“What do I do now?” The amount of pain, shock, anguish, and distress in that question is immeasurable. It is a question asked of first responders, Victim Advocates, or perhaps expressed to no one by a victim or survivor when a traumatic event takes place.
When law enforcement, firefighters, or EMS are called out, they need to focus on the event in progress. What about those experiencing the trauma? Who may be able to console or guide them through whatever traumatic event is taking place?
A structure fire in progress, individual who has gone missing, accidents, drownings, sudden deaths, are a few of the incidents where first responders realize they need to have someone to be there with the family, friends, victims and/or survivors. Roscommon County and others are fortunate to have a group of volunteer advocates as a Victims Service Unit (VSU).
Former Roscommon County Sheriff Randy Stevenson, realizing there was a niche to be filled, along with Ed Pearen, Greg Haskell, and others, formed the Roscommon County Victims Services Unit (VSU) in 2010. Victim Service Units have been established in communities nationwide under the auspices of local or state law enforcement.
The unit is designed to comfort and help victims immediately after an incident, by providing short-term crisis intervention. Having no personal references for the traumatic events, most victims feel lost in need of guidance.”
The primary goal of VSU is to allow first responders to do their jobs, while the advocate teams take care of those in distress or suffering loss. The unit is basically a liaison between victim or survivor and law enforcement officers. Law enforcement or firefighters notify 911 dispatch to call out VSU when they see a need.
Victims Service Unit volunteers come from all walks of life. Retired folks, a pastor, former firefighters, teachers, bankers, moms, dads, and grandparents. Many, in their own lives, have experienced grief or emotional shock, lost a family member, friend, or acquaintance, to a traumatic experience. Members of the VSU can offer empathy as well as guidance to available services. Chairperson, Jann Lehman stated “we may just need to be a shoulder to cry on or offer hugs.”
Not all in need are adults. Victims Service advocates offer consolation and help to children and infants, have help aids for autistic individuals, and may be able to assist in getting caretakers for family pets.
Caring volunteers, as with any organization, are always needed. VSU advocates are required to complete twelve hours of training prior to going out on call. Training is free and covers a host of situations, and guidance. When called out, the advocates always respond as teams.
If interested in sharing your expertise, understanding and care with others, contact Ben Lowe, Under Sheriff for Roscommon County at the Sheriff’s Department non-emergency line 989-275-5101.