Moving through Grief to Survivor Advocacy


What is Survivor Advocacy?

Grief resulting from a personal, traumatic loss can come in an instant, without warning, into anyone's life. A small number of people who survive the traumatic loss of a loved one channel the force of their grief and shock into preventive action--they become "survivor advocates," working to save others from having to experience a similar loss and trauma. Survivor advocates have been central to some of the major advances in the prevention of injury.

In 1975, Pete Shields became a spokesperson for the newly formed Handgun Control, Inc. (now the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence) after his 23 year old son was fatally shot in San Francisco. Candy Lightner founded Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) in 1980 after one of her 13 year old twin daughters was killed by a drunk driver. Marilyn Spivak founded the National Head Injury Foundation (now the Brain Injury Association) in 1980, five years after her 15 year old daughter sustained a disabling brain injury. Janette Fennel founded TRUNC and Kids 'N Cars after she and her husband had been locked in the trunk of their car by a masked man in 1995. In the past several years, parents of children killed by guns have mobilzed a survivor-led, grassroots public support for rational gun policy which began as The Bell Campaign and evolved into the Million Mom March.

The Trauma Foundation has developed a web site which provides information, resources, a newsletter called, "Channeling Grief into Policy Change," and organizing tools--memorials and a survivor advocacy bulletin board--to make it easier for survivor advocates and injury prevention professionals to find and help each other. The authentic voices and experiences of survivors are crucial to sound prevention advocacy work. Survivor advocates' work is personal and passionate. These are the qualities that make their message so attractive to the media, persuasive to some policymakers, and aggravating to their opponents. The power of the partnership between survivor advocates and injury prevention professionals far exceeds the power of either working alone.

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Who We Are E-mail
August 24, 2001