Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A Day in the Life of an Advocate

Orange County nonprofit
provides support and services
for survivors of crime
On April 4, 2002 I was the victim of a violent crime. Until that day, I had no idea the physical and emotional trauma crime victims face, nor did I understand how frustrating the criminal justice system could be for victims. While my body was healing inside and out, I learned that crime victims such as myself did not have a voice in the justice system.

A year after my victimization, I founded Crime Survivors, Inc., and for the last ten years I have been fighting to ensure that all crime victims have the resources and the right to survive and thrive!

A typical day for me involves talking to crime victims, offering them a friendly, caring ear as well as referrals to the help many of them are trying to locate. I also correspond to many emails, not only from victims, but from law enforcement personnel, attorneys, counselors, and friends and supporters of Crime Survivors.

I also attend briefings and trainings at law enforcement agencies throughout southern California, educating each of them on my survival and on the ways they can take care of the residents they encounter throughout their day. Over the years, law enforcement agencies in Los Angeles, San Diego, and Orange Counties have become extraordinary collaborators and partners in our mission. I frequently meet with sheriffs and police chiefs because I truly believe that we can all make a positive impact in someone’s survival. Many of these agencies distribute materials and resources made available to them by Crime Survivors.

While much of my day is spent out in the community, I also need to ensure that we continuously build our social media presence and stay current and relevant for those who follow us. Not only do we get amazing volunteers through Facebook, Twitter, our website and blog, but these are also great avenues for sharing information and resources and growing our base of dedicated donors and supporters.

Speaking of donors and supporters, we couldn't do any of this without them! This is why I work with my board of directors to raise funds and build contacts throughout southern California so that we can continuously build upon our mission and sustain long term success.

My survival would not have been possible without the law enforcement, medical, and criminal justice professionals that helped me. I was also blessed by the work of many non-profit organizations as well as organizations such as the California Victim Compensation Program. I am so thankful for all of their support because without them, I wouldn't be here to help others survive and thrive!

Patricia Wenskunas is a survivor of attempted murder and childhood abuse, Founder and CEO of the nonprofit organization Crime Survivors, Inc., Founder and CEO of Orange County Crime Stoppers, a professional public speaker, victim advocate and motivational consultant.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Putting Safety and Prevention First During National Missing Children's Day

Posters asking for the safe return of missing California
teen, Sierra LaMar, show messages and well-wishes.
Credit: Los Angeles Times
As of today, 15-year-old Sierra LaMar from Morgan Hill remains missing. Police believe Sierra was abducted the morning of March 16, 2012 while walking to a school bus stop near her home. Sierra is but one of hundreds of children currently missing in California.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) indicates that over 2,100 children are reported missing in America each day. Last year, the Department of Justice reported 94,152 children missing in California. In the same year 63,346 runaways returned on his/her own, 17,840 lost children were located by law enforcement and 36 children were found deceased.

Children who return home often benefit from care and assistance as they transition back to their lives. Over the last three fiscal years, the California Victim Compensation Program has provided over $1.3 million to kidnapped and rescued children in California for services including medical, dental and mental health treatment. In the most tragic of circumstances, eligible parents and guardians are provided funding to help bury their loved ones.

The NCMEC found that in 81% of attempted abduction cases, children escaped would-be abductors through their own actions by yelling, kicking, pulling away, running away or attracting attention.
Understanding prevention and safety is necessary to reduce the number of missing children.

Take a moment to review this list of helpful resources and information:
  • The Take 25 campaign urges parents to take 25 minutes to talk to their children about safety, abduction and prevention. NCMEC has produced a list of safety tips as a part of its national child safety campaign.
  • The AMBER Alert™ Program is a voluntary partnership between law enforcement agencies, broadcasters, transportation agencies and the wireless industry for the most serious child abduction cases. Through May 16, 2012, the program has helped safely recover 584 children.
  • NetSmartz provides age-appropriate resources to teach children and teens to be safer on- and offline. Games, videos, tip sheets and presentations are designed for children, teens, parents, guardians, educators and law enforcement to help empower our communities to make safer decisions.
  • Legislation plays an important role in keeping our communities safe. On September 9, 2010, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed Assembly Bill 1844 which provides tougher penalties for sexual offenders. This legislation, also known as Chelsea’s Law, was introduced in collaboration with Brent and Kelly King in response to the murder of their 17-year-old daughter Chelsea by a registered sex offender.

We keep Sierra LaMar in our thoughts and hope for her safe return. I hope you will join me in remembering her and all the children who have yet to be found. Let us do all we can to teach safety and prevention to our young ones.

To learn more about NCMEC, call the toll-free, 24-hour hotline at 1-800-THE-LOST or visit the web site at

Portrait of Julie Nauman
Julie Nauman is the Executive Officer for the Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board (VCGCB), appointed in 2008. VCGCB provides compensation for victims of violent crime and helps to resolve claims against the State.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Officers Remembered

Before becoming peace officers, men and women go through an extensive application, testing and training process. Only those most committed and dedicated to the pursuit of a safer, more just society are chosen to serve and protect. Each day, officers put on their uniforms, all while understanding the dangers they face and the sacrifices they may be faced with.

Today we commemorate Peace Officers
Memorial Day. We honor and remember
those law enforcement officers who made
the ultimate sacrifice, we do not take for
granted their bravery and sacrifice.
Today our flag at headquarters flies at half staff as we commemorate Peace Officers Memorial Day. We remember those law enforcement officers who made the ultimate sacrifice, as well as the family members, friends, and fellow officers they left behind. We do not take for granted the bravery and sacrifice of these officers and the work they do to make our communities safer each day.

During Police Week, we are faced with the solemn reminder that our law enforcement officers are not immune to deadly violence. Last Sunday, the names of 362 fallen officers nationwide were formally dedicated on the National Law Enforcement Officers’ Memorial in Washington, D.C. during the 24th Annual Candlelight Vigil. These include 163 officers who were killed last year, plus 199 officers who died in previous years, but whose stories of sacrifice had been lost to history until now. The national monument now contains the names of 1,522 fallen California law enforcement officers, who have died on duty throughout U.S. history, dating back to the first known officer death in 1791.

This week, I ask that you join me and the nation in paying tribute to the thousands of men and women who serve us with extraordinary bravery and remember the heroes who have laid down their lives.

Portrait of Julie Nauman
Julie Nauman is the Executive Officer for the Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board (VCGCB), appointed in 2008. VCGCB provides compensation for victims of violent crime and helps to resolve claims against the State.