One Victim Support branch was in the office next door to mine for a number of
years. That meant I got to see first-hand the quality support provided to victims. I will unashamedly sing their praises whenever it's called for.
About Victim Support
Basically, Victim Support is a community organisation that helps people get through traumatic events. What kind of events? Homicides, sexual violence, assaults, vehicle crashes, suicides, burglaries, thefts. You name it, they will be there for you. And, it doesn't matter who you are or where you're from.
An independent charitable trust, Victim Support has 62 offices and 639 volunteers scattered throughout New Zealand. Yes, volunteers. About 120 paid positions nationwide run the organisation which is heavily reliant on donations.
Extensive training is provided for the role of volunteers because they deal with people at their most vulnerable. This means supportive and caring volunteers who are well versed in dealing with grief, trauma, justice processes and available services.
When major tragic events happen, such as the Christchurch mosque shootings most recently, volunteers flew in from around the country to assist. It's certainly not an easy role sometimes.
Your Rights As A Victim
In New Zealand we have the Victims' Rights Act 2002. It sets out how victims of a crime or trauma should be treated with courtesy and compassion, their dignity and privacy should be respected and help should be given in relation to welfare, health, counselling, medical or legal needs.
How They Can Help You
If you're affected by crime or trauma, don't minimise it. For example, if your house or accommodation is broken into, and nothing of value is taken, it's not a nothing. It's a crime! Pure and simple.
I had my house broken into once. I only knew because the door was open and I found a small, torn piece of paper on the floor, part of my driver licence (a booklet back then). It was such a creepy, unsettling feeling, knowing that someone had been in my space. The fact I couldn't put a face to the person/s made it worse. Was it someone I knew? A stranger? Would they come back? There was no victim support at that time.
So, don't wait. Nowdays you will be given immediate support together with information and your rights as outlined above. The volunteer will listen (that may be all you need), refer you for counselling, assist and support you at court trials and hearings, help you with victim impact statements, attend family or restorative justice conferences with you and also steer you in the right direction for other specialist support services.
Emergency grants and financial assistance is available to help you deal with or recover from your experience. Often staff will have clothing, toiletries, etc., for when people have all their gear stolen, or clothing taken for forensics. Some people are left stranded without even a toothbrush.
Victim Aid For Serious Crime Situations
Victim Support offers some specific services for victims of serious crimes such as homicide, a death caused by a criminal act (other than a homicide), sexual violence and other serious crime.
There is financial assistance to help cover some of the financial costs associated with serious crime. Specific criteria for eligibility applies and most of the grants are not means tested which is good because you don't need that added stress.
The grants can cover the loss of income and general costs, counselling sessions, travelling/accommodation to attend trials and other hearings and some family members may receive a daily allowance to attend a High Court trial.