The Role of Victim Services Advocates
After successful completion of the standardized volunteer training and evaluation, and other requirements, including security clearance by the appropriate police service, potential volunteers may be qualified as a Victim Services Advocate with your local Victim Services Unit (VSU).
Victim Services Units (VSUs) in Alberta are police-based programs that may be administered by a Board of Directors of a non-profit society or a municipal police service. VSUs provide support to victims and include staff (generally a Program Coordinator and may include additional staff members) and volunteer Advocates.
Once qualified, the volunteer Advocate will respond immediately to referrals to provide short term emotional support and practical assistance to victims of crime or tragic circumstance. The volunteer will ensure that appropriate options and/or referrals for longer term assistance are provided to the victim.
Direct Service Responsibilities
Victim Services Advocates are expected to respond to requests for service from police by attending ‘on scene’ or at an alternate safe location. On occasion, crisis support may be provided by telephone.
Advocates provide emotional support, including answering questions and providing information that will help lessen the impact of the crisis for the victim, and practical assistance as needed. Advocates also identify longer term needs by responding to the victim’s concerns and supplying them with appropriate options and referrals to services in the community that will assist
them in accessing resources for further assistance.
Volunteer Advocates are expected to document their activities, to adhere to police policy and procedures, and to report to their Coordinator as requested.
A Victim Advocate provides three core services to victims of crime or trauma:
• About the criminal justice system:
- Criminal justice processes
- Opportunities for the victim to participate in criminal justice processes
- The status of the person’s case in the criminal justice process
- Criminal justice resources available to victims of crime
• About community resources or other information which will assist the victim of crime
• Emotional support (example: listening with empathy)
• Practical support (example: ensuring a person has the contact information for the Crown’s Office)
• Courtroom support
• Links to community or other resources that will benefit the victim of crime