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WCSO Victim Advocates handle many issues

Tucked in the left hand corner of the new Wakulla County Sheriff’s Office Annex are two desks with staff members who don’t wear uniforms, but they often get involved when a case is being investigated.
They are not sworn law enforcement officers but they know the background of many case investigations that the law enforcement staff housed inside the same building have been working on.

They are the WCSO Victim Advocates, Paige Strickland and Stacy Harvey. The two advocates work individually or in a team depending on the circumstances. They believe close communications is a very effective way to serve the community.

 

The two women are funded through the federal Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) grant that is supplied through the Florida Attorney General’s office.
A nurse in a previous employment, Paige Strickland has been helping Wakulla County victims of crimes for 18 months. Stacy Harvey is newer to the job. With her social services background, Stacy Harvey has been a Victim Advocate for a little more than three months.

Strickland is a mother of three children and her husband Rocky is employed by the Wakulla County Sheriff’s Office as a detention deputy. Harvey is a single mom with one son. While Strickland has a nursing background, Harvey has a background in social services and food and nutrition. She has also served as a school volunteer.

Mondays usually bring the Victim Advocates lots of activities as they are in the middle of assisting victims of crime from over the weekend. But their work isn’t always related to helping victims. On a mid-afternoon visit, Strickland and Harvey assisted a family who needed a battery replacement for a Project Lifesaver transmitter.

On this particular day the battery was replaced so that the client could be found if she walked away from her home or family members. After helping the family, Strickland brought the visitors over to Sheriff Charlie Creel’s office where their wish to meet the Sheriff of Wakulla County could be granted. The Victim Advocate served her client while also making her very happy to meet the sheriff.

Harvey’s background for helping the public came through the Wakulla County Coalition for Youth and the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization. She has discovered first-hand about the social needs in Wakulla County.
Strickland spent a chunk of her life working in the medical field in the emergency room and in radiation therapy at a hospital. She considered her patients as “victims of the crime of cancer.”
Harvey added that her clients with Big Brothers Big Sisters were also victimized in their lives in one way or another.

“We work closely together,” said Strickland. “It’s nice to be about to communicate and know what the other person is working on.”
Juvenile sex cases and domestic batteries are two areas where the Victim Advocates find themselves on a regular basis.

“We might get called out to transport someone to the Refuge House or we may be able to offer support for victims of fires or assist with hospital runs when care is required,” said Strickland.
“Every day is a little bit different,” said Harvey. “It’s rewarding to help somebody get out of a bad situation and get them the resources they need to heal.”

The Victim Advocates may get involved with someone who has become a victim of a fraud or identity theft case. Strickland and Harvey may have to help a victim of a fraud on more than one occasion as they fight to regain their stolen identity.

Victims in sex crimes may need a place to stay or transportation to a doctor and the Victim Advocates are there. “In some cases there isn’t anyone to take care of them,” said Strickland. “It has been a real eye opener at times. I knew some people lived hour to hour but I didn’t realize they lived that way all their lives.”

Harvey knows that the need for help is great in Wakulla County through her experiences with the Coalition for Youth. With Operation Santa at the holidays, residents have asked for blankets and basic necessities, not just frivolous items. “I know we had one family ask for a bed because they had four kids sharing a bed,” said Harvey.

The Victim Advocates can help lead clients in the right direction as they file for insurance due to injuries, file injunctions, counseling and safety planning for when an individual is released from jail.
“It takes courage to walk away,” said Strickland. “In domestic violence cases, statistically the victim won’t leave until the seventh time. We are constantly following up with victims.”

The Victim Advocates may work with family members following suicides or unattended deaths. “You never know what you will be called upon to do,” said Strickland. “I had a case where I finished decorating a birthday cake when a female needed to be taken to the hospital following a death in the family. I knew I could do that for her.”

Sometimes the job requires the advocates to provide transportation to the Children’s Home Society for juveniles to be interviewed or helping out as was the case with the Project Lifesaver battery replacement situation. Strickland said the Lifesaver program is outstanding and those wanting to take advantage of the service should contact the Wakulla County Senior Citizens Center first. But Project Lifesaver is available to young individuals who need the service as well. The advocates have also found themselves taking care of animals.

“You have to be open and willing to listen,” said Strickland. “Our goal is to get them to the people who can help.”
Is the end result worth all the required effort? Both Strickland and Harvey give a resounding yes. “I can’t see myself walking away,” said Strickland. “I’m kind of hooked now.”

“It is absolutely worth the effort,” added Harvey. “The most important thing is to always follow through.”
“Their work is the behind the scenes, unsung work for the agency, but work that is critical to the citizens of our county,” said Sheriff Charlie Creel. “At the Wakulla County Sheriff’s Office we are all together in our mission to continue to improve the quality of life for our citizens. Our Victim Advocates are a big part of that.”

 

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