City support group helps those suffering mental health trauma following violent crime

Published: Dec. 2, 2021 at 11:28 PM EST
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - As Richmond police continue to battle a growing number of violent crimes in the city, there’s an increasing concern about those who are impacted the hardest by all of the violence.

The latest example happened Thursday morning after a man was shot multiple times in broad daylight in the 2100 block of Third Avenue near Willow Road.

So far this year, there have been more than 75 homicides in Richmond, but experts say no matter the crime, it’s clear that the trauma that follows after the crime scene is taken down is real and often unaddressed.

“Everyone is fearful of going places and fearful of what is this day going to bring,” said Ester Marshall. “We saw a need because there were so many people hurting, and there was no place for them to go to express their grief.”

Marshall is a victim-witness specialist supervisor with the city’s Victim Witness Support Program. The role of the program is to reduce the trauma of victimization and encourage crime victims and witnesses to cooperate with and participate in the criminal justice system.

The program assists crime victims in completing victims’ compensation fund, claim applications, provides court date notification and other assistance required by the Crime Victim and Witness Rights Act.

“Most people don’t even know what the witness program is until they have a need; until someone is dead, someone is raped, someone is hurt,” said Marshall. “Then they know who we are.”

The support group meets on the first Wednesday of every month with those affected by violent crime. They work hand in hand with various mental health professionals, educators, and church groups, including the New Life Deliverance Tabernacle, to help victims of all crimes work through the mental health trauma experienced after they happen.

“There’s a group of people that have that compassion, that have that love, that says I can relate because it has happened to them or others. And they are all ready and willing and able to extend their tentacles into the community - to be ready to assist and help others,” said Pastor Robert Winfree.

There is a victim support group in every locality in the Commonwealth. Still, recently, Richmond’s support group was recognized by the Virginia Victim’s Fund as a leading example for other localities to follow.

“We want to show the trauma victims that somebody really cares and really understands and wants to help them,” said Marshall.

If you or someone you know is experiencing trauma from crime in the city, you’re asked to reach out to the support program at 804-646-7665. For more resources, click HERE.

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