Ministry Aims to Assist Victims of Crime

Rev. Myra Maxwell of Philadelphia understands that a fresh crime scene is a miserable place. That’s why she has made it her personal mission to make those tragic experiences a little less miserable.

“For the most part, people don’t understand what you’re going through when you have situations like that, unless you’ve experienced it,” said Maxwell, a United Methodist pastor and executive director of victim support services for the district attorney’s office in Philadelphia.

“My misery became my ministry,” added Maxwell, who is a crime victim herself.

Philadelphia experienced 562 homicides last year, and as of July 19, 2022, that number stood at 300.

The key to being a helpful victim’s advocate at a crime scene is staying calm and using your experience to guide people in shock as they begin to navigate their new reality, Maxwell said.

“If we never said a word, our presence is important,” said Maxwell, who pastors Trinity United Methodist Church in south Philadelphia with her husband, the Rev. Gary Maxwell Sr.

“It’s powerful. Jesus was present.”

The advocates help crime victims and their families communicate with the police who are investigating and the coroner’s office where the body will be sent. They have a fund to help with funeral costs and other expenses that come up because of the crime, and sometimes relocate families on a short-term basis if staying home might be dangerous.

As the shock starts to wear off, families want to know about the steps they need to take next.

“The worst thing is to get someplace and you don’t know what to do next.” she said. “Most people who are experiencing a homicide are experiencing it for the first time, so they don’t know what they have to do.”

There are follow-up visits with the family up to 60 days after crime.

Maxwell is forthright about her own experience as a victim. She has experienced domestic abuse, lost a nephew to homicide and had several friends that were murdered. Her brother was shot when he was 16 and she was 4 years old.

“I’m a survivor of childhood sexual abuse,” she added.

A male family friend sexually abused Maxwell starting when she was 3-years-old.

“I wasn’t able to really articulate anything to my parents,” she said. “I never really disclosed it until I was 20.”

She disclosed her traumas while being trained as a victim’s advocate.

“They kind of took me in and helped me to really process a lot of the things that I had not processed, and I was able to get some of the support that I really needed,” Maxwell said. “But it kept me strong in the field, because I knew that other people experienced what I had experienced.”

Maxwell said her Christian faith is an important part of her job with the district attorney’s office.

“There’s a spiritual component to victimization,” she said “We cannot ignore the spirit of people. … If we’re going to be a resource, we would be a horrible resource if we didn’t acknowledge that people have faith traditions.”

Source: United Methodist News