XENIA, Ohio (WDTN) – Greene County Prosecutor’s Office is asking volunteer advocates to step in and offer supplemental support to community members in crisis.
Greene County Prosecutor David Hayes said the purpose of the county’s volunteer victim witness program is to provide a knowledgeable and compassionate support system for victims interacting with the criminal justice system.
“Believe it or not, there was a time when the criminal justice system was not very friendly to victims of crime,” he said. “So in the early 1980s, our office started a victim witness program specifically to help victims understand and make their way through the criminal justice system.”
That program utilizes community volunteers who sign up for on-call shifts that allow them to show up for victims in times of need.
“What is expected is that volunteers make themselves available for three call outs a month, and those are after hours call outs to hospitals, police departments and other safe spaces to provide support for victims of crime. In addition, they may be asked to sit with crime victims and their families during the course of a criminal trial.”
Teri Lajeunesse, director of the victim witness division and advocate of more than 40 years, said community members don’t need a special skill set or education level — just a commitment to complete 18 hours of training and a strong desire to help others in some of their most difficult moments.
“It’s quite important I think, for an individual who has experienced any kind of trauma,” said Lajeunesse. “It’s having somebody that is knowledgeable, but also, just essentially providing some kind of compassionate support to help them through the process.”
In addition to compassion in those challenging moments, Hayes said the advocates can also help families start on the road to recovery.
“There are a lot of services for crime victims that a lot of people don’t know about that our advocates do know about and they can point them in the right direction,” he said.
While the prosecutor’s office said they aren’t looking for any particular qualifications, or education level, applicants must be at least 18-years-old and go through extensive reference and background checks in order to be accepted as an advocate.
To apply to become a volunteer, contact outreach coordinator Shelley White, at 937-768-5726.