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Cass and Berrien sheriffs offering training for victim advocates

Published 9:26am Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Cass County Sheriff Joseph M. Underwood, Jr., announces an upcoming Victim Advocate training. This is a 20-hour course and will be held in conjunction with the Berrien County Sheriffs’ Office on the following dates and times in Benton Harbor:

Friday, Sept.11 – 5 p.m. – 10 p.m.

Saturday, Sept. 12 – 8 a.m. – 1 p.m.

Friday, Sept. 25 – 5 p.m. – 10 p.m.

Saturday, Sept. 26 – 8 a.m. – 1 p.m.

The Victim Advocate Unit is a volunteer group of persons dedicated to helping all victims and survivors work through a crisis or crime against them. They are the “Helping Hands” of police, fire and medical personnel. They free the departments up to do their jobs without leaving the victim “out in the cold” or ignored.  The object is to avoid further victimization.

The purpose of this program is to assist all persons that have experienced trauma and the unit is designed to:

Comfort and help the victims and survivors immediately at the scene, providing short term crisis intervention, and make referrals to appropriate agencies and services within the community, according to their particular needs.

Serve as go-between for victims, survivors, their families, and scene officials and emergency service providers.

Victim service advocates are called out by the Sheriff’s Office for police, fire departments, or victims themselves. Advocates may be called on scene, to our office or other locations convenient to the victim and/or survivors. At an “on-scene” call, we talk to victims to establish needs. If it is a crime scene, we attempt to separate victims from scene activity for investigative purposes, and yet maintain the link to the investigating officers for victim questions.

In the event of a death, advocates may assist with phone calls and providing information in regard to funeral homes, autopsies and contacting clergy. We further refer victims to agencies and services offered by their county to assist with mental and emotional recovery afterwards.

Confidentiality is required and adhered to by all advocates and information is only shared with associate advocates in the event they need to assume responsibility for a case. The exception to the rule is that victims are informed that whatever they say can be repeated to the investigator in the event that it will help the case.

Most of us were victimized in one way or another in our past. We are trained to best handle situations and our own experiences help us to identify with the various incidents. If our own experiences can ever be made good, it’s in helping others through like ordeals.  Who better to comfort and help a new victim through an incident than someone who’s been there before?

All interested individuals should contact Donna at (269) 445-1201 for more information or you can pick up an application at the Sheriffs’ Office.

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