One of the people in a Scott County courtroom this week was there to help relatives of Jetseta Gage cope with their child’s violent death. Director Emily Blomme says it was a mother who founded “The Survivors Program” in Iowa fifteen years ago. It’s for the immediate and longterm needs of families whose loved ones have been killed in a murder or vehicular homicide.
Bloom says, “Some of the most devastated victims I’ve ever seen are survivors of homicide victims. It’s almost a secondary trauma to family members.” Sometimes police will send a family to Blomme’s program, sometimes she’ll seek out survivors of a case that’s in the news.
Referrals come from law enforcement and prosecutors’ offices, from funeral homes, and from priests or pastors who are counseling families after a tragedy. Sometimes Blomme contacts a family whose tragedy is public knowledge, sending a packet that offers the services of The Survivors Program and letting them know it’s available to them.
The program works to get answers to family members, to be “almost kind of a buffer” between the family and places where it’s not always forthcoming, from law-enforcement and prosecutors to the media, funeral homes. crime-victim compensation programs, and all the other pieces they encounter. Bloom says the program provides someone who’s experienced with the system and the things victims will go through, so there’s a counselor there for them every step of the way. They start at the beginning — provide services through the investigation, a trial, and there are longterm support programs in place. As for how long that might be, Bloom says “They let us know when they don’t need us any more.”
The Survivors Program that Blomme works with is part of the Cedar Rapids “Family Service Alliance” and helps families throughout much of eastern Iowa. There are also programs in Polk County and Fort Dodge. She says survivors could use a lot more.