises. Our grandson began a series of assessments to try and determine what effect the trauma had on him. It was assumed at the time, because of his young age, he would forget most of what he experienced. Sadly, the funds allocated to pay for therapy are the same for a three-year-old as they are for an adult. We ran out of benefits for his psychological therapy by the time he was five-years-old. It wasn’t until he was seven-years-old, that he was finally diagnosed as suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, the prognosis being long term treatment to adulthood.

Needless to say, this caused huge upheaval in our family. Our son, 17 at the time of his sister’s death, struggled for nine years to find meaning to his life. He resorted to drugs and alcohol to dull the pain. He recently told us how several times he contemplated taking his own life. In the spring of 2008, he entered a treatment program and has been clean and sober for 10 months.

My wife went into a deep depression soon after Cory’s death, angry at God for allowing this tragedy to befall our family. She reached an all time low in 2004. She was put on a medical leave, never to return to her chosen profession as an Intensive Care Nurse. It was almost eight years after Cory’s death before she was able to enjoy the communion of fellow believers in our Sunday morning church gatherings.

I chose a total opposite approach to our family tragedy. The morning after Cory’s death, I sat in my garage, my morning cigarette and coffee in hand, and cried out for intervention in my life. I knew I would need support from a higher power to keep this fractured family from falling completely to pieces. It was then I felt warmth enter my body, the like I had never before experienced. I was given the assurance that Cory was in a safe place, never again to experience pain and suffering. That experience transformed my life.

To add to our struggles, because we had taken guardianship of our grandson, service agencies dropped off the map after the sentencing hearing in 2001. It’s like we were left to drown in our struggle to remain gainfully employed. We asked for in home care for our grandson in order to retain our careers and were told we would have to pay for that service because of our perceived affluence.  By early 2007, our careers were decimated, increasing the anxiety level in our struggle to support our grandchild.

Is there a silver lining in all that has happened? Well, it appears the one thing our grandson needed to progress was a subdued and slower paced home environment.

That progression appears to have begun in 2007, shortly after I took leave from my employment to better support my family. Was it coincidence? Maybe, but the turnaround in our grandson’s achievements has been amazing these past 18 months. We are hopeful we are on a path to see him become a successful member of society..

Yes, there was a reason for that “Divine Intervention” that morning in my garage. I truly believe, had it not been for that spiritual intervention in my life, our family would have been further damaged forever. It is my faith in a higher power that has given me the resolve to see this task through.  There will come a day once our grandson turns 18, that I will become more vocal regarding the support mechanisms in place for children at risk.

Would a different approach to providing support have minimized the affect on our family? I know that had we received the same level of support after the sentencing hearing as we received before the hearing, we would possibly still be gainfully employed. Our grandson would have begun his recovery much sooner, had we been given the in home services requested.

Here in lies the challenge for the future. How do service agencies better support crime victims in the community?  By stepping outside the box! Looking beyond the court process! 

Arthur Lepp

Date modified: