People are waiting, ready and willing to help walk alongside them, inform them of their rights and help them navigate the system.One of those knowledgeable and compassionate experts is located right here at Promise Community Health Center in Sioux Center. In a partnership with Promise, Family Crisis Centers of Northwest Iowa has placed a full-time, bilingual crime victim advocate at the health center in 2016 in an effort to more effectively reach underserved populations.
This week, April 7-13, National Crime Victims’ Rights Week is dedicated to create awareness about the effects that victimization has on individuals, families, friends and the community, and to promote laws, policies and programs to help victims of crime. This year’s theme, “Honoring Our Past. Creating Hope for the Future” celebrates the progress that has been made in crime victim services and looks to a future that is even more inclusive, accessible and trauma informed.
For National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, the crime victim advocate at Promise reflects on her role of helping people right here in northwest Iowa.
Q: What do you want people in northwest Iowa to know, or remember, during National Crime Victims’ Rights Week?
A: Each case and each person is different. Family Crisis Centers’ services are 100 percent free and confidential, but they are also client-led. This means that I don’t sit the person down and tell them what they need to apply for to make everything better. Instead, the client can tell me what their biggest needs and priorities are. We will work together to explore their options, and then I assist them as much – or as little – as they’d like in meeting their needs.
Iowa has a ton of programs to help with things like paying medical, dental or counseling bills that were a direct result of a crime, cleanup of a crime scene, travel expenses, loss of pay and more. There are programs to get a confidential address if you are being stalked or are otherwise in a situation that a confidential address would be beneficial. There are programs that can help with emergency relocation or moving expenses. It can get complicated sometimes, but I am here to guide clients through the process and hopefully make the experience a little easier.
I am also bilingual, so I am able to assist people in English or Spanish.
Q: You are employed by Family Crisis Centers but located within Promise CHC. How has that partnership been beneficial to your role?
A: From the beginning, Promise was a natural fit. By identifying and offering on-the-spot services to victims of crime, FCC has been another piece of the holistic care Promise provides its patients. Here, they can have a checkup, get glasses, do dental work, receive therapy and get support if they’ve been a victim of crime – all under one roof!
Additionally, one of the main goals of this partnership was to be reaching underserved populations where they are. While Family Crisis Centers has provided bilingual services for some time, we were noticing that Spanish-speakers were always underrepresented in our data. By creating the Integrated Advocacy Services division, we hoped to reach those underserved populations by placing an advocate somewhere that would be more accessible, as well as adding a couple more bilingual staff to the mix. Promise seemed a natural fit!
I think this partnership has been mutually beneficial to both sides, but I have appreciated getting to be part of the Promise family over the last few years and am honored that the staff here trust me to help their patients experiencing the aftermath of violent crime.
Q: What are the biggest misconceptions that people have about victims of crimes?
A: Many people have probably heard the phrase “victim blaming.” We talk a lot about victim blaming around sexual assault, but it actually takes place in just about any kind of crime. This is one of the factors that makes victims feel isolated the most – literally being told or having others suggest that what happened to them might be their own fault. Violent crime is never the victim’s fault, and that is something we live by at FCC. I think when we hear about something like this happening in our community, or to someone we know, our natural reaction is to blame that victim. After all, if they didn’t cause it somehow, that means the same thing could happen to me! When we place the blame on the victim, the offender isn’t held accountable for the actions, and that’s not what anyone wants. I want people to know that victims of crimes are never at fault for what has happened to them, and that one of the easiest ways to support crime victims is simply to believe them. That is something we can all do!
Q: Is there anything else that you would like to add?
A: I would just encourage anyone who has been a victim of violent crime, or knows someone who has, to give us a call! You don’t need a police report, you don’t need to know exactly what kind of crime you’re a victim of, and you don’t have to commit to anything. Our crisis line has certified advocates available 24/7 to take your call and can make referrals based on what you’re needing. If you don’t speak English, call anyway! We have advocates who speak Spanish and the language line for any other language needs. You can also call Promise and ask to speak to the crime victim advocate. I’d love to meet with you! Not in the Sioux Center area? We have advocates in other clinics as well! Call our hotline to find your nearest clinic with a crime victim advocate.
Text Line: text “iowahelp” to 20121
CRIME VICTIMIZATION EXAMPLES:
- Adult physical and/or sexual assault;
- Adults sexually abused and/or assaulted as children;
- Child abuse and neglect;
- Child sexual abuse and assault;
- Domestic and/or family abuse or violence;
- DUI/DWI and other vehicular incidents;
- Homicide incident survivors;
- Identity theft, fraud and financial crime;
- Kidnapping (custodial and noncustodial);
- Mass violence;
- Violation of court/protective order.
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