For many, it's their worst nightmare: To have a loved one taken from them in a violent crime. But where do the families of murder victims go to grieve and get support? As John Wagner tells us, Poughkeepsie's Family Services offers the regions first ever support group for those victims.
POUGHKEEPSIE, N.Y. -- After a homicide, family members and friends of victims are left reeling, shoved in front of police, lawyers and court rooms, with no time to heal.
"A lot of people are going through the criminal justice system at the same time they are trying to grieve, so they don't really get to grieve," said Kathy Peluso, crime victims program coordinator for Family Services. "And when that's over, they're left with an empty feeling. What do I do now?"
Kathy Peluso's sister was murdered 24 years ago. She dealt with her sorrow and found courage in a support group on Long Island. Finding nothing of its sort between Albany and New York City, Peluso will play host to a new monthly gathering at the Family Partnership Center. The group will meet on the first Monday of every month at Family Services’ North Annex Building at 29 North Hamilton Street in Poughkeepsie from 6 to 7 p.m.
"You're life is forever changed. It’s not the same life as before, but you can live again and there's hope and there's people that can help," said Peluso.
In 2011, there were 770 homicides in New York State, with seven occurring in Dutchess County. Five more local victims were added last year. Even though the group is Poughkeepsie-based, it's open to all adult family members and friends living throughout the Hudson Valley.
"What they want most in the world, we can't give them, and that's their family member back," said Marjorie Smith, a bureau chief at the Dutchess County District Attorney's office. "We can help them so that their last memory isn't the bad memory, but to help them remember that this is really about the person that you lost as you loved them. Not the person who was murdered at such a place and time."
"If you hold it in and keep it in, it just builds and builds and builds," said Peluso.
Rather than talking to those who haven't walked in their shoes, members will be able to peek freely and privately to those who have and learn how to take their next steps, just as Peluso did 24 years ago.
"That person coming into the group," continued Peluso. "Seeing other people who are smiling and living happily again, see there's hope for them."
Anyone interested in attending can find out more info by contacting Kathy Peluso at 845-452-1110 ext. 3138.
Family Services’ Crime Victims Assistance Program provides comprehensive services to victims of crime, including advocacy, trauma therapy and rape crisis services. Family Services’ Domestic Violence Services of Dutchess County (DVSDC) provides non-residential services to victims of domestic violence, including advocacy, counseling and safety planning. Services of both programs are free, confidential, and accessible. Services for victims at Family Services can be accessed 24 hours a day: Crime Victims’ hotline at (845) 452-7272 and DVSDC hotline at (845) 485-5550.