Victims of Crime and empowerment

vic1One of the things you have to do in this job is keep statistics.  While it is about as much fun as stabbing a fork in your eye some days, it actually can be pretty informative on occasion.  For us, we’ve had to keep statistics on everything.  Statistics for the ministry that funds us, statistics for our police partners (of who we have many) and statistics for our board of directors who also consist of a number of community partners.

At one point along the way, there was a disturbing pattern that was noticed.  We were giving out a ton of phone numbers and pamphlets and contact information cards to victims of crime of all ages, only to find that almost none of them were calling or connecting to the community resources.  We weren’t tracking names or clients but we were tracking numbers and the numbers just didn’t add up.  How could it be that we could give out 50 phone numbers and maybe 2 would call.

So we thought, how can we do this differently because obviously, what we were doing wasn’t working.

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Empowerment is a funny thing.  We have learned (with good reason) that victims of crime need to be allowed to make their own choices.  They need to be in charge of their own decisions and direct the services in the direction that they feel works best for them.  Hence, giving out phone numbers makes total sense to everyone because the premise is that we are allowing them to choose the service as they see fit.  Well, it works for everyone except whoever we’re giving the phone numbers to because when you think about, when we take a hard line stance to just give out a phone number and leave it up to the victim, we are saying – once again – that we know what is best for you and that you should do it this way.  If you don’t do it this way, well, that means you don’t want the service.

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But that didn’t make sense either because we were getting calls after the fact from people who never connected and desperately wanted something but were frustrated in trying to get there.  They were saying – “we want these services, just not the way you’re offering them”.

So we started trying different approaches and we started asking people; we can give you contact information or if you wish or resource information, we can call on your behalf and ask the service you choose to call you and discuss further or you can call on your own at a time of your choosing.  We’re not setting up the appointment, we’re simply giving people a choice on how they wish to connect.

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What a difference it has made.

I have to say, when you first look at it, it feels contrary to empowerment and all the principles behind allowing people to do for themselves but its not really.  The reason why is because empowerment is rooted in choice.  Giving a phone number is not necessarily the same as giving choices that are based on need.  All victims need the freedom to choose services or not but they also should be able to dictate how they wish to connect with those services based on what they feel they need and / or what they think is going to work best for them.  For many people, they’re still reeling from the shock and after-effects of whatever the incident was.  For some, they wish some kind of documentation that lets them look at it afterwards and make a choice.  For others, they are feeling much too overwhelmed to make that initial call but would appreciate a call back from the service they have chosen.  For others, they don’t want either but will call us in the future if they change their minds (and some do).  And still for others, they don’t want to do anything right now but would appreciate a call in a few days time so that they can discuss with those they feel close to and trust.

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Taking a blanket approach to everything ultimately ends up working for hardly anyone.  Victims of crime in particular need to feel like they can make informed choices.  Sometimes they are overwhelmed and need the opportunity to talk to the service provider directly before they can feel like they are making an informed approach.  A service that allows that is ultimately providing avenues for empowerment as well as opportunities for healing that are respectful to the people they are serving.

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Categories: Trauma, Victimization

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