THE VIOLENT TRAUMA AWARENESS PROGRAM (VTAP)
Violent Trauma Awareness Program, formerly Victims of Work-Related (VOW) Violent Crime Foundation was created in 2002 as a result of a horrific ordeal. After a thirteen year career in banking, Michelle Renee, and her young daughter were kidnapped and held hostage for nearly fourteen hours by three masked gunmen. The captors put bombs on their bodies and duct taped them. Their lives were threatened if Michelle did not rob the vault of the bank she managed. The trial was lengthy and quite an ordeal. Michelle was left to fight for her reputation and suffer an unexpected re-victimization.
So many of the services Michelle and her daughter needed to recover from their ordeal and face criminal trial proceedings were not available or offered to them. Through prayer, determination and courage combined with the heart felt desire to help others, The Victims of Work-Related Violent Crime (VOW) Foundation was birthed and later re-named to the Violent Trauma Awareness Project in 2003.
Since the inception of VTAP, their original, singular goal of assisting violent crime victims has expanded. They focus on three core programs: violent crime victim recovery; youth leadership development and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) awareness. They have assisted many violent crime victims during their recovery; conducted youth outreach expressive art workshops and recently formed the Youth Against Crime Club; donated personal alarms to assist victims in regaining a sense of safety and control again; conducted PTSD awareness training sessions for the San Diego District Attorney’s Office; University of So. California-Criminal Justice Students; San Diego National Bank and others; held fundraising events; participate in victim’s rights activities; and more.
They wanted to meet a need in the community and continue to heal personal hurts. The founders of the organization experienced violence first hand and wanted to help others so they would not have to endure those same trials. VTAP was a vehicle not only to help others, but to help the various members of Michelle’s family to come to the aid of other victims of work-related violence. Her brother, Dave created a Young Warrior Program. Her mother began volunteering at the youth and fundraising events, taking grant-writing classes and volunteering in the office every week. Soon other family members, Eric and Mike along with their families joined in to purchase and donate art supplies and volunteer their time a the events as well. In addition, Linda’s granddaughter, Breea started an after school program called Girls against Crime. Breea and her friends now raise money specifically for crime victims and tell others to say no to crime.
The truly inspiring portion of VTAP is the fact that it is a positive response to trauma. Michelle and her family have turned tragedy into triumph and have moved into life of joy and service. This family continues to grow together and show others that one family can make a positive difference in this world.