Victim Services Practitioners extend both handsWhat is a Victim Services Practitioner? I wasn’t sure. I just knew I wanted to be one. What does it take to become a Victim Services Practitioner? The beginning for me was a 40-hour course presented by the Attorney General of my state, the State of Florida. For five days, from 8:00 a.m. until nearly 5:00 p.m., various presenters would share some valuable information and training in multiple categories of victim abuses. On Monday we learned about Florida Statute 960. It was perhaps one of the most boring mornings I’ve spent in a very long time. Why did we need to know so much about one single statute to become a Victim Services Practitioner? By Friday I would know.

I have been through courses and received training as a domestic violence advocate. I completed a chaplaincy course that empowers me to offer spiritual and pastoral counseling through my ministerial credentials, not only to Christians, but others, as well. Now I know the importance of being able to offer interfaith spiritual support to victims of abuse. I’ve spoken on numerous occasions regarding domestic violence, verbal and emotional abuse, safe dating, sexual abuse and assault. I had no idea what I was in for while returning, day after day, to that conference room in the hotel. I mean, there was going to be a test before all was said and done. Only by passing the exam would I receive a certificate as a Designated Victim Services Practitioner.

The course helped me realize a very important fact, and that was just how little I truly knew about victimization. We saw videos, heard a survivor share her story of being stabbed repeatedly and her throat being cut from ear to ear, then her trachea being stabbed to take away her gift of singing. She was a strong woman, a charismatic woman. Who would have thought she endured such horrendous violence less than two years prior?

I sat in the room with certified victim advocates, a homicide detective, directors of abuse shelters and programs, social workers, ministers . . . it was quite a mix. As we talked during breaks and meals, we learned there was a common thread. It was said, over and over again, “I had no idea.” The class on Elder Abuse was disheartening, to say the least. We viewed a video. There was Miss Mary who was 96 years old. Her greatest fear was spending her last years in a nursing home. Her grandson took her in. She lived with him and his girlfriend. He was a heavy drinker. He began verbally abusing her, then physically battering her. It ripped my heart out to watch as she explained the night he viciously raped her. Miss Mary died three years after the rape—in a nursing home. She kept saying, “I’m the reason he did this to me.” She somehow felt responsible for the heinous actions he had chosen to take.

We received teaching on such topics as gang violence, domestic violence, child abuse, sexual assault, identity theft and homicide notification. The instructor who presented the class on homicide notification is a retired sheriff. He was able to express the details of proper notification and serving the survivors of a homicide. You see, one night, while he was still in active law enforcement, he was paid a visit by two officers from another county. They were there to tell him that his only daughter had been found, lying by a dumpster, nude, bound by duct tape, brutally raped and then murdered. He kept his composure throughout the presentation. I didn’t. I wiped more than one tear away.

Then I realized what a Victim Services Practitioner is. A Victim Services Practitioner is someone who seeks to serve. They put selfish motives aside. They see the needs of others, most times over their own. A Victim Services Practitioner is someone who seeks to make the world a better place by being and doing all they can to help the hurting and abused.

I am a domestic violence and sexual abuse advocate. I am a spiritual support system. I am a survivor spokesperson. Each of those has become a building block. On May 4, 2012, I was presented with a certificate and became a Designated Victim Services Practitioner. The title is not important. The knowledge I gained, and empathy I now carry, are what count the most. I am more knowledgeable and better equipped to fulfill my purpose and calling. Who’d a thunk it would include becoming a Victim Services Practitioner.

Pam Bondi – Atty General of the State of Florida

NOTE: A special thanks to Attorney General Pam Bondi and the Office of the Attorney General of the State of Florida, for making available to us, your public, such valuable training.

Carolyn S. Hennecy is recognized nationally as an expert survivor spokesperson on domestic/intimate partner abuse and violence, sexual assault and child molestation and abuse.

Follow Carolyn on Facebook: CLICK HERE or on Twitter @CarolynHennecy

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