For the past 25 years, Victims/Witness Services of South Philadelphia has tried to help balance the scales of justice as both a guide and advocate for those thrust into the criminal justice system at one of their most vulnerable times.
On Thursday, this collection of civic-minded workers and supporters celebrated their silver anniversary hosting a fundraising dance party at Galdo’s Catering and Entertainment. In the crowd was PCHR’s Bunrath Math.
Not only does he represent PCHR on the board as a member of the community relations division, but his contribution to the group is personal as well.
Once, Math was brutally attacked and robbed. Lying in the hospital, without a job or insurance at the time, he remembered a workshop he had attended that mentioned the work of VWSSP. After he was discharged, he looked them up, and found help for his medical bills and other valuable support in the days and weeks after the attack.
“I have a graduate degree and barely knew about this resource. I can just imagine people who have no education and become crime victims, that they suffer in silence,” Math said. “And for immigrants it may be really tough. There is the problem with language. You can’t afford not to go to work. So you have to work, and you go to work in pain.”
Plus, many of those same victims often have little faith in the system and assume that the police will do little to help them. Some fear that making a police report might actually put them in even greater danger if the assailant finds out.
That’s where VWSSP can make the difference.
Among the free services the nonprofit organization offers:
- Information and support services at preliminary hearings, including answering questions about court and police procedures.
- Assistance navigating the criminal justice system, including the district attorney’s office, probation and parole, and other related agencies.
- Accompanying victims and witnesses to trial and tracking progress of the case.
This and more is provided in English, Spanish and Vietnamese, reflecting the ever expanding and diversifying population.
“VWSSP helps so many people who otherwise would not know who to trust, or where to turn,” he said.
And it remains a stabilizing force after chaos strikes, hopefully for many more anniversaries to come.