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HomeNewsArchivesVICTIM ADVOCATE GROUP MARKS 20 YEARS

VICTIM ADVOCATE GROUP MARKS 20 YEARS

April 4, 2001 — The numbers may have changed, but basic needs remain the same for the St. Thomas Victim Advocate program as it celebrates its 20th year. "We started with about 200 cases in 1981," says Lynn Falkenthal, program director, "and last year we had about 4,000."
The program provides a necessary link for a person who has been victimized and doesn't know where to turn. Often the victim needs guidance with police procedures, medical care, the court system, or simply a safe place to stay during a traumatic situation.
Falkenthal, who has directed the program since its inception, says, "We intervene during a crisis, and offer a helping hand." That could extend to airfare for victims off-island to return for a court case, or just a warm and sympathetic ear, Falkenthal says. The program is open to anyone, resident or visitor.
Falkenthal makes the point that the victims aren't necessarily women, though the majority are. "This isn't a gender program," she stresses. "Our training here used to be directed primarily toward rape victims. I don't think the program should be gender-specific — it should be for all victims.
"You can't pick your victims; their needs are all the same, male or female. That's why our program is dedicated to helping any victim, survivor or witness of violent crime."
The advocates get calls from the police, the emergency room, the Attorney General's Office, or simply somebody needing help themselves. Falkenthal acts as chief dispatcher to a staff that currently numbers about 14 volunteers, though the numbers have changed over the years. The nonprofit program depends on volunteers and outside funding. The program has no official office; Falkenthal does the dispatching out of her home.
"Our first class was about 40," said Falkenthal, who received training at the national Victim Advocates academy in Washington, D.C. Training for the advocates is stringent and time-consuming. It involves 40 hours of academics, taught at the Roy L. Schneider Hospital, and an internship of 10 cases with a senior advocate. After that, comes a referral and an exit interview. "They have to be dedicated," Falkenthal says.
The volunteers come in all ages from high school students to senior citizens. "I can't really say a certain background or age group," Falkenthat notes. "I think God is a main component, along with a willingness to help."
As for helping the victims, she says, "We provide the garden, but they have to do the growing, the healing, themselves."
Fallkenthal says that one change she has seen is more phone calls coming in after the fact. This is especially true in the island's current increase in rape cases. "It's hard to say if there's more rapes, or if it's being reported more," she says, "but, whatever, it's a serious problem. It needs some legislation with teeth in it."
"About eight years ago everybody working together — the police, the advocacy program and the Attorney General's Office — seemed to have a more cohesive view of victimization, and how to be cognizant of the needs of victims and witnesses or the survivors of homicide and violent crime. And now I think because of overwork and under staffing the cohesiveness isn't what it should be."
Illustrating her point, Falkenthal says, "We used to have empathy and sensitivity classes for the police recruits. It worked really well for a time. We made great inroads about 10 years ago training the officers, and it helped them get a better-positioned witness."
However, the police involvement has lessened in the past few years, she says, adding that the Police Department invited her on such short notice last year that she wasn't able to attend.
One unresolved case still causes Falkenthal anguish. Glenn Callan, whose father Murray Callan was shot to death more than six years ago on the Long Bay road while walking with friends to a video store, has been to the territory 17 times through three different administrations trying to obtain justice for his father's death.
"We've had promises of action from three governors, and the case is still in limbo. It's in continuance right now," she says with a sigh of frustration.
The program, perennially short of funds, runs on a bare-bones budget. It is funded by the United Way and the Peter Gruber Foundation along with two major island fund-raisers, the Womens' Jogger Jam, now in its 19th year, and a fall golf tournament.
"Marty Goldberg, who owns the Fruit Bowl, came to me 19 years ago," says Falkenthal, "and said he wanted to do something. So the Jogger Jam was born." The always-popular event is two one-mile laps around the road behind the Schneider hospital, starting and ending at the Fruit Bowl in Wheatley Plaza. Participants pay a $5 entrance fee which is matched by another $5 from the Fruit Bowl for each finisher.
Falkenthal said last year the event raised about $4,000, and the golf tournament raised about $7,000.
If you are a victim, call the police at 911 and tell them what happened, or call the Emergency Room at 776-8311, and they can call an advocate for you, Falkenthal says, or call 690-4357 (690-HELP).

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April 4, 2001 -- The numbers may have changed, but basic needs remain the same for the St. Thomas Victim Advocate program as it celebrates its 20th year. "We started with about 200 cases in 1981," says Lynn Falkenthal, program director, "and last year we had about 4,000."
The program provides a necessary link for a person who has been victimized and doesn't know where to turn. Often the victim needs guidance with police procedures, medical care, the court system, or simply a safe place to stay during a traumatic situation.
Falkenthal, who has directed the program since its inception, says, "We intervene during a crisis, and offer a helping hand." That could extend to airfare for victims off-island to return for a court case, or just a warm and sympathetic ear, Falkenthal says. The program is open to anyone, resident or visitor.
Falkenthal makes the point that the victims aren't necessarily women, though the majority are. "This isn't a gender program," she stresses. "Our training here used to be directed primarily toward rape victims. I don't think the program should be gender-specific -- it should be for all victims.
"You can't pick your victims; their needs are all the same, male or female. That's why our program is dedicated to helping any victim, survivor or witness of violent crime."
The advocates get calls from the police, the emergency room, the Attorney General's Office, or simply somebody needing help themselves. Falkenthal acts as chief dispatcher to a staff that currently numbers about 14 volunteers, though the numbers have changed over the years. The nonprofit program depends on volunteers and outside funding. The program has no official office; Falkenthal does the dispatching out of her home.
"Our first class was about 40," said Falkenthal, who received training at the national Victim Advocates academy in Washington, D.C. Training for the advocates is stringent and time-consuming. It involves 40 hours of academics, taught at the Roy L. Schneider Hospital, and an internship of 10 cases with a senior advocate. After that, comes a referral and an exit interview. "They have to be dedicated," Falkenthal says.
The volunteers come in all ages from high school students to senior citizens. "I can't really say a certain background or age group," Falkenthat notes. "I think God is a main component, along with a willingness to help."
As for helping the victims, she says, "We provide the garden, but they have to do the growing, the healing, themselves."
Fallkenthal says that one change she has seen is more phone calls coming in after the fact. This is especially true in the island's current increase in rape cases. "It's hard to say if there's more rapes, or if it's being reported more," she says, "but, whatever, it's a serious problem. It needs some legislation with teeth in it."
"About eight years ago everybody working together -- the police, the advocacy program and the Attorney General's Office -- seemed to have a more cohesive view of victimization, and how to be cognizant of the needs of victims and witnesses or the survivors of homicide and violent crime. And now I think because of overwork and under staffing the cohesiveness isn't what it should be."
Illustrating her point, Falkenthal says, "We used to have empathy and sensitivity classes for the police recruits. It worked really well for a time. We made great inroads about 10 years ago training the officers, and it helped them get a better-positioned witness."
However, the police involvement has lessened in the past few years, she says, adding that the Police Department invited her on such short notice last year that she wasn't able to attend.
One unresolved case still causes Falkenthal anguish. Glenn Callan, whose father Murray Callan was shot to death more than six years ago on the Long Bay road while walking with friends to a video store, has been to the territory 17 times through three different administrations trying to obtain justice for his father's death.
"We've had promises of action from three governors, and the case is still in limbo. It's in continuance right now," she says with a sigh of frustration.
The program, perennially short of funds, runs on a bare-bones budget. It is funded by the United Way and the Peter Gruber Foundation along with two major island fund-raisers, the Womens' Jogger Jam, now in its 19th year, and a fall golf tournament.
"Marty Goldberg, who owns the Fruit Bowl, came to me 19 years ago," says Falkenthal, "and said he wanted to do something. So the Jogger Jam was born." The always-popular event is two one-mile laps around the road behind the Schneider hospital, starting and ending at the Fruit Bowl in Wheatley Plaza. Participants pay a $5 entrance fee which is matched by another $5 from the Fruit Bowl for each finisher.
Falkenthal said last year the event raised about $4,000, and the golf tournament raised about $7,000.
If you are a victim, call the police at 911 and tell them what happened, or call the Emergency Room at 776-8311, and they can call an advocate for you, Falkenthal says, or call 690-4357 (690-HELP).