August 29, 2008

NIU faculty member to lead workshop on violence

by K.C. Jaehnig

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- A workshop aimed at preparing for, getting through and dealing with the aftermath of intentionally violent events will take place from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday, Sept. 19, at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

Led by Debra Pender, a Northern Illinois University faculty member who worked with campus and community members after the Valentine’s Day shootings there, the workshop will address such topics as hazard planning, threat assessment, crisis communications, intervention selection, triage, treatment and the possibilities for post-trauma growth.

“It’s suitable for a whole range of participants -- firefighters, police, security officers, mental health professionals, Red Cross volunteers, public school principals and superintendents, college and university officials, postal workers, religious leaders,” said Kimberly K. Asner-Self, an associate professor in the Department of Educational Psychology and Special Education, who organized the workshop.

“Anyone who’s concerned about the possibility of targeted violence should come.”

While any event involving injury or death challenges our coping skills, those where someone deliberately hurts, maims or kills prove especially daunting.

“Part of the horror of targeted violence is that it occurs in places where you’re not expecting it -- where it’s not supposed to happen,” Asner-Self said.

“While there’s probably no one ‘right way’ to respond to it, in the event something happens in the community, we need to be able to effectively and compassionately deal with it in the short term, the mid-term and the long term.”

Pender, a native Southern Illinoisan and a graduate of the counseling program in Asner-Self’s department, is ideally suited to help first responders and other professionals deal with the unthinkable.

“She knows the area, she knows all the players, she’s dealt with crisis intervention for 25 years and knows how things work here, and because of the shootings, she’s had experience that none of us have had,” Asner-Self said.

“I can’t think of anyone else, even on the national scene, who could do a better job.”

Registration for the event costs $110, $55 for students with student identification, and continuing education credit is available. Send checks or money orders to Cathy Earnhart in the Department of Educational Psychology at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, Mail Code 4618, 62901.

For more information on the workshop itself, e-mail Asner-Self at or call her at 618/453-2311.