When you first meet Carla and listen to her describing her work, you cannot help but feel the passion and empathy she has for the work and the people she helps through the Ladysmith RCMP Victim Services program.
This young woman goes above and beyond what would normally be assigned to a Victim Services worker. Carla is the only paid staff, with two qualified volunteer aides and a third case worker being trained to assist her. As the program manager, she is the client case manager for the entire program. In effect, she is paid as a part-time worker but is working a full-time job. She is on call 24/7 for crisis intervention — a job she is currently doing as a volunteer herself.
Carla’s first involvement with a file comes primarily from direct referral by the police, but clients may come to her program from a 24-hour-a-day crisis intervention service, or at the request of the fire department, hospital or the BC Coroner Service. She can be called out for crisis intervention to provide emotional support on-scene with the RCMP, for anything ranging from notifying next-of-kin and guiding people through the trauma of sudden death to assisting a sexual assault victim, attending motor vehicle accidents and arranging for crime scene cleanup. She is often involved in domestic violence cases, assisting with safety planning, transportation and accompaniment to safe homes and/or the hospital.
Victim Services also provides operational support to police in regards to client case management and liaison with clients, followup to ensure clients have received good care and information, on-scene support, group case briefings, and speaking with clients as they attend the detachment to meet with police. Should a client require assistance through the judicial process, Carla is there, assisting the victim by completing a victim impact statement and updating them as the process evolves. She provides assistance through the judicial process — court updates, court preparation and accompaniment, explaining the processes, and helping wherever she can. Carla is well-trained for this position, but listening to her talk about the people she has helped shows another softer, caring side, one which has to go home each night to her family and carry on in as normal a manner as any wife and mother.
One family’s experience of being on the receiving end of the important work provided by our local RCMP Victim Services is shared by a local woman who suffered the unexpected loss of a young grandchild. The writer describes herself as very strong and capable. As a citizen, she has stepped up in times of emergency situations and taken charge to get people the help they needed, but “Nothing,” she said, “not one thing in my previous experience could have prepared me for what took place in my own home.”
Her daughter and grandson were spending Christmas with them. The day was wonderful, peaceful and happy, fun and full of laughter and joy. The family watched a movie together, and he was allowed to stay up a little later. When he went to bed, she went in to say goodnight and he talked about how grateful he was for all his gifts and for the fun day. He said “It was the best Christmas ever.” She kissed him goodnight and went upstairs to bed.
Just before midnight, they were awakened from sleep by their daughter screaming “Mom! Help! Come quick! It’s bad! Oh God, Mom, it’s bad! Oh, please God, help!” Not knowing what they would find, they raced downstairs to find their grandson unconscious, not breathing, with no heartbeat, no pulse, pupils fixed.
She went into rescue mode, called 9-1-1 and began CPR. She yelled to her husband over her daughter’s painful, blood-curdling screams to “get her outside; I need to be able to work and hear the 9-1-1 operator.”
When it’s your child, your family member, your loved one, it doesn’t matter how much you know and how much experience you have; there is a war going on in your head between your heart breaking, listening to your daughter scream for her baby to come back, and doing everything in your power and knowledge with guidance from 9-1-1 to bring this child back, make him take a breath, cough himself into consciousness. Your brain can only take in so much as you cope.
It took 20 minutes for the RCMP to arrive with two ambulances.
She passed off to the ambulance crew, ran out of the room and was sick. She dashed upstairs to get some clean clothes on and ran back outside to her still-screaming daughter, begging, terrified, in complete horror, and in an effort to cope, she became numb. She had medical training and experience, but as a mother first, she could do nothing to help her child, she could do nothing to help her grandchild. She was helpless.
With the two police officers in attendance, the ambulance crews valiantly attempted to revive him. A sickening reality was creeping in, yet none of them could speak it. Feeling detached from their bodies, they listened as one of the attendants said they were going to transport him where they could use more equipment. “We’ll do everything we can.” A young male police officer who was stifling his emotions said the police had to stay at the scene, but he would radio for a car to escort the family to the hospital. A car arrived, and they raced to the hospital behind the RCMP escort, numb, disconnected, lost.
The hospital was quiet that night, and they were taken into an emergency room. She recalled upon entering the room that there were two purses and jackets on the floor by the door. She was not sure why that registered, but it did. Chairs appeared behind their legs, and they were helped to be seated as they watched and listened as the emergency team attempted magic. Within 10 minutes, the emergency room doctor asked the pediatrician, “We’ve done everything. Do you want to make the call?”
“No one prepares you for these kinds of crisis events. Two ladies from RCMP Victim Services were there for us. They introduced themselves and began to explain their role and what was going to happen next. None of us were cognizant of what was going on. We were barely taking in what they were telling us. All control was ripped from us at midnight when our daughter found her son in that state. We were sleep-deprived, deeply traumatized and in excruciating pain.
These two ladies knew everything we needed before we asked. They helped to draw us out of the maelstrom of the horror story that had suddenly become our lives. We can’t even begin to describe the details of all that they did for us. We were physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually thrust into an inability to think, make sentences, or speak from a place of understanding for the first two to three hours. What I can tell you is they helped soften the blow of having to deal with the coroner. There is no preparation for that. They took us to get fresh air, to talk, answered questions and provided direction. They stuck by us throughout our nightmare, communicating with the RCMP Investigation Team on our behalf. We absolutely could not have come through this, known what direction to go, understood and made sense of ‘what comes next’ without these two women.
I would never wish this kind of trauma on anyone, but if you don’t know what it’s like, you can’t possibly understand how desperately this service is needed, and how enormously their support is appreciated.
Anyone could wake to find a parent, a partner or a child gone in the blink of an eye. I can guarantee that in those terrifying and sickening moments of trauma, you can’t begin to think for yourself. You can’t begin to know what to do next. You can’t even express your grief adequately because all there is for you are tears, anguish and crying out. Rational thought is absent, and words elude you. I can tell you from my own personal experience with RCMP Victim Services that I am doing OK, ONLY because of the support I received that night. Left on my own with only other broken and hurting people to lean on, I could not have possibly known where to start. Carla and Laura led us out of the wreckage to a safe place and showed us how to find the help we needed.”
It is with heartfelt appreciation that we thank the author for sharing this very personal story.
Testimonials such as this, quantify the impact the program has in the community. Currently, 60 per cent of cases handled are within the boundaries of the Town of Ladysmith. An additional 40 per cent of clients come from outlying areas: Stz’uminus First Nation accounts for 14 per cent, while Penelakut First Nation is seven per cent. Cases from Area H (Cassidy) account for six per cent, with a further six per cent from Area G (Chemainus). Another seven per cent fall outside these areas — out-of-town clients, Cedar and Thetis Island.
The RCMP Victim Services program is contracted to the Ladysmith Resources Centre Association, but an office is provided for them in the RCMP detachment building. Carla is not an RCMP employee, nor is her program funded by the RCMP. The program is partially funded by the Ministry of Justice, with the expectation that matched funding will be provided by municipal contributions.
Additional ongoing financial support must be found to ensure the services delivered to our residents are maintained.
— Submitted by the Ladysmith Resources Centre Association