Who We Are…
The Victim Crisis Assistance and Referral Service (VCARS) is a non-profit organization which trains volunteers to provide immediate assistance in an emergency to victims of crime or tragic circumstances. Subsequent to the emergency response, the volunteers provide continuing follow-up services to appropriate community organizations.
The VCARS program involved approximately 400 volunteers and over 200 000 volunteer hours last year. In total, they responded to more than 5,000 incidents.
Where Do We Operate?
The VCARS service began on a pilot basis in four communities: Bradford, Toronto, Kingston and Sault Ste. Marie. Later expansions saw the program grow to encompass all of Simcoe County, encompassing Barrie Police Service, Midland Police Service, South Simcoe Police Services, and the Ontario Provincial Police Detachments for Barrie, Midland & Penetang, Collingwood, Huronia West and Nottawasaga. All VCARS programs are community based, and managed by community organizations, usually through a board of directors selected locally.
How Are We Funded?
The VCARS program is funded through the Victim Justice Fund, administered by the Ministry of the Solicitor General. Funding is also provided by the Ministry of the Solicitor General.
When Are We Available?
VCARS operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Police officers called to the scene of a crime have the option of calling the VCARS service in their area which will send out a team of volunteer service providers for on-site, short-term assistance. In addition to providing comfort and immediate support for the victim, the volunteers allow police officers to continue with other duties. In subsequent follow-up contacts the volunteers can continue to provide support, and can refer the victim to appropriate community organizations.
Who is a Victim?
A victim is any person whose life has been affected by a crime or a tragedy/disaster. These include the primary victim, the victim’s family and children, partner, grandparents, friends, co-workers, other significant persons to the victim, witnesses, bystanders, and many, many more.
Victimizing events tend to be of high intensity and short duration. Reactions to a crisis can vary from person to person. Generally, intense feelings of fear, helplessness, hopelessness, vulnerability and others can lead to frustration as victims struggle to cope with countless changes brought about be sudden losses and sadness.
It is normal to have a response or feelings in the aftermath of the event. Having an opportunity to talk about these feelings and reactions in an atmosphere of support may be the first step toward recovery and becoming mobilized. Talking can offer an opportunity to begin to accept the reality of the tragedy.
What Type of Situations Do We Respond To?
We will generally assist anyone who calls us. The incidents ranging from homicides to abductions and from car accidents to spousal assaults. Between 60 and 80 percent of all calls involve domestic violence, and about 70 percent of the victims helped by VCARS were women.