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Turning Good into Greater Good

Crime Victim Center is a 2018 SOS grantee.  This organization empowers people impacted by crime to move from crisis to resiliency by providing resources, counseling, advocacy and referral for thousands of victims of crime and their families.  We hope you are inspired by these real life impact stories.

He wasn’t a stranger, hiding in the shadows of some dark alley.

It hadn’t been some random occurrence, a terrifying attack along a darkened city street.

No, her sexual assault had been very different from those she’d been warned about her whole life.

Carrie’s rapist had been a boy she thought she knew – a young man she thought she could trust.

And because he went to her university, she had to see him – to look at the face that reminded her of her trauma – every single day.

She tried asking her university for protection. Still, he persisted – reminding her constantly that he was close and there was nothing she could do about it.

With limited financial resources, and no means of protecting herself, Carrie felt desperate. She turned to the Crime Victim Center for help.

“A young woman came to us who needed an order of protection. She had gone through the school’s process for protection from her rapist and stalker and the young man wouldn’t comply,” said Katherine Wessling, managing attorney at the Crime Victim Center. “She needed to go through the civil court system. She found us, and she found a lot of solace here.”

Although Carrie came to the Crime Victim Center to seek help from their legal assistance program, she also received support from the agency’s counseling program.

“She found a counselor here who made her much better equipped to deal with her trauma,” Wessling said. “Having a trauma-informed lawyer made a difference.”

Over the course of more than a year, Wessling and the counselors at the Crime Victim Center supported Carrie as her case made its way through the civil court system.

“Her stalker came from a family who had money and they appealed the original ruling, but we were fortunate that the court of appeals upheld our order of protection,” Wessling said. “She would never have been able to afford these services.”

Despite her trauma, Carrie was able to finish her degree program at the university with support from her counselor.

The Crime Victim Center, formerly known as the Crime Victim Advocacy Center, serves more than 7,000 people like Carrie every year, said Marti Kelly, executive director.

The Center, a 2018 Spirit of St. Louis Women’s Fund grantee, works to help move victims of crimes from crisis to resiliency.

They do this with a 14-member staff committed to providing crime victims with legal assistance, counseling and victim advocacy.

In St. Louis city and county, for instance, the Crime Victim Center provides outreach to crime victims through the police departments.

Victim Advocate Hope Hopwood calls victims of domestic violence and connects them with different resources within the community. She also helps them develop a safety plan.

In a year’s time, she works with more than 1,000 victims.

Crime Victim Center staff members are also stationed in the St. Louis city and county civil courts buildings specifically to help victims obtain orders of protection.

Even when crimes are not solved or prosecuted, the agency offers their free services, whether the individual has been a victim of a carjacking, burglary, robbery, arson or assault, or is a family member or friend of a homicide victim.

Because some of their advocacy programs are specific to domestic violence victims, roughly 60 percent of their clients are victims of that crime, Kelly said.

Though the Crime Victim Center provides services to individuals affected by crimes committed in St. Louis city and county, and Jefferson, St. Charles, Warren, Franklin and Lincoln counties, their legal help line gets calls from all over the country.

People can call the help line to speak with an advocate about legal questions. But only those living in the seven-counties above can receive civil legal assistance from the in-house attorney.

“We serve all those counties with people who are seeking orders of protection or need help in family law situations,” Wessling said.

Because crimes often leave behind lasting trauma, the agency also offers free counseling to adults and children who have been the victim of a crime.

“We’ve seen family members of suicide/homicides where a perpetrator killed his family and then killed himself,” said Peggy Tyson, director of clinical services. “We see a lot of homicide victim family members.”

The Crime Victim Center, which was founded in 1972, now has a team of licensed clinicians on their counseling staff. Thanks to a grant from SOS, they were able to add a male counselor to their all-female team.

“The funding allowed us to hire us a male counselor so it helped us bring some diversity to our staff and also allows us to bring some diversity with our counselor so we can say would you prefer a male or a female,” said Katie Dalton, director of programs and volunteers/grantwriter.

Narrative developed for Spirit of St. Louis Women’s Fund by Bethany Prange of 618 Creative. Photos by Cintia Hecht of 618 Creative and Julie Lay for Crime Victim Center.

*Some names have been changed to protect the identity of some clients.

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