For SLPD, the service doesn't stop when the call is over
By: Hannah Shulman
When someone walks into Amy Cummins’s office, the first question she asks is if they want to shut the door.
Cummins doesn’t get into it right away. Instead, she talks about something casual to break the ice while bringing in humor to diffuse any tension. The people that walk into Amy Cummins’ office are not victims -- they’re survivors. And as the Victim Service Coordinator for the Sugar Land Police Department, she’s helped more than her fair share of survivors.
Every police department in the United States requires a victim services unit. At SLPD, the program works to providing long-term guidance to crime victims in the form of advocacy, navigating the legal system, referrals to services like long-term counseling and shelters, and emotional support.
Cummins said that she talks to victims and inspires them to make that next step in their healing process. If they’re still aren't in a good place, she makes the necessary calls to aid groups and the District Attorney to help them.
While Cummins has been a sworn police officer for 22 years, she has been standing up for survivors’ rights since she was 18. Cummins has been the Victim Service Coordinator for SLPD for the last 10 years, winning awards for her work including the American Business Women’s Association’s “Above the Call of Duty” award, and the Mental Health American of Fort Bend County Board Member of the Year award.
“As a survivor myself, I saw an opportunity to help our community by taking the lessons that I’ve learned from standing up for survivors’ rights and combining that with the skill of being able to talk to anyone that being a police officer for the last 22 years has taught me,” Cummins said.
When Cummins stepped into her current role, she wanted to make the position bigger than it was, as she saw disconnects between the resources that SLPD had and what people were coming to her for. She went to community hospitals and different nonprofit groups around town and took tours, asked questions, and made personal relationships that culminated in a strong working network full of resources that she passes on to the survivors with which she works.
“I was finding that the same passion I have for helping others was what I was receiving from other resources in the community. We all want the best outcome for those we help.”
Other than the emotional support she offers, she helps guide survivors through the legal system, helping them with everything from crime victim compensation to getting legal aid for divorce proceedings.
Cummins also always tells them her own story to build rapport and let them know that she can empathize with what they’re going through. She wants to make sure that the survivors are leaving with an actionable plan. While she emphasizes the importance of self-care through pampering yourself, making sure you get enough rest, exercising and practicing self-affirmation rituals, don’t expect her to coddle the people she’s helping.
“You have to be your own hero. No one is going to come save you,” Cummins said. “In these situations, you can constantly be told you need to do XYZ, but until you make that effort and decide that you want to move past this trauma, learn how to be in healthier relationships and learn how to love yourself, you’re not going to truly heal. No matter what has happened, you have to do the hard work.”
If you or someone you know may need help, please visit http://www.sugarlandtx.gov/525/Victim-Assistance to learn more.