Survivors of domestic and sexual violence have a new ally in the Michigan State Police. A victim services advocate is now available at both the Lansing and Flint posts to provide support to survivors involved in domestic or sexual assaults.
“Surviving a crime isn’t only getting yourself physically out of harm’s way,” said Megan Calamita, the Flint Post’s victim services advocate. “The idea is for us to be there for survivors in the days after, however we can. We want to ease their burden.”
“This is another way for us to help bridge gaps between the residents we serve and law enforcement,” D/F/Lt. Pat Roti, commander of the Third District Special Investigation Section. “Survivors can reach out to their advocate directly as someone completely dedicated to their specific needs.”
That could mean helping a family find safe shelter, connecting a survivor with community resources or taking the time to have a conversation to explain what to expect during the criminal justice process.
“I was able to sit with a woman during a very difficult interview, when the investigator was asking questions and documenting the crime,” said Jessica Espinoza, the Lansing Post’s victim services advocate. “Being ‘that person’ for someone who has experienced serious trauma is our goal. We want to be present, calming and reassuring.”
While a survivor can reach out directly to Espinoza or Calamita, the process is designed for the victim services advocate to make the first introduction.
“Prosecutor’s offices often have advocates to help during the court process, but prior to that time, survivors sometimes rely on investigators,” said Calamita. “We’re talking with troopers and other co-workers to let them know we’re here and they can lean on us, and to show them how effective this is when we all work together.”
“To ensure survivors have the resources they need to break free of abuse is priceless,” said D/F/Lt. Jason Nemecek, commander of the First District Headquarters Special Investigation Section. “Our advocate has amazing enthusiasm and compassion for this job.”
The Victim Services Program began in December 2020, and the MSP plans to expand the program to other posts in the First and Third districts. The program is funded by a 2019 Law Enforcement Victim Specialist Grant awarded to the MSP Grants and Community Services Division by the U.S. Department of Justice, Office for Victims of Crime.
“This isn’t just a box to check,” said Espinoza. “We’re familiarizing ourselves with reports and finding ways to assist so the survivor can focus on moving forward.”