Posted: Tuesday 29th March 2016
Victim Support is a national charity and locally we’re funded by the Avon and Somerset Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner to work with victims of crime and anti-social behaviour across the area. We support people whenever the crime happened and whether or not the person affected has chosen to report it to the police. We work with people affected by all crime types, such as burglary, assault, domestic abuse, sexual abuse or people bereaved by homicide.
We have a small staff team but the majority of the support is provided by our team of highly trained specialist volunteers, who each hold a caseload of clients that they work one to one with to help them process and ultimately recover from the impact of what has happened to them. The support we provide varies greatly; from ongoing one-to-one support face-to-face, personal or home alarms, safety planning, advocacy, letters to housing associations, help accessing medical support, help navigating the criminal justice system and far more besides. We don't set a time limit on how long we will work with clients - we know that they're the only person who can really know when they're ready to end support and move on without us.
Many of the people we work with are surprised by how the crime has affected them, particularly with non-violent crimes such as fraud or theft. We often hear our clients say 'I didn't think I would be so upset, but...'. We always say that no one can predict how they are going to respond, and there's no right or wrong way to feel when you've been victim of a crime. There's no one reaction or feeling that's common to everyone we support but what many victims tell us is they feel they’ve lost their sense of safety. Whether it's their physical safety, their ability to feel safe in their home, their confidence to shop, socialise or run errands the way they used to, it's a big thing to get used to and so a lot of our work is helping clients come to terms with what happened and accept that they are never to blame.
It's really easy for me to talk about what we do, but the best way of giving you an idea of our work is in one of our clients' own word, so here's Simon's* story:
“It wasn’t until I spoke to Victim Support that I realised there was someone out there who cared.”
Simon, a victim of burglary, has been in touch with Victim Support since July 2015. As well as giving Simon emotional support, we provided practical help too, like writing letters to the council on Simon’s behalf to try to improve his housing situation. Here Simon describes the impact the burglary had on him and how Victim Support helped him find the strength to move on.
I’ve been a strong man all my life.
I was a Hell’s Angel. I’ve never been easily frightened and I’ve never worried about anything. But being robbed while I was asleep in my bed really freaked me out, as anything could have happened. What if I’d woken up and got out of bed? Luckily I didn’t wake up until I heard the front door slam.
I became very depressed after the burglary.
I became totally paranoid – anytime anyone walked past the window, I was there. It wasn’t a nice feeling and it was totally alien to me. I had thought I was stronger than that. It was a real kick in the teeth for me.
Talking to Victim Support was so helpful.
I explained everything to them and they listened. They are so sympathetic and completely put me at ease. We talked for a good half an hour or 45 minutes every week. Usually, they called me at an arranged time but I did call them once when I was really down, and they were brilliant.
Victim Support helped me try to move up the housing list.
I live in a basement flat and because I’ve got a crumbling spine and arthritis of the hips, sometimes I can’t get up the stairs to go to the shops. I’ve been on the housing list for years, trying to get a ground floor flat. I filled in all the paperwork and sent in sick notes, but nothing changed and I felt like I’d been dumped. It wasn’t until I started speaking to Victim Support that I realised there was someone out there who cared and would try to help if they could. They have written letters to the council for me and organised for an occupational therapist to come and assess me and the flat. I’m keeping everything crossed now.
I really don’t know what I’d have done without Victim Support – I don’t like to think about it.
Without them I’d be a crumbling wreck. Speaking to Victim Support has helped me come to terms with everything. They’ve given me the encouragement to carry on.
Victim Support is very important to me.
As I’ve said, I’m a strong man, but they helped me. So if there’s someone out there who’s not as strong as I am, they’ll definitely need Victim Support. So I recommend Victim Support to everybody.
If you want to find out more or access support please call us on 0300 303 1972, visit our website at www.victimsupport.org.uk or follow us on twitter @vs_avonsomerset
Victim Services Manager, Victim Support
*The name of the individual used in this case study has been changed to prevent identification