Hon­our­ing those af­fected by crime

Sur­vivors, po­lice, vol­un­teers and coun­sel­lors all have a vi­tal role and work as a team to help vic­tims of crime

The Hamilton Spectator - - LOCAL - SU­SAN CLAIRMONT Su­san Clairmont’s com­men­tary ap­pears reg­u­larly in The Spec­ta­tor. sclair­mont@thes­pec.com 905-526-3539 | @su­san­clair­mont

A long time ago, I was a vic­tim ser­vices vol­un­teer with the OPP.

It was about 1992. I had just fin­ished grad­u­ate jour­nal­ism school and was work­ing at the Peter­bor­ough Examiner. Ea­ger to give back af­ter in­tense years at univer­sity, I looked around for vol­un­teer op­por­tu­ni­ties.

The Peter­bor­ough OPP (I think it’s the Peter­bor­ough County OPP now) was gear­ing up to launch its new Vic­tim Cri­sis Ser­vices (VICARS) and called out for vol­un­teers.

I was among that in­au­gu­ral group.

I was think­ing of this Mon­day as I stood, as I do ev­ery year, out­side of Hamil­ton Po­lice head­quar­ters to mark Vic­tims and Sur­vivors of Crime Week. It is a cer­e­mony to hon­our those who have been per­son­ally touched by crime.

Like two sur­vivors of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence who spoke at the event.

“I stand here as one woman, but I rep­re­sent thou­sands,” said Cathy Watts, who has founded 1 in Four, a peer sup­port group for vic­tims of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence.

And Krys­tal Nagel, a hedge fund an­a­lyst who ad­mits her long ago idea of a do­mes­tic vi­o­lence vic­tim was so wrong. “I was ed­u­cated and suc­cess­ful, and I didn’t fit the stereo­type I had in my head.”

The cer­e­mony also rec­og­nizes all those with a re­spon­si­bil­ity to help vic­tims and sur­vivors, un­der­stand them and en­sure they get the care and con­sid­er­a­tion they de­serve.

There are po­lice of­fi­cers in the crowd, of course. And po­lice board mem­bers. Crown at­tor­neys and me­dia. Shel­ter staff.

And vic­tim ser­vices work­ers and vol­un­teers. Su­san Dou­ble, ad­min­is­tra­tor of the Hamil­ton Po­lice vic­tim ser­vices branch, leads her staff and 100 vol­un­teers in tak­ing care of the prac­ti­cal and emo­tional needs of those who have ex­pe­ri­enced any­thing from do­mes­tic vi­o­lence, to sex­ual as­sault to rob­bery to homi­cide.

I have of­ten thought, as many in my busi­ness do these days, that should I ever find my­self out of a jour­nal­ism job, I might learn to do the work of vic­tims coun­sel­lors. They are a com­pas­sion­ate yet tough lot and I have seen, count­less times, the im­pact they have — in ways small and large — on the lives of vic­tims and sur­vivors.

While I lis­tened to the speeches at this year’s cer­e­mony, I con­sid­ered how much things have changed since my short time as a vol­un­teer.

Back then, we were mostly, if not en­tirely, women.

These days, I meet an in­creas­ing num­ber of men who vol­un­teer in this area. Be­ing car­ing and com­pas­sion­ate isn’t just for women any more.

In my group, the ma­jor­ity of vol­un­teers were older than I was, with far more life ex­pe­ri­ence and com­mon sense.

Now vic­tim ser­vices vol­un­teer­ing is a com­mon step for young peo­ple work­ing to­ward a ca­reer as a po­lice of­fi­cer. That’s some­thing Chief Eric Girt ac­knowl­edged when he spoke Mon­day.

The beauty of that is of­fi­cers who have been vic­tim ser­vice vol­un­teers them­selves have a deep ap­pre­ci­a­tion for the value of car­ing for vic­tims and sur­vivors. They be­lieve in it.

In­deed, po­lice of­fi­cers in gen­eral have huge respect for the vic­tims they work with and the vic­tim ser­vices branch. That was not al­ways the way. I re­mem­ber some of­fi­cers at the OPP de­tach­ment in Peter­bor­ough be­ing out­raged over the idea of civil­ian vol­un­teers get­ting in­volved in po­lice busi­ness. And scoff­ing at the idea of vic­tims need­ing some­one to “hold their hands and dry their tears,” as I re­call one of­fi­cer putting it so de­ri­sively.

We were not made to feel wel­come.

I did the VICARS train­ing and vol­un­teered for a short while. But as my jour­nal­ism ca­reer launched, I soon re­al­ized that I wanted to write about vic­tims of crime and so, con­cerned about any con­flict of in­ter­est, I left my vol­un­teer po­si­tion.

But the train­ing I had back then is the ba­sis for much of what I do now.

And it is es­pe­cially sweet to be able to write about the ded­i­ca­tion of vic­tim ser­vice vol­un­teers and won­der how we ever man­aged with­out them.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.