HAMPTON, Va. (WAVY) – It’s National Crime Victims’ Rights Week. Hampton’s Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office and Victim Services Unit are hosting events to commemorate and connect with the community.
On a daily basis, the Victim Services Unit assists victims in court and makes sure they know what rights they have. The team has grown since Karla Reaves began in 1985. Now, they have nine employees, volunteers, and interns.
The theme is “Survivor’s Voices: Elevate. Engage. Effect Change.” Reaves says this resonates with their office, and is something they strive to do with each victim. And, it’s something they aimed to do with events this week.
This week, WAVY Digital Desk Host Sarah Goode spoke to Hampton’s Director of Victim Services, Karla Reaves in a Community Chat to speak about the events, services, and outreach. Watch the conversation in the video player below.
On Saturday, April 22, the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office and the Victim Services Unit hosted their first “Your Commonwealth Cares CommUNITY Resource Fair” at Darling Stadium in Hampton. They created the event to educate the community about what services are available and how the court system works.
Reaves says the Survivor Walk, called “Victim to Victorious” one of the most impactful events of the day. Their team wants to remind victims to have hope and look forward. Especially with the amount of lives lost from violent crimes in the city, Reaves says it was an important moment the community was able to come together and show their solidarity.
The Victim Services Unit encourages victims to try to move forward past the tragedy. One way they try to help victims is by offering support groups. The homicide survivors support group meets in Hampton twice a month with a licensed counselor. It is limited to adult immediate family members (next of kin) to someone that was murdered. If you are interested in joining the group, reach out to the Victim Services Unit.
The Unit provides help and services to victims. Whether that means, their support in court, or by connecting individuals with other organizations like Transitions or The Center for Sexual Assault Survivors.
Karla Reaves says, “The goal is to try and provide as many services as possible to people, because we don’t want to re-victimize them. We always want to be trauma informed, and victim centered when working with crime victims and that’s our absolute goal.”
One thing they offer to victims as soon as something happens is a book. They have police pass out the third edition of What to Do When the Police Leaves: A Guide to the First Days of Traumatic Loss by Bill Jenkins to provide information as soon as possible.
It’s not only those directly involved the unit wants to help, but also the community. After a crime, they visit to see what resources the community needs to get through the event and offers information.
Another piece of supporting victims is helping them through funerals and burials. On Tuesday, Hampton’s Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office and Victim Services Unit also held an event focused on in-service training for funeral directors and other professionals. It worked to inform individuals about the Virginia Victim Fund for funeral and burial costs. Reaves says, they want to make this a seamless process for families, and not add to the trauma of burying loved ones.
Today in Richmond, the Attorney General will have an invite-only roundtable meeting for victims. According to the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office, “This conversation will focus on identifying gaps in services. The Attorney General will receive direct input from survivors to better understand the challenges faced while navigating the legal process of our justice system.”
One thing Reaves encourages everyone to know is what your Victim Rights are. In Virginia, you can find Crime victim and witness rights at the link here. Different cities offer various resources and services. Check with your city to find out what is offered.
Reaves adds that you should reach out to the Unit if you need help. If they are able to help they will, or refer you to other organizations and services. Her team cares.
“Everyone’s trauma situations are different and no one minimizes anyone’s victimization type or ever treats anyone as if they don’t care. I can’t have that type of thing happen here. And, so when they call, they know who they are dealing with, who they are receiving services from,” says Karla Reaves.
If you are interested in the internship program or being a volunteer, reach out to the Victim Services Unit.