City launches new victim assistance website
Last updated 3/30/2021 at 9:51am
Often overlooked in the criminal process are the victims, people whose lives are instantly altered through no choice of their own.
The City of Pittsburgh's Public Safety Department is working to help victims of crime through the Office of Victim Assistance Services, which connects victims to any type of service they might need, including crisis intervention, referrals, information and advocacy.
"As a victim of crime, you've just experienced trauma, an unexpected trauma," said Victim Services Coordinator Alexandra Abboud. "At the flip of a switch, your whole life has changed-the way you see the world, the way you interact with the world, the way you lived your day to life has changed. And (victims) don't know where to go and they don't what to do. They need guidance to get them through this and to say, okay, what is our next step?"
Ms. Abboud checks crime reports daily to identify victims of crime, contact them and offer support. Any other victims seeking resources can now find it on the city's newly-launched Victim Assistance website, https://bit.ly/3fn9yTW, which provides contacts to the office and numerous other city and regional resources.
"Victims of crime experience trauma from the incident itself and trauma from the barriers encountered when accessing systems that were created to provide support and resources," said Shatara Murphy, Public Safety assistant director, Community Affairs.
"The Victim Assistance Office is the support that families need, helping to eliminate some of those barriers and connect them to service providers and support. This isn't just a warm hand off. The office is dedicated to the victim and their family and will be by their side throughout the process. When Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich created this office and asked me to manage it, we were clear that we didn't just want to be another resource. We will serve as a partner to the community and we are committed to that partnership."
Mayor William Peduto said the effort is part of the city's goal of helping all residents.
"Public Safety provides many services but at the department's heart is one main goal, and that is to be there for people in need of help. Having a coordinator in place whose sole job is providing assistance to victims is a major part of the City's efforts to give help to all, and especially those who are most vulnerable," Mayor Peduto said.
Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich said he is proud of the work of the Victims Assistance Office, as it speaks to the city- and department-wide desire to put others first.
"Public Safety is a dynamic department that doesn't only include First Responders who save lives daily in times of urgency and emergency," Director Hissrich said. "It also includes compassionate people who methodically consider the long-term needs of those who need help, and then take steps to provide it."
Ms. Abboud, who started in her position on Aug. 3, 2020, said her goal is to help victims throughout the process, which often means multiple follow-up contacts.
"They need somebody to talk to, somebody to listen to them and say, 'I'm here for you. I got you, I'm on your side. What are your needs? We'll get through this together," she said.