Victim Support Services, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, 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 founded by Lola Linstad and Linda Barker in 1975 after the abduction and subsequent murder of Lola’s 19-year old daughter, Vonnie Stuth. The Pacific Northwest had experienced a number of disappearances of young women and children. Lola struggled to find help or advocacy and found the criminal justice process frustrating and overwhelming. She felt as if she was alone and that her voice was not heard.
Lola knew she could not possibly be the only individual suffering such a loss and struggling to navigate the criminal justice system. With the help of a newspaper reporter, Lola and Linda compiled a list of names and addresses of the families of local missing girls and contacted them to arrange a meeting.
On February 25th, 1975, thirteen families came together to share their heartbreaking experiences, to support one another 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 They too were withdrawn into themselves.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, VSS was established with the goals of examining the criminal justice system, giving assistance to families and friends of victims during their time of grief and educating the public on the impact that violent crime has in our society.
Today, VSS continues the original mandate by helping individuals impacted by crime with support and advocacy and offering educational opportunities both to crime victims and those who advocate for them. Our scope has expanded dramatically. We now serve thousands of people annually who have been affected by crimes ranging from arson to identity theft, from burglary to homicide and everything in between providing therapy, financial assistance, help navigating the legal system, support groups and more. Additionally we provided training to nearly 2,000 individuals last year so they can assist and advocate for crime victims locally and across the nation. Our staff and volunteers carry out the mission of VSS every day, guiding individuals through the complex criminal justice process, walking with them as they navigate the emotional aftermath of victimization.
Because of Lola’s efforts to give her daughter a voice, and her desire to find the truth, countless victims and loved ones have been served by VSS for over four decades. Please join us in rebuilding lives through empathy, advocacy, and resiliency, providing hope, one client at a time.