When a loved one is taken from you in the most horrific of circumstances, many people are unsure how to respond to the victim’s family. That’s quite understandable and many convey that they don’t know exactly what to say.
Watch: Women and violence: the hidden numbers. Post continues after video.
Without hesitation, I would say the volume and sincerity of support from family, friends and work colleagues is essential just to carry on. I found community and media support was, in general, also a great help.
That is the personal side of victim support. But what about how the state and wider community response and what is available?
We have a saying in Victoria that the best available victim support is other victims. To that end, there is a wide collective of other families supporting each other, especially if the circumstances of your tragedy bear similarities. It is indeed true that if you do not walk in these shoes, you may not fully understand.
The downside is that this drawing of victims to each other - while certainly therapeutic – is also forced upon us by a lack of state support or at the very lease an uncoordinated response.
A complete void in victim support is that no effective support exists to guide victims through the legal and court process. While the police do on occasions fill this void, their primary role is to catch the violent offenders. Which they do well.
Other agencies, such as the Office of Public Prosecutions, is more interested in pushing their own pursuit of cases. In Victoria, this resonates with all victims and their families that I encounter.
Even more confusing in Victoria is the actual office of the Victims of Crime Commissioner. A call from this agency will tell you that they cannot act on your behalf but are supposed to make systemic changes to the treatment of victims. All victims are confused with this approach, especially when it appears no change is being affected.