This Friday, December 6th marks a solemn anniversary: thirty years since the shooting at l'École Polytechnique de Montréal. This is the event that sparks the action in Colleen Murphy's The December Man (l'homme de décembre) and so has particular significance to our production. To commemorate the anniversary, KWLT has invited Victim Services of Waterloo Region to speak after the December 6th performance, and will be donating all of the ticket proceeds from that performance to VSWR.
What is VSWR? We sat down with Bruce Moffat, the executive director of the charity, to find out a little more about them. Here's some of what he told us:
When does VSWR get involved? Victim Services staff and volunteers work with victims and witnesses of crimes and other violent events. The most frequent category of VSWR interventions are in cases of domestic and intimate partner violence: this covers about 46% of VSWR cases, which is fairly consistent across the province. Other frequent intervention scenarios are tragic circumstances (e.g. sudden death or suicide of a friend / family member) and sexual violence-related occurrences.
Immediate crisis intervention and wrap-around support. In the immediate aftermath of one of these situations, VSWR staff and volunteers make sure that those involved in the incident have the support that they need. This includes connecting people with longer-term support from the relevant social services, depending on their needs. VSWR volunteers also help with "wrap-around care", filling in the gaps not covered by other services and ensuring that their clients are being cared for; this can include services like checking in after referrals elsewhere to make sure that everything went well, taking clients to appointments, extensive safety planning, and needs assessment.
How many cases does VSWR deal with? In 2018 the service supported 2658 individuals; that includes direct victims, immediate family members, witnesses, as well as people who are exposed to trauma in their work (i.e. first responders, journalists, etc.)
How large is the organization? VSWR is one of forty-seven victim services organizations across the province. They have three offices that operate out of the regional police stations, and four full-time staff together with sixty-four volunteers.
In case of a December 6th-type event, how would VSWR be involved? Victim Services would be called in to support both witnesses and direct victims; their presence as intercessors means that emergency responders can concentrate on their tasks. This support would also include plenty of follow-up afterwards to ensure that their clients are taken care of, and may include some limited financial support for counselling, funeral costs, etc.
After the initial event, VSWR would also work with "tertiary victims": people who weren't directly involved in nor witnesses to the event, but have been impacted by the media coverage around it. They also provide referrals for counselling and other support services for courtroom officers (such as jurors) and news reporters who have been required to dwell on the events.
VSWR does important work in our community, and KWLT is pleased to partner with them and support their mission. If you would like to support them as well, buy tickets to this Friday's performance of The December Man (l'homme de décembre) or donate to them directly.