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History

Victim Support Services (Families and Friends of Missing Persons and Violent Crime Victims) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. It is the oldest victim assistance organization in Washington State, and one of the first in the nation.  Our Mission is to support victims of crime through advocacy, education and awareness.

Victim Support Services was Families and Friends of Missing Persons and Violent Crime Victims.   In 2013 the organization underwent a re-branding process, and changed their name to better reflect the work the agency does.

Families and Friends was founded by Lola Linstad and Linda Barker, after the abduction and subsequent murder of Lola’s 19-year old daughter, Vonnie Stuth. The Linstads had become frustrated by the criminal justice process, which seemed to be more concerned with the rights of the suspect than those of the victims, and wondered how people in similar circumstances felt. Over the previous year, the Pacific Northwest had experienced a number of disappearances of young women and children. With the help of a newspaper reporter, Lola and Linda compiled a list of names and addresses of the families of missing girls and contacted them to arrange a meeting.

On February 25th, 1975, thirteen families came together in a church auditorium to share their heartbreaking experiences and to talk about their mutual concerns.

I’ll never forget that first meeting. It is forever etched in my memory. We arrived early to setup and make coffee. We barely spoke to each other as we waited for these strangers to arrive. We were lost in our own thoughts of the past few months of pain, anxiety, and fear of what had been and now of what was to come.  As the others began to arrive, one by one and in family groups, we greeted them and introduced ourselves. They took a seat at the table without saying a word. They too were withdrawn into themselves. Then we began…we told them why we had called them together – our frustration and pain. One by one, the participants began to tell their stories, talking about their own cases, their children. You could see it in their faces as realization of solidarity came to each person, they were no longer alone, and someone else understood – really understood how they felt. Soon they were completing each other’s sentences. They felt secure enough to cry with these strangers who were suddenly confidantes. One’s pain became the pain of all. The electricity in the room crackled. FINALLY…someone had given us permission to feel, someone was validating our pain.”(Linda Barker, co-founder)

As a result of this meeting Families and Friends of Missing Persons and Violent Crime Victims was established with these goals:

  • Examining the criminal justice system
  • Giving assistance to families and friends of victims during time of grief
  • Educating the public on the impact that violent crime has in our society

The group began by holding two monthly meetings; one was a planning meeting for members, and the other public meeting in which representatives of various parts of the criminal justice system were invited to speak and answer questions. The latter proved to be a valuable way of educating members and the public on how the criminal justice system operates. The organization identified several areas that needed to be addressed immediately and started effecting change by:

  • Implementing a court watch program that gathered data, evaluated judges and announced the ratings prior to judicial elections
  • Pushing for prison reform and advocated mandatory minimum sentencing
  • Campaigning to reinstate the death penalty in Washington State
  • Encouraging law enforcement agencies to aggressively investigate disappearances instead of attributing most to the “runaway” category
  • Advocating for the right of victims and survivors to address the court at sentencing (Victim Impact Statement)
  • Testifying at state legislative hearings
  • Reaching out to other victims and families so that they would not have to endure their suffering alone

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Speak with a trained advocate who can provide assistance with needs resulting from victimization.  Call by clicking below! 

Testimonials

"With the help of VSS, you are empowered and encouraged to fight back and be pro-active. Then your conscience can be more at peace because you know you have taken some action to protest crimes inflicted on your loved one. It is sometimes your only consolation."

“The one takeaway for me in working with VSS is that it is a necessary organization. I know they are funded by grants and fundraisers but it’s something we need to make sure as a community that they have the funding needed because what they do for people in need doesn’t happen anywhere else. This is the only place that this happens and VSS helps with so many things.”

David Rose

Anchor, Q13 News and Host, Washington’s Most Wanted

“VSS is there when the unthinkable happens.  When a police officer knocks on your door and gives you tragic news, VSS helps navigate the court system, which can be very confusing. VSS is compassion, caring, and commitment. Commitment to once justice is done that victims and their families can move forward with their lives.”

Mark Roe

Snohomish County Prosecuting Attorney

“When we can have VSS there with us working with people so they are getting taken care of, you feel like the whole system and community is more responsive. VSS can actually really work with and bond with the victims in ways that we can’t because of the volume we deal with.”

Jennifer Gregerson

Mayor, City of Mukilteo

“VSS has been our partner in recovery and healing and a key part in what makes Mukilteo Strong. VSS has been a trusted advocate for the victims that have suffered so much in the community.  I’m so grateful to VSS as our partner in strength.”

Jon Nehring

Mayor, City of Marysville

“VSS is there for people in their darkest hour. At a time when they need an advocate and friend, VSS steps in to fill that gap and help them begin their journey back to some sense of normalcy.” 

Myrle Carner

Crime Stoppers of Puget Sound

“This thing about closure. There is never really closure in a victim’s life but VSS helps individuals to get closer to that and that’s critical because the cops and the judicial system just move on to another case because they don’t have time. Victims live with this trauma forever so VSS is with them for as long as they need the services. VSS takes the time, more importantly, they really care."

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Congratulations to our most recent Core Academy Training Graduates! This was our last training of the year, held in Everett! Best of luck to all! #CoreAcademy #CoreTraining #InitialTraining #Training #Education #Qualified

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Did you know, Victim advocates can assist you in writing a Victim Impact Statement?! Click the link in our bio to find out more! •


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