Office for Victims of Crime - Justice for Victims. Justice for All
Justice for Victims. Justice for All
Helping Victims of Mass Violence & Terrorism: Planning, Response, Recovery, and Resources


The term “recovery” is used to describe a phase that victims experience in the aftermath of an incident of mass violence or terrorism. Although injured victims see themselves as working on recovery, families of deceased victims may not describe their adjustment to life without their loved ones as recovery. 

For the purposes of this toolkit, the recovery phase encompasses the transitional phase to early recovery and beyond. Recovery may continue for months or years. During this phase, primary agencies must assist victims, first responders, and communities affected by an incident to recover effectively. Victim service providers, mental health specialists, community leaders, and others work together to implement many of the key protocols developed during the partnerships and planning phase, which include the following:

  • Committee Meeting Protocol.
  • Developing a meeting protocol will ensure that committee meetings are strategic and inclusive and will help ensure timely and effective responses if an event were to occur.

  • Criminal Justice System: Victim Support Protocol.
  • As the case moves through the criminal justice system, victims and family members will need help with the return of personal effects, victim impact statements, media management, support during trials (e.g., financial assistance, housing, transportation), and access to ongoing notifications regarding the investigation and matters involving prosecution, adjudication, sentencing, and prisoner status.

  • Community Resiliency Protocol.
  • The Family Assistance Center will typically transition into a Community Resiliency Center (CRC) that will continue to provide ongoing services and assistance to victims, family members, first responders, and community members. The FAC may transition to a CRC within 1 week or up to 3 or more months after the event, depending on the nature and scope of the event.

  • Volunteer Management Protocol.
  • A process needs to be developed for training volunteers in advance of an event and for supervising, assigning, and assisting them during the response and recovery phases. Spontaneous volunteers should also be addressed.

  • Donation Management Protocol.
  • Donation management is a complex process that can be managed effectively if planned for in advance of an event. Donation management and disbursement can be one of the most challenging aspects of response and recovery. Not everyone in the community will agree on the final donation management strategy, and you must keep the entire community’s needs in mind. Be aware that there may be a perceived inequity of compensation between victims of mass violence and terrorism and victims of other types of crimes.

  • Planning and Preparedness Grants and Emergency Funding Assistance Protocol.
  • After an event, community leaders will need to identify, review, and apply for direct financial assistance for individual victims, family members, local entities (businesses and organizations), and city, county, and state jurisdictions to meet victims’ needs during recovery.

    A needs assessment of the overall impact of the event on the community, victims, survivors, and family members is necessary to identify the needs of the community as a whole and may be critical to the development of local, state, national, and federal emergency funding assistance applications.

    Review Response Through Recovery: Activities at a Glance for an overview of the activities that communities should take after an incident of mass violence or terrorism—from response through recovery.

    The Recovery Checklist offers more detail about the specific protocols that should be followed to help victims, their families, and the community recover. Use the checklist as is (PDF), or tailor it to fit your community’s needs (Word).

    Recovery: Victim Assistance

    A community resiliency center (CRC) can be created to provide ongoing services and assistance to victims, family members, first responders, and community members once the Family Assistance Center, which is open during the response phase, closes. It is important to note that surviving victims and families of deceased victims may not be comfortable being lumped in with the broader community in terms of impact and services. CRC staff and volunteers should be aware that not all direct victims will want to participate.

    During recovery, it is critical to engage a holistic, trauma-informed approach, which includes diverse faith or spiritual healing practices, to support survivors and surviving family members in the long term. (It is also important to remember that not all victims are religious or spiritual.) This approach incorporates an understanding of the vulnerabilities or triggers of trauma survivors (which traditional service delivery approaches may exacerbate) in order to make services and programs more supportive and avoid re-traumatization.

    Ensure that the emotional and psychological needs of the community are met by providing mental health support, counseling, screening, and treatment.

    Ensure that law enforcement; systems-based, faith-based, and nonprofit victim service providers; first responders; prosecutors; medical service providers; mental health providers; medical examiners; funeral directors; and other community leaders (based on the nature of the incident) receive the support and services they need to address symptoms of secondary/vicarious trauma.

    Ensure that the potential for increased risk of substance, physical, sexual, and emotional abuse for individuals is addressed.

    August 2015   •   NCJ 248647
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    Helping Victims of Mass Violence and Terrorism: Recovery

    Mary Vail Ware, Director, Programs and Outreach, Virginia Attorney General’s Office: After a mass casualty crime incident, it’s really important to think about the population that you have, what their needs might be. Everybody progresses through recovery or towards resilience at their own pace.

    Herman Millholland, Former Director, Crime Victim Services Division, Texas Office of the Attorney General: Recovery really is about the longer-term needs over time. But the emotional and the psychological aspect of it, that takes far longer to heal. And in some cases, some people never heal.

    Krista Flannigan, Adjunct Professor, College of Criminal Justice, Florida State University: These incidents are life-altering. People will never be what they were prior to the tragedy. They have to redefine themselves-a new normal.

