Student Impacts Community With Victim Studies Services
Jan. 24, 2020
SHSU Media Contact: Veronica Gonzalez Hoff
“The measure of a Life is its Service” is not just a motto, but a commitment by Sam Houston State University and its students to serve the community. Online Victim Studies major Natalie Hays used an online Academic Community Engagement (ACE) course as an opportunity to combine service and passion to support victims in Leon County.
Clinical Associate Professor Mary Breaux’s course, Victim Service Delivery, examined community and individual services provided to crime victims and how victim advocacy is positioned within the formal systems of criminal justice. The course encourages students to collaborate with organizations in their community and use their skills and knowledge to help make a difference. Pursuing her degree online, Hays chose to work locally with the Leon County Domestic Violence Advocate program and provide support in their many needs.
“We're very rural, and one of the main parts of my research is the difficulty that rural communities face with getting services like victim service,” Hays said. “Also, because of the confidentiality in the services that they give, a lot of people don't know about the programming options they offer and where they can give or provide support.”
Leon County, like many other victim service organizations, are allotted limited money in grants every year and rely on donations and support from within the community. Hays took the initiative to compile a list of those in the surrounding community and formally sent letters soliciting support. The Leon County Domestic Violence Advocate Program saw immediate responses and inquiries for more information on how they could help.
Hays also took the initiative to organize outreach and care kit materials for the program. A shortage of available volunteers means simple things like keeping their storage unit organized, can fall by the wayside. The agency keeps packed care kits on hand with essentials such as clothing to offer those who go the local emergency rooms for sexual assault.
“They collect everything, even clothes as evidence. They have kits that are ready to go for the victim whenever they leave the hospital,” she explained. “There's only a handful of active advocates that are available to help. Having active volunteers is important.”
Hays currently works for a lawyer in Madisonville and hopes to continue working with victims as a volunteer advocate and eventually full time as a victim services coordinator when the opportunity arises.
“I was really looking for something that would prepare me to be involved with helping people. I saw the [victim studies online] program and applied for it and then I started getting involved with the domestic violence office,” she said. “I got involved with them because I want to impact my community and the people around me. That's why I chose this program.”
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