April 23-29 is National Victims of Crime Awareness Week, and the staff and volunteers at Prince George RCMP Victim Services know all too well the physical, emotional and financial stress crime places on the victims.
Victim services volunteer case workers are available on-call 24 hours a day when police arrive at the scene of a tragedy, wether it is a car crash, domestic dispute, sexual assault, murder, sudden death, assault or other traumatic circumstances, victim services assistant coordinator Joan Lanove said.
“We’re there for emotional support just to have someone to talk to,” Lanove said. “We’re there to listen and we’re there to offer practical assistance as well.”
Every situation is different, she said, and every person’s grief is personal.
“Some people cope, carry on, but some go into a kind of shock,” she said.
“We’re there to try and keep everything with the family as calm as can be. If there is a calm presence around, it can defuse emotion.”
Most people have never had a sudden, tragic loss or event happen to them, Lanove said, and don’t know what to do or who to turn to.
“We try to make sure there is a support system in place. We try to get a friend, family member or even a neighbour there to support that person,” she said. “And we do a lot of follow-up. Some of these journeys are very difficult.”
Case workers can continue to provide emotional support, as well as investigation updates, court orientation tours, help them fill out victim impact statements, attend court with the victim, and notify them of court dates and parole hearings, Lanove said.
“It’s a very time-consuming volunteer position and it can be a little hard on the volunteers as well. You do get caught up in a lot of emotion,” Lanove said. “It takes a very caring person to be a victim services case worker.”
Volunteer case workers are required to be on 24-hour call two days a month and put in 16 hours of client services and office duty, she said.
To become a volunteer, Lanove said, applicants go through a rigorous screening process, followed by 30 hours of training and three months mentoring under an experienced case worker.
RCMP spokesman Const. Gary Godwin said the RCMP Victims Services volunteers are a “godsend” to the police and victims of crime.
“If [victims] need medical help they go to the hospital. But after that, they’ll need emotional help and they get that with victims services,” Godwin said. “It allows us to focus on the investigation and know they’re being well taken care of.”
Crime scenes and vehicle crashes are highly-charged emotional situations, he said.
“There is always something tragic and there is a lot of human emotion,” Godwin said. “[Volunteer case workers] need to be compassionate, reliable and not fall apart at the scene of something horrific.”
RCMP Victim Services currently has 13 volunteers many with over 10 years experience Â and is looking for more.
For more information, call coordinator Wendy Milligan at 250-561-3329.