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Victims of Crime Assistance League

This month the Complete Parts and @ The Coalface $500 Community Gift goes to The Victims of Crime Assistance League. VOCAL is a gift-deductible charity that provides support for anyone who has experienced crime-related trauma.

VOCAL was founded by a family who experienced homicide in 1989 and at the time there was no trauma support or even an understanding of what trauma is.

Trauma is defined as a deeply distressing or disturbing experience. VOCAL provides support for anyone who has experienced crime-related trauma including physical assault, domestic and family violence. They support family members of homicide victims, victims of sexual assault and those who experience psychological and physical injury cause by motor vehicle injury.

“We’re an extremely unique service which meets the specialised needs of clients from diverse backgrounds including men, women, children, non-binary, anyone that has experienced crime,” said CEO Sophie Wheeler.

“When the crime has recently occurred, we offer support right from the beginning, through to the end of the court process but in many cases the crime may not have been reported so we also provide support to make statements to police.

“If the crime is historical, we provide trauma informed support so victim survivors are empowered to disclose, and report the crime if they would like to, and begin to heal from their experiences of trauma.

“You can self-refer to VOCAL which means going onto the website and filling out the self-referral form, but we also get referrals from lots of different pathways including police, health, GPs, social workers, and hospitals.

“We are really client led, we walk beside them and help them along their way,” said Sophie.

VOCAL is now working on a program specifically targeting men after seeing an uptick in the number of males being referred to them.

“In 2021-22 we had a 32 per cent increase and in 2022-23 we had a 24 per cent increase,” said Sophie.

Sophie’s colleague Tanya Robinson, a Victim Support Specialist and Project Officer, said there are big gaps in the system that lead to complex barriers for men to seek help and assistance for their trauma.

“We want the program to empower men to lead other men on their healing journey and the program really aims to challenge gender stereotypes by enabling men to access and normalise help-seeking, connect with other men and break down the social and systemic barriers that are driving high rates of male suicide.

“We want to bridge that gap and connect them with what they need.”

Sophie said the statistics are heartbreaking with four males under the age of 55 dying by suicide each day.

“Men of working age, between 20 and 64 account for 76 per cent of male suicides and males aged 40 to 54 have the highest rates of suicide amongst working men. First-Nation men die at significantly higher rates than non-indigenous men with First-Nation men under the age of 45 three times higher than non-indigenous men to die by suicide.

“I think it’s really important to highlight that men often experience trauma differently than women due to societal expectations, traditional notions of masculinity that discourage emotional vulnerability thus causing barriers and stigma to access mental health support. As a result, many men struggle in silence.

“I believe suicides are linked to situational factors like troubled relationships, work and legal matters, chronic use of alcohol and drugs and significant barriers for men seeking help for their mental health.”

Tanya said they believe suicide rates of men are so high because of the huge gaps in the systems and lack of access to trauma informed care.

“We really want men to be able to stand up and say, ‘yes I am dealing with trauma, and yes it isn’t easy to deal with or talk about, but with the right support and building connections with each other, I can see a pathway forward, to help me heal from my trauma’. We really want to bridge that gap and connect them with what they need and provide access to ongoing support, we don’t just shut the door in six or eight weeks, we want that door to stay open.”

VOCAL staff work out of Waratah, Belmont, and Maitland police stations once a week as well – but are completely client led going wherever needed. To reach out:

VOCAL is partially funded by the NSW Department of Justice (Victims Services) which enables them to provide their services for free. But it isn’t enough for them to help as many people as they would like so any corporate contributions or donations are welcomed:

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