Volunteers learn to be victims advocates
August 21, 2017 06:15 PM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- A new group of volunteers is learning to help people in New Mexico going through difficult times.
Thousands of cases involving domestic violence, sexual assault and crimes against children end up in courtrooms. Victims of such crimes may be even more stressed trying to navigate court proceedings and often need someone to talk to.
"Helping them regain some agency and get their lives back on track is more important in many ways than the day-to-day work we do inside the criminal justice system," said Bernalillo County District Attorney Raul Torrez.
This is the first group of volunteers going through victims services advocates training; 25 people will learn how to be there for someone going through some of the hardest parts of their lives.
Retiree Steve Wade used to work in the court system in Oregon as a mental health examiner and is one of the volunteers in the program.
"I'm hoping to be able to provide some kind of support for people," Wade said.
Currently, the courts employ 13 people as victims advocates. That staff is stretched thin as 25,000 cases are currently going through both district and metro courts. These volunteers are meant to ease the load.
The program is modeled after one being used in Tucson, Arizona that's been in place since 1975, where more than 120 people volunteer as victims’ advocates 24/7 for the Pima County court system.
"When you don't know anything about the court system it can be very overwhelming. I want to make that something easier for the people," volunteer Lynne Boulware said.
$7,500 has been donated to pay for training materials and to bring in people from Tucson who oversee the program there.
Updated: August 21, 2017 06:15 PM
Created: August 21, 2017 01:38 PM
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