Many paths for victims of crime

Many Voices, Many Paths is the theme for 2011 National Victims of Crime Awareness Week, which runs from April 10 to 16.

RCMP Victim Services offers services

Many Voices, Many Paths is the theme for 2011 National Victims of Crime Week, which runs from April 10 to 16.

According to Boundary Regional RCMP Victim Services Program Manager Cathy Riddle, exactly what those words mean depends upon who you are and what is happening in your life. If you speak to victims of crime, their stories will inevitably vary and the services offered also vary to meet the needs of the client.

Victim Services has evolved provincially over the past 20 some years and has gone from a volunteer program to a provincially recognized support system that is crucial to the support of victims of crime and trauma.

Riddle has been working in the field of victim advocacy for 20 years and the last 10 have been with the RCMP Victim Services.

Services offered can range from emotional support, to practical assistance on justice related information to referrals to community agencies.

“Depending on the situation, the job can vary from a one-time contact to a journey of years,” explains Riddle. “We will attend court with the victim, liaison with Justice personnel to make sure that resources are in place to support the victim, and sit alongside the person – just be there.”

While she has regular office hours, she is also on call 24/7 to respond to victim’s needs. “We can be called out at any time to the scene or to attend the office whenever an officer feels that support is needed,” she said.

The Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General funds over 160 victim support programs in the province.

The programs range from police and community based and specialized programs, all with the sole focus of providing support in a timely manner to address the needs of victims under the Victim of Crime Act.

There are several ways that people may access the program: people can call directly to any RCMP detachment and request Victim Services, police officers are the main source of referrals to the program and community groups and agencies refer people as well.

“Our support to victims and witnesses of crime or trauma is completely free or charge,” explains Riddle.

Training and certification for victim services are done through the Justice Institute of B.C. and Riddle holds a Victim Service Practitioner Certificate and a Critical Incident Stress Debriefing Certificate. Other workers may have a BA in Social Services or related training and experience.

“Youth education and programming in the high schools has been high on my list over the past years,” says Riddle. “We have provided time and resources for the Respectful Relationships program and the Kick Start Youth program.”

“We work collaboratively with service providers to provide a comprehensive approach to both support and education around issues that are identified.”

For example, Boundary Regional RCMP Victim Services and the Boundary Women’s Transition House are hosting a lecture with Jackson Katz on Friday, April 15. Katz will be coming in to speak to community and service providers about violence specifically around sexual assaults.

She has a quote on her office wall by Lewis B. Smedes: ‘The most creative power given to the human spirit is the power to heal the wounds of a past it cannot change.’

“This quote helps me through many situations and confirms for me, the strength of people and their ability to get through the trials that life throws at us.

“I would like people to feel comfortable knowing that there is support during those times that are extremely difficult,” says Riddle. “There are people who are trained and ready to help and most of all that you do not need to be alone through this journey.”

Boundary Regional RCMP Victim Services has two offices in the area. in Midway at 250-449-2244 or in Grand Forks at 250-442-5846.

VictimLINK (1-800-563-0808) is a toll-free, BC-wide telephone help line, available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, providing information and referral services to all victims of crime and immediate crisis support to victims of family and sexual violence.

The Victims of Crime Website is found online at www.victimsweek.gc.ca

Pat Kelly is a reporter with the Boundary Creek Times