A family returns home to discover their house is on fire and their beloved pets are missing.
A woman is assaulted by her spouse and must flee.
A house is broken into and the resident’s belongings are either damaged or missing.
It’s these kinds of traumatizing experiences – and many others – that Shirley Deglan, Victim Services Coordinator for the Salmon Arm and Sicamous RCMP detachments, responds to. When police are called to an incident and there’s a victim of crime, officers give out information cards about Police Based Victim Services. With permission, they also pass on the victim’s information to Deglan.
“It could potentially be any crime,” says Staff Sgt. Scott West of the Salmon Arm detachment, emphasizing there is no ‘minor’ crime in terms of victims. “For that person, it could be the worst day of their life.”
Sometimes Deglan will go to the scene of the incident with a police officer.
“That’s where my training with critical incidents and critical intervention comes in… The victim is traumatized, their emotions are so raw, that ’s where the training comes in to help them through their first few hours. Sometimes I could be on scene from one hour to six hours until we feel they’re in a safe place – mentally, physically, emotionally and have the support of family members or friends. And of course that frees up a member to go to other calls.”
Says West: “When we know they’re in the care of Police Based Victim Services, we know they’re going to get engaged with the right services to help them through the trying thing they’re in. If that wasn’t the case, it would be the police officers doing it. And they’re not specialists in that field.”
He adds that Victim Services is engaged and connected to the many other services provided in the community. Deglan says community resources work well together and are very “client-based.”
She adds: “It’s great to know that a victim of anything just has to connect with one of them and they’re going to be sent to the right service.”
She says if she is called to the hospital in the middle of the night because of domestic violence, for instance, she might need to find that person clothing, a safe place to stay and counselling. Or if there’s a fire, residents might need to be put up in a hotel. She says in cases like those, partners such as Emergency Social Services, the SAFE Society and local kennels, if pets are involved, can step up to help.
If the situation involves grief, connections can be made with the Shuswap Hospice Society or counselling services.
And when the courts are involved, Deglan can support the victim through the process.
“She would have above-average knowledge of the police,” says West of Deglan, “and well above-average knowledge of the court system.”
She also has clients referred to her from Mental Health, youth care workers and other community agencies.
Overall, says Deglan, “I’m the least judgmental person…”
“I don’t get jaded. It doesn’t matter to me what their history is. What’s important to me is what I can help them with at the moment.”
The factor that has made her job the easiest is connecting with other community services.
“I’m actually impressed with how many supports we have in the community,” she says, explaining that’s why she wants it made public how many services collaborate. “We send clients to them and they send clients to us.”