Aftermath Awards COVA Scholarship Grant to Victim Advocate Nicole Deines
This week we’re showcasing the winning essays we received in response to our very first COVA Scholarship Grant. Like our Why We Serve service grant for law enforcement, the COVA grant rewards individuals who are on the front lines in our communities, working hard to help families in crisis. In partnership with the Colorado Organization for Victim Assistance, this grant was specifically geared toward victims advocates living and working in Colorado.
Aftermath selected two winners from the pool of applicants; they are Nicole Deines and Debbie Lewis. Each received $500 toward improving the resources available to Colorado families in need.
Today we share Nicole Deines’ essay. Nicole is a former volunteer with the Jefferson County Sheriffs Office and a victim advocate with Victim Outreach Inc., which provides “crisis intervention, information about victims’ rights, support in navigating the criminal justice system and referrals to help clients deal with the resulting trauma and life changes they experience as a result of their victimization.” Read Nicole’s story to discover more about the role of a victim advocate:
Nicole Deines, Victim Advocate
On Christmas Day, December 2016, I was working at an Acute Crisis Stabilization Facility when one of the patients assaulted another patient and threatened the staff. There was blood spanning the entire length of the residential facility that required clean up afterwards and, due to an error, the staff was listed as witnesses to the assault rather than victims of the threats. As I spent Christmas Day cleaning up that blood, it seemed unfair and exhausting following the day we just had. Another employee advised me that she used to volunteer as a victim advocate and was able to provide resources and referrals to agencies like Aftermath Services, who would assist with cleaning up after an incident like this. Shortly after, I began volunteering at the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, and then was afforded the opportunity to accept a paid position with Victim Outreach Inc. This individual’s behavior on Christmas was attributed partially to mental health symptoms, but these symptoms were escalated by substance abuse.
As a Victim Advocate, it is my role and my passion to support the community in gaining self-sufficiency following an uncontrollable event. I have found crime victims can be the most resilient population, but the most impacted population as well. Many crime victims struggle with substance abuse as a means to cope with the trauma that they have experienced. Unfortunately, many crime victims rate high for various risk factors, such as poverty, lack of education, unemployment, and lack of access to resources. While a Victim Advocate can help provide some of these resources, most of these crime victims are not contacted soon enough for various reasons, and symptoms of mental health and substance abuse can escalate dramatically. Mental health and substance abuse are also static risk factors that may predict future victimization.
I want to continue to be the best advocate I can for my community and this grant will further help my work as an advocate as I pursue my Licensed Addiction Counselor education. This education is inclusive of 12 classes, ranging in price from $105 to $240 per class. With this licensure, I can further my advocacy efforts and better understand how to support crime victims who may use or abuse substances as a coping mechanism. My goal is to be able to impact the lives of crime victims through alternate methods that will support a more healthy and adaptive lifestyle post-victimization.
Unlike many victim advocate agencies, Victim Outreach Inc., is a non-profit and does not have the funds to support continuing education like government agencies are able to. Many of us work extensive overtime as required by our job duties and the victims we serve, and I would appreciate the opportunity to use this service grant to continue to aid and help those victims through a lens that is more specific to their needs and what they are experiencing.
Nicole Deines was one of two recipients of this year’s COVA Scholarship Grant. You can read about Debbie Lewis, the other winner, on this page.
Aftermath is a proud supporter of victim advocates and other first responders who are dedicated to assisting families in crisis. If you are an advocate, or work for an organization like COVA that helps individuals locate resources to cope with traumatic situations, we’d love to hear your story. Please drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us about your work. We’d love to know how we can help promote your efforts and better support your local community.