Inside the Prince Albert Police Service, an all-female team works to help victims of crime.
The five-member team that makes up the Victim Services Unit works with victims of crime, guiding them through the criminal investigation and court process. The unit does not provide counseling services to people who have been victimized but offers information and referrals to connect them to supports as they deal with trauma.
Alison Elsner, the unit coordinator, said people who connect with the victim services unit are often in a vulnerable state after a traumatic incident.
"They’re at a time when there may not be a lot of supports, and they may not know the process,” Elsner told paNOW Wednesday. “So for us, we are that link. We are that connection.”
The staff within the victim services unit are all fairly new to the role, with four of five members having joined the team within the last 18 months. The unit now includes a coordinator, assistant coordinator, administrative assistant, Indigenous resource officer and missing person liaison. All of the positions are funded by the province, with the exception of the missing person liaison which is funded by the federal government.
It’s the first time in a while the unit has been fully staffed.
“Any police call that generates a victim is automatically routed to our workflow here, so, potentially, we could see hundreds of files in a month,” Administrative Assistant Kristyn Ziegeman said, “so this is really exciting to have a full staff.”
Erin Settee, the unit’s Indigenous resource officer, provides culturally-appropriate support and information to victims of crime, and also to police, helping them learn about cultural traditions. Settee said she helps victims of trauma access traditional supports, such as a healer, medicine person or Elder.
“We are trying to connect people back to where they’re from, their roots, their connection, how they feel belonging,” Settee said. “It’s really important in people’s healing journey, because the majority of my files are people who are of Indigenous ancestry.”
Darlene LaFayette-Hunter works part-time as the unit’s assistant coordinator. She said it’s important to have support in place for anyone who may need help following a traumatic situation.
“When we talk about vulnerable, that goes across economics. Anybody from any walk of life can find themselves a victim,” she said.
The job can be challenging, and the women who make up the victim services unit at the Prince Albert Police Service are careful to take care of their own mental health so they can take care of others at work.
“We do take people’s stuff mentally home ... I’m grateful that we have a tight-knit group here,” Missing Person Liaison Mikayla Worth said.
With a full complement of staff, Elsner said the team is now hoping to recruit volunteers to help with the victim services unit, starting in the fall. Volunteers receive training and assist in providing advocacy services, education, and support.
On Twitter: @CharleneTebbutt
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