    Harpreet Singh Saini, Victim of Mass Violence: As you all know, on Sunday, August 5, 2012, a white supremacist fueled by hatred walked into our local gurdwara with a loaded gun. He killed my mother while she prayed. He shot and killed five more men. All of them were fathers, and all of them had a turban like me.

    Jasjit Singh, Executive Director, Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund: August 5, 2012, was the greatest attack on a place of worship in America in 50 years at that time.

    Pardeep Kaleka, Founder and Director, Serve2Unite: Most people that go through this are never really healed. It’s always there. Their life is never the same again.

    Puni Kalra, Clinical Psychologist, Founder, Sikh Healing Collective: Our community doesn’t respond to traditional forms of mental health or to therapy. We had to take healing into our own hands. The Sikh Healing Collective was truly a collective effort. Mental health professionals came together. They were south Asians, they were non-south Asians, they were Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus. They spoke the language, they understood the culture. They became integrated into the community here in Oak Creek, and people no longer saw them as strangers.

    Pardeep Kaleka: It’s tough to heal on your own. It’s possible, sure. But when you heal as a community, it’s a lot more effective, and it’s lasting and it’s genuine, and that’s exactly what happened after August 5th.

    Puni Kalra: On Sunday nights, I would check in with the mental health folks that were here on site-"What are you hearing as you’re speaking one-on-one with the community members; what are they telling you? Are they experiencing intrusive thoughts, PTSD, insomnia, survivor guilt?" We created the psycho-educational materials according to the community’s needs week to week. About 300 copies would be made, so you’d have a single document, English on one side, Punjabi on the other side, ready for disbursement on the following Sunday. So it was a way to introduce mental health in a softer, kinder way without the stigma attached to it.

    Pardeep Kaleka: We saw the importance of being able to give people a voice and have them share their stories of survival.

    Rajdeep Singh Jolly, Pro Bono Counsel, The Sikh Coalition: One of the orphans of Oak Creek, Harpreet Singh Saini, who lost his mother in the massacre, testified before the Senate and asked that his mother be given the dignity of being a statistic. And it was absolutely powerful, poignant, compelling testimony.

    Harpreet Singh Saini: I’m here because my mother was murdered in an act of hate 45 days ago. I’m here on behalf of all the children who lost parents or grandparents during the massacre in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. This was not supposed to be our American story, this was not my mother’s dream.

    Rajdeep Singh Jolly: As a result, the Hate Crimes Statistics Program includes recognition of anti-Sikh hate crimes. This is going to lead to more awareness and less ignorance about the Sikh American community.

    Puni Kalra: Ultimately that’s what people want is they want to be seen, they want to be heard, they want to feel that they do matter.

    Herman Millholland: Newtown, it’s a small town-28,000 people. That entire community was affected in very, very profound ways.

    Patricia Llodra, First Selectwoman, Town of Newtown: This happened, of course, in December just before Christmas. 20 young, beautiful first-graders-the extraordinary depth of grief over that-I mean, it almost makes it impossible even now for me to talk about it.

    Deborah Delvecchio-Scully, Clinical Recovery Leader/Trauma Specialist, Newtown Recovery & Resiliency Team: The ability to just function is deeply impaired when a trauma is as deeply wounding as ours was. Trauma memories don’t get stored in the brain in the same way that any of our other memories are. That memory is almost behind a wall and can’t be retrieved by just trying to force yourself to retrieve it. On any scale, trauma does not heal itself.

    Patricia Llodra: It’s important to understand that not one approach will work. So, the Recovery and Resiliency Team is the big umbrella. They provide intake, assessment, referral.

    Catherine: Newtown Recovery and Resiliency Team. This is Catherine. Can I help you?

    Patricia Llodra: They’re an absolutely key component to our recovery.

    Melissa Glaser , Community Outreach Liaison, Newtown Recovery & Resiliency Team: Our care coordinators do match with every individual that is looking for some kind of support. The support may be in the form of matching to a behavioral health provider. It might mean looking for reimbursement to help with their mental health or wellness. It may mean that they’re just looking for some short-term emotional support.

    Patricia Llodra: We did some research about trauma and how other municipalities had responded and the lessons that other municipalities learned. We applied that to our circumstance here and then wrote a whole protocol around how that team would work and what they would do, and created a governance structure for them.

    Melissa Glaser: Our team really encompassed community recovery on a large scale. And it is the place now where people know they can go if they’re looking for, where can I get support on the anniversary of the shooting? Or if my child needs a therapeutic summer camp, where can I go? So it’s long-term, several more years to come, before I think we can say the majority of impacted individuals are really in a more resilient place.

    Patricia Llodra: We are inexorably changed because of this horrible thing. I think it will always be with us. I want it always to be with us, because I wouldn’t want any of those children or those educators to ever be forgotten. It’s critically important we carry it with us.

    Herman Millholland: Healing means something very different to each individual. The key to healing is ensuring that when you’re working with victims, you ask them what it is that they need.

    Patricia Llodra: I see more and more people reaching that point of comfort where they’re again confident in the future. They see that bright light on the horizon and that the world is a good and kind place.

    Puni Kalra: Our resilience is what really speaks out in these tragedies. We persevere, we get through, we become stronger.