Turn on any TV crime or courtroom drama, and one is led to believe that a crime victim is assured justice and a return to a peaceful existence in the span of 30 minutes.
Victim advocates like Cathy Reynolds know all too well that resolutions for real-life victims of crime do not happen in a tidy 30-minute package.
Grain Valley Police Department Victim Advocate Cathy Reynolds has not only a wealth of professional experience assisting victims, but a personal background that helps inform her work.
Corey Laykovich, Reynolds’s nephew, was murdered in 2013. With the tragedy, Reynolds learned first hand the confusion and isolation victims can face. Victims are often left to find resources on their own, and find themselves alone when facing the media or talking with police.
“We didn’t know how to handle the media standing in the front yard wanting information. We didn’t know how to pay for the unexpected funeral for a 23 year-old. We knew nothing about crime victim’s compensation, and so we were at a loss.,” Reynolds said.
The family began Corey’s Network in 2014 to help pay for the funerals of homicide victims and provide resources for families.
In 2003, Grain Valley and Oak Grove police departments combined resources to share a Victim Services Unit. The goal of the unit is to serve the needs of victims of crime in both communities. The program assists crime victims with direct service intervention and assistance in long-term recovery.
There are two victim advocates on staff with the Grain Valley and Oak Grove police departments. Reynolds has served as a Victim Advocate since 2017.
“I think when you’re hurting, it helps you help other people to heal,” Reynolds said.
While Reynolds often works with victims of violent crime, sexual assault, and domestic violence, victim advocates provide assistance to those affected by all types of crime, including crimes
Victim advocates provide comprehensive services for victims of crime, serving as a liaison between the victim and the prosecutor, a connection to other resources the victim may need, and assists victims in completing paperwork such as orders of protection for domestic violence victims. Advocates also provide orientation to the criminal justice system, guides them through the process and help victims understand the status of their case and dispositions.
“It’s not like CSI, where they take fingerprints, and 5 minutes later we know who the suspect is. It can be a very long and frustrating process. In the past, we’d have the victim come each time there was a court date. Now we have it so the only time they have to appear is the date they go to trial. We have put processes in place to make sure they feel safe and secure and minimize the stress of sitting in the courtroom.
Victim advocates are helpful on the scene of a crime as well, tending to the needs of victims while police focus processing the scene.
“They are busy trying to process the scene, and at that point, I’m there as support for the victim, explaining what is happening during that time,” Reynolds said.
“One of the times we are most helpful is during the court process, especially in cases of domestic violence. It takes an average of seven times before a victim will finally leave their abuser. When they finally make that decision, I’m there. I give them the support and the resources they need to help them know they can be successful in stepping out of that situation and make it on their own..”
As victims’ cases work their way through the court system, Reynolds is there to provides updates and moral support.
“We make sure they know they have support, and they are not there fighting this horrible battle alone.”
Victims in need of resources and support can reach the victim services unit by calling 816-847-6250.