How does a woman pave the long road back to a life of meaning and purpose after being exonerated from being in prison for a crime she did not commit? What long-term psychological effects does being wrongly convicted and imprisoned for the murder of a spouse or loved one have on one’s ability to recover?
After decades of studying the effects of trauma on victims of terrorism, abuse and combat, Wayne State University adjunct professor Zieva Dauber Konvisser, Ph.D. has now delved into the psychological consequences of wrongful conviction in the understudied population of women exonerees and the possibility of positive change concurrent with the lasting effects of their traumatization.
Just coming back from speaking at the Innocence Network Conference in Atlanta and a visit to the Arrendale GA Women’s prison where she taught a course on LIVING BEYOND TRAUMA: STORIES OF HOPE AND HEALING to prisoners there, Konvisser will share the stories and resilience through faith with IFLC in its May installation of Exploring Religious Landscapes: Female and Convicted: 7-9 p.m. Monday, May 13 at Congregation Beth Shalom, 14601 W Lincoln Rd, Oak Park. The event is free and open to the public but pre-registration is strongly encouraged. Register here.
Konvisser in her work has interviewed 21 women who have been wrongfully convicted, often incarcerated, and later exonerated. She listened to their voices to understand how they experience a serious trauma in their lives, including: what is the human impact and response; how do they comprehend the event and understand its significance in life following the event; how do they feel and think and act before, during, and after struggling with the horrific experience; and are there unique qualities held by women exonerees, specific issues and needs, and strategies that have helped them cope with their situations?
“I have gained their trust and love enough that some of these women now call me mom,” said Konvisser. “Each of these women have their own story, and each story deserves to be heard. It is my role to tell their stories and look at them through a lens of resilience, growth and hope that can provide hope for other survivor populations.”
Many are victims of domestic violence for the women domestic violence arson different domestic violence wrongfully interpreted suicide wrongfully looked at as murder of a spouse.
Konvisser said prison was a surreal experience for most, who were thrown into a judicial and prison system they knew nothing about but somehow had to find the strength to cope on the inside.
“While in prison, and after they were exonerated, many of the women revisited their core beliefs that included: spirituality, love of family and faith in God. They are rediscovering their lives and are trying to restore a life of purpose.”
Konvisser’s passion is to collect and share the oral histories or testimonies of survivors of traumas to make known the human “stories” behind the headlines. She volunteers as the Oral Historian at the Holocaust Memorial Center Zekelman Family Campus, served on the National Commission on American Jewish Women, and serves on the boards of METIV: The Israel Center for the Treatment of Psychotrauma of Herzog Hospital, Strength to Strength, and Proving Innocence.
Proving Innocence https://www.provinginnocence.org/