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 3 vigils through Prescott-Russell:

Hawkesbury: City Hall at 6pm

Casselman: Ste.Euphemie Presbytery at 12:10pm

Rockland: Simon Park at 6:30pm

Vigile2017

Prescott-Russell Victim Services director Linda Smith is seen here holding a mobile tracking device. These devices are provided to high-risk victims who fear for their lives. Prescott-Russell Victim Services helps people when they are at their worst. Now they need help to continue offering their services to the community. (Photo: Tara Kirkpatrick)

It’s going to take a Christmas miracle for Prescott-Russell Victim Services to continue to help people in Prescott-Russell. Last year, Victim Services helped 427 people. Only eight months into its current fiscal year, it has already assisted 450 victims. The organization will need more money if it is to continue helping victims for the next four months. While the demand for services has increased, government funding for the organization is about the same as in previous years.  The victim services budget, which is funded by the Ontario Ministry of the Crown Attorney, isn’t enough to meet the increased demand. The organization is now turning to the public for help. In the 2015/2016 fiscal year, Prescott-Russell Victim Services operated on a $182,279 budget. The organization received a slight increase in the 2016/2017 year, leaving it with a total budget of $186,761. Its fiscal year runs from April 1 to March 31. Domestic violence and sexual assault are among the crimes that have increased significantly in the past year, said Prescott-Russell Victim Services Director Linda Smith. “We see people at their worst moments. Either they have lost someone through sudden death or suicide, or their families have been torn apart. They may have been victims of domestic violence or sexual assault. The first thing we do when we arrive is to ask them permission to be there and when we leave, we thank them for letting us help. In between, we listen,” said Smith. The situation was at its worst in October. Calls for assistance went up considerably, especially for domestic dispute cases.“Just for the month of October alone, we helped 88 people in all of our service categories,” said Smith. She said that April was almost as bad. The OPP Russell County detachment responded to 45 domestic disputes between October 1 and November 8. OPP Constable Cynthia Savard said the number was about average for Russell. During that same period, Hawkesbury OPP officers responded to 55 domestic-related incidents. “The increase is good in that we are reaching more people and we are able to help them. But it’s not good that in eight months we have helped 450 people,” said Smith. Smith has been working for Prescott-Russell Victim Services for the past seven years and she has been its director since 2013. Every year, she said that the demand for assistance is going up. In 2011/2012, victim services helped 271 people. In 2012/2013, it helped 428. In 2013/2014 the number rose to 437 and in 2014/2015 it jumped to a high of 540. Last year, the organization helped 422 people. Smith says that a close relationship with the OPP leads to referrals for 90 per cent of the people that Prescott-Russell Victim Services helps. The remaining clients are usually walk-ins, or referrals from other social services agencies. In a recent interview with Hawkesbury OPP Detachment Commander Franca (Frankie) Campisi, the police chief expressed a need for even closer ties with victim services. Hawkesbury is slated to receive a new OPP station in 2018 and Campisi told The Review that one of the items on her wish list for the new detachment is to create designated office space for victim services so that representatives are at the detachment when the calls come in and their expertise is needed. Of the nearly 50 victim services locations that operate in Ontario, most are located in OPP police detachments. Between 60 and 65 per cent of the people served by the Prescott Russell Victim Services are victims of tragic circumstance. This can include sudden deaths, fires and suicides. In the case of a suicide, for example, victim services might be asked to console the family, friends and children of the person who died. Each of those people would be considered a “victim.” Domestic violence represents the second-biggest source of clients for Prescott-Russell Victim Services. The statistics are broken into trimesters. Between April and June, victim services assisted 20 sexual assault victims. Between July and the end of September, this increased to 35 people. These victims include the victim of the assault, as well as family members who may also have been impacted. In comparison, victim services assisted a total of 28 sexual assault victims the previous year, and 53 people two years prior. Between July and the end of September of this year, victim services helped 41 victims of domestic violence. Smith says that these numbers have been steadily increasing and aren’t reflective of the actual crime statistics for Prescott-Russell, as many victims refuse help. “Our main goal is to minimize the impact of victimization by providing immediate support to victims of crime and tragic circumstances,” said Smith. This includes providing transportation, accommodations, clothing and necessities. They also help to coordinate with other services in the area, including shelters, the Centre Nova and the Canadian Mental Health Association, among others, to provide necessary care. Services are tailored to adults, but with the permission of parental guardians, victim services will occasionally assist children. It is the role of victim services to act as advocates for their clients, to guide them to the services they need and to ensure that they receive care in a timely manner. They listen to the needs of their clients and make sure they receive the services that will help them. When a client comes to them and says that they can’t access a certain service that they were recommended, agents will help to facilitate the process. Working with the “Victim Witness Assistance Program,” Prescott-Russell Victim Services also provides special assistance to high-risk clients who fear for their safety. An example of a high-risk client might be a woman who has received death threats from a partner who says he doesn’t care what happens to him, so long as he gets the chance to kill the intended victim. Victims in these situations are given mobile tracking systems that are connected directly to police. “They aren’t covered by the Ministry of the Attorney General, but Prescott-Russell Victim Services decided to provide it for high-risk victims. It’s like a central alarm system you would have at home, but it’s portable,” said Smith. The trackers cost about $200 apiece, plus a $20 per month service charge. They were purchased thanks to a $25,000 donation by Commonwell Insurance, which was split between seven victim services centres located in Eastern Ontario. Three of these trackers are currently in use in Prescott-Russell. When they are activated, Smith said that the police response is fast. “The officers here are well aware of who have them here in our area,” said Smith. Other services provided to high-risk victims includes securing their homes by changing the locks and adding security alarms. Some clients might also be provided with cell phones and emergency housing.

Education is essential to reduce crime and better assist victims

Education is another part of Prescott-Russell Victim Services mandate. Next spring it will be hosting specialized training on human trafficking. Funding for the training is being provided by the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General as part of its strategy to end human trafficking. During the first day of the two-day course, training will be provided to police officers. On the second day, front-line workers from other sectors, including victim services volunteers, will be invited to join the training.

Timea Nagy, of “Timea’s Cause Inc.,” will lead the training sessions. Nagy is a former sex worker, turned advocate who specializes in human trafficking. She is the former executive director of the “Walk with me foundation,” which shut down in 2014 due to budget cuts.

“Timea will use the resources that we have in our community and make it specific to how we can all work together. We will be building a community-based victim services model that is specifically designed for victims of human trafficking and which uses existing services in our community,” said Smith. She says that this is the first training of its kind to be offered in Prescott-Russell.

How you can help

Money and volunteers are needed to ensure that Prescott-Russell Victim Services can continue its mandate to help others. To volunteer, you are required to be over the age of 19, to have a valid driver’s license and to pass a criminal background check. Free crisis intervention training is provided by the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General.

To inquire about donating to Prescott-Russell Victim Services, contact Linda Smith at tel. 613.632.5282 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.