The modern desks, computers, phones and conference tables within the freshly painted walls in an office space in Irvine merely are the tools.
It’s the people using them who serve an invaluable purpose: transforming crime victims into survivors.
The newly opened Crime Survivors Resource Center, a longtime dream of victims’ advocate Patricia Wenskunas, is a haven for crime victims and their families.
The center offers free counseling, healing classes, legal support, and other services.
Because no two victims are alike, Wenskunas said, the center offers a treasure trove of services and support, from help navigating a legal system that seems to protect the suspects more than the people whose lives they destroyed to counseling, education and advocacy.
“Whether a victim is in their first 24 hours or 16 years down the road, they will be able to come to our resource center and get whatever they need there,” said Wenskunas at the center’s grand opening on April 4. “It’s been my dream since day one.”
The date was chosen for a reason.
It was exactly 16 years ago on April 4, 2002 when Wenskunas herself was the victim of a brutal attack in her own home.
She was drugged and beaten before managing to escape her attacker.
“I made a promise to God that day,” she recalled. “‘As long as you give me my next breath, I will commit the rest of my life for community above self. And 16 years later to the day, I’d like to think I kept that promise.”
In the wake of the attack, Wenskunas found the lack of sufficient resources available to crime victims almost as traumatic as the incident itself.
Not wanting future victims to run into the same problem, Wenskunas was inspired to start Crime Survivors in 2003.
Without a building from which to operate, Wenskunas nevertheless provided an array of services to victims of crimes.
While Crime Survivors thrives, Wenskunas always believed she could do more with a brick-and-mortar facility.
Orange County Global Medical Center, which owns the office where the center is based, is providing the space rent free.
“This is a long time coming,” said Undersheriff Don Barnes of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, one of several representatives from law enforcement at the opening. “I’m so happy that now in Orange County, we have a place where people can go and not feel ashamed or be embarrassed and be empowered to stand up for themselves … and survive the travesties that they have endured.”
Over the years, Crime Survivors has collaborated with other victims’ assistance providers.
Waymakers, a nonprofit whose mission include advocating for victims of human trafficking, was among the providers at the grand opening.
“Crime Survivors and Waymakers have a shared vision where survivors of crime are empowered to find hope after trauma,” said Lita Mercado, Waymakers director of victim assistance programs. “And Patricia was able to singlehandedly bring this to the table and get the players that needed to be gotten….We’re here today because of that effort.”
Whatever a victim’s needs may be, if Crime Survivors can’t provide it, they will find someone that can, she said.
“God gave me the purpose,” Wenskunas said. “He gave me the passion to be able to be a voice for the voiceless and to be able to give other victims hope and healing. And today is a true testament that God is providing us all with an award and a recognition to be able to say that all that persistence has paid off.”