Victims Assistance Society lessens impact of crime
Being a victim of crime can be a life-changing experience and every person impacted by crime deserves to be treated with compassion and respect as they move towards healing.
Moving Forward is the theme of this year’s National Victim of Crime Awareness Week, which runs from April 22 to 28, and recognizes the difficult journey victims often go through.
“It is a really good opportunity for us to raise awareness that victims services are in our community,” said Lori Rehill, executive director, Airdrie and District Victims Assistance Society (ADVAS).
“We are here to support victims of crime.”
In early 2011, the provincial Victims of Crime Act, which gives victims the right to be kept informed, to be part of the criminal justice system and to have their voice heard, was revised with consultation from victim support services including ADVAS.
The most significant changes were to financial benefit programs and included modifications to death benefits to cover funeral costs and disqualify criminals from making application for financial compensation.
ADVAS partners with community agencies and support services to provide referrals to victims and support for the operating needs of the society.
In 2011, ADVAS helped 2,175 people get access to services including crisis intervention, follow up information and court support, which has increased by 117 per cent over the last five years.
Volunteers and staff worked on 1,175 files last year, a substantial increase of 79 per cent in the last five years. Domestic violence, assault and family issues, such as sudden deaths, next of kin notifications, mental health concerns, civil matters and restraining orders, continue to be the greatest number of files referred to the society.
“We are here to support victims of crime,” said Rehill. “Our mandate is immediate crisis intervention and court support in the longer term.”
According to Rehill, ADVAS volunteers are highly skilled and necessary for the operation of the society.
“Our volunteers are critical to the programs and services that we provide for victims of crime,” she said.
“Volunteering with ADVAS is (likely) the most unique volunteer experience that people will have in their life.”
ADVAS works collaboratively with the RCMP’s Domestic Violence Unit, the courts and crown prosecutor to provide victims with court support, education, information and an opportunity to complete a Victim Impact Statement and apply for restitution and financial benefits.
“We are here and if you need us, just give us a call,” said Rehill.
For more information on ADVAS, which is located in the RCMP detachment on Edmonton Trail, visit www.airdrievictimassistance.com or call 403-945-7290.