Posted: 5:12 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013

Victims’ advocate organization sees more calls for counseling

By Sarah Rosario

CHARLOTTE, N.C. —

New statistics released this month show police in Charlotte are seeing an increase in some types of crimes, and the more crimes, the more victims need help.

Eyewitness News anchor Sarah Rosario found out why getting victims’ lives back to normal can be critical to a case.

Katherine Sakhnini said the memory of what happened to her more than two weeks ago still haunts her.

“It just seems like I can't shake it,” she said.  

She was working at a convenience store in Shelby. In surveillance video, you see a man pull out a gun and charge at her. She tries to run, but he stops her. Sakhnini said she begged for her life for 10 minutes.

“He said, ‘You're just trying to buy some time. I tell you, I'm going to kill you, I'm going to kill you.’ I just kept begging him, ‘Please don't kill me,’” Sakhnini said.

The man got away, but Sakhnini said fear now keeps her from moving on.

“I don't want to be scared, looking over my shoulder, and everybody is a suspect,” she said.

Police in Charlotte said they're getting more requests for help from victims like her.

Last year alone, CMPD said there were nearly 1,800 robberies and more than 3,000 aggravated assault cases.

That's up by almost 200 for each crime from 2011.

As a result, calls for counseling to Charlotte's Safe Alliance agency, a nonprofit victims’ advocate organization, have gone up by 50 percent. 

Counselor Larry Gillespie is trained to see where a victim needs help the most.

“Some people will never get back to what their normal is without counseling. Counseling not only reduces the severity of the problems they’re experiencing, but also the duration,” Gillespie said.  

Without it, Assistant District Attorney Jeff Davis said some victims shut down or do nothing.

“Especially in violent crimes when victims have been traumatized, they definitely need someone to lean on for that kind of help,” he said.

Because of an uptick in crime around Charlotte, there aren’t enough counselors to meet the demand.  There's even a waiting list.

But the quicker the victim gets back into society, the faster counselors can help others, as police work to make arrests and the D.A.'s office works to prosecute the case. 

Each organization works to make sure that each victim is not just another crime statistic, but a person they can help.

“I don't want to use it as a pity party, but I do need help,” Sakhnini said.

For more information about Safe Alliance, click here.  To call to find out about counseling services or community partners, call 704-332-9034.

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