On Sept. 22, the Midwestern Criminal Justice Association held its annual conference in Chicago.
There, two criminal justice students, Elaine Curtis and Hope Kuenker, from Saginaw Valley State University, presented their findings and experience from working and doing research with the Saginaw Police Department Victim’s Service Unit (VSU).
Their research involved seeing how well victims are treated in the current system.
“Our research centered around seeing how well victims were being served,” Kuenker said. “This included things like if they were happy with their interactions with the VSU, areas they thought the VSU/PD could’ve improved on, and different resources they were given.”
One thing they found is that there is no right or wrong way to heal.
“For example, after speaking with victims, it quickly became clear that there is no right or wrong way to heal and the process isn’t linear,” she said. “Many of the victims I spoke with were from the same family or closely connected and were handling things very differently.”
She also learned why the VSU is important.
“Being a victim of a crime can make things in their life feel very out of control, which I quickly learned is why having things such as VSUs are crucial in making victims feel like they have a voice and a say in what happens with their case.”
Both students found the experience with the unit to be insightful and impactful.
“Many of the victims expressed how thankful they were to have been contacted by the VSU and how this was one of the only, if not the first, time in their lives that they felt like they were actually heard and what they said was taken seriously,” Kuenker said.
Curtis said that some of things were hard to listen to.
“My experience was inspiring,” she said. “Talking to people about one of the most horrific things to happen to them is humbling and reminds me that life is a blessing.”
Curtis also said the biggest benefit was getting to talk to the victims.
“The biggest benefit of this position was learning the victim’s side of things,” she said. “In the media, we typically only see a focus on the criminal and how to help them and reintegrate them back into society, while this is crucial, we tend to forget there is a victim on the other side.”
She’s glad they were able to go and spread awareness.
“This experience was highly valued because we were able to spread awareness on how critical Victim Services Units are.”
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