Lack of resources hampers Victim Support Unit's work
Angelo Laurence, Gleaner Writer
The Victim Support Unit (VSU) in the parish is finding it difficult to carry out its functions due to a heavy demand for its services and a shortfall in financial and human resources.
The unit was established by government in 1998 to assist victims of crimes cope with the trauma associated with such experiences, particularly victims of rape, child abuse, murder, incest and domestic violence.
The Manchester office of the unit, located in the RADA building on Caledonia Road, and headed by Jennifer Hutchinson, has been termed "a godsend" by one victim who spoke with The Gleaner.
The victim said she was held by two men in a house in St Elizabeth one evening, in the hills of Malvern. She said the men operated a taxi and, after letting off the other passengers, took her to a house where she remained captive for two days. When she was released, she reported the matter to the police and the driver of the taxi, who had been recently released from a three-year stint in prison, was picked up. She said "the biggest mistake I made was going to the police".
She said that at the time, in early 2003, the female police officer who dealt with her case was "insensitive" and made her feel it was "her fault" that the incident occurred. She said that not until she was introduced to the VSU of Manchester did she regain her "self-esteem" and shed the "guilty feeling" imposed on her by the police.
Recognising the impact the VSU's work has had on many lives in the region, the Rotary Club of Mandeville, headed by Keith O'Gilvie, has used its weekly meetings as a platform to further the VSU's drive to educate the public of its services. In a recent presentation, Hutchinson pointed out that Jamaica is the only Caribbean country with such a unit to assist victims of crimes.
She said the unit also offers mediation in disputes, gives tips on personal safety, and assists victims in making reports to the police. Hutchinson said the reporting of offences of a personal nature is very difficult for the victims and has to be handled with the utmost care, sensitivity and respect.
Supported by the Rotary Club of Mandeville, Food For The Poor, the Roman Catholic Diocese, she said her office has been able to assist needy persons with housing, food, clothing and other materials.