Under the direction of founders Helga West and Randy West, the national organization, Witness Justice was created, launched and has grown into a powerful resource for survivors of violent crime throughout the country. The combined total volunteer hours of the Wests exceed 3,100. During this time, they incorporated the organization and achieved 501(c)(3) designation, developed a sound business plan, delivered various victim programs, recruited a reputable board of directors, applied for and received several grants and have provided direct victim services. In their quest to lessen the disparity in victim services from one community to the next and ensuring that every victim has access to support through the healing and criminal justice processes, they have created an organization that fills a gap in service.
In the United States, citizens have a one in five chance of falling victim to violent crime at some point in their lifetimes. Currently, less than 50% of victims report their crimes, making individuals ineligible for victim services through the state attorney’s office or local governments. In addition, there are many communities without victim support programs. Witness Justice fills these gaps by offering support 24 hours a day, regardless of where, when or how the crime took place. They give all victims equal access to information and support and the empowerment to heal in the process.
Witness Justice promotes connection in a number of ways. They have a virtual community in which victims can connect with one another. They also have a portion on their web site called “Stories Like Yours” where diverse survivor stories are shared so that victims will understand that healing looks and feels differently for everyone and feeling and encounters are more common than one might believe. One of the most requested services is the expert corps of volunteers. Professionals in mental health, security, psychology, relationships, criminal justice and other areas answer specific victim inquiries.
Witness Justice has been in existence for more than two years. They have had an excess of 340,000 visitors to its web site, and hundreds of victims have called their hotline or emailed with requests for direct services or expert volunteer consultation. Their services have become so strong and reputable that referrals now come from law enforcement and state attorney offices. These services have been provided as a result of their committed volunteers as they do not yet have any paid staff.