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Newly appointed Director of the Victim Support Services (VSS) in Sint Maarten.

victimssupport21022024PHILIPSBURG:---  Cassandra Richardson has been successful in securing the candidacy of Director of the Victim Support Services (VSS) role in Sint Maarten as of January 15, 2024. The newly appointed Director and her team will lend support to the victims of society who are experiencing trauma in major life occurrences. VSS is a team of dedicated professionals who support persons affected by heinous crimes which is punishable by imprisonment of six years or more or a serious traffic accident. VSS is also established to assist indirect victims: family members, those involved in abuse, altercations, or robbery, and relative parties, by Article 206 Paragraph 1 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

“The Victim Support Services has been conceptualized to not solely focus on the offender and the crime but to support the victim in realizing a sense of normalcy in their life post-trauma. Often, when a crime is committed the emphasis is on apprehending and prosecuting the perpetrator and there is little to no focus on how the victim will resume to live with the trauma within our society. The establishment of the Victim Support Services will remove the missing element within the Justice system and I’m happy to have this realized during my tenure as the Minister of Justice. There will be three (3) appointed members of the Board of VSS. The Victim Support Services will be assisted and supported by various judicial institutions namely: The Police Force of Sint Maarten, The Public Prosecutor office, SJIB, and the Ministry of Justice,” summarized the Justice Minister, Anna E. Richardson.

Cassandra Richardson, MSw/M.A., a native of St. Maarten, has over 25 years of extensive experience in community programming and working with vulnerable groups. Richardson holds master’s degrees in social work, Communications, and Social Justice from the University of Windsor, in Windsor, Ontario, Canada. Before returning to St. Maarten in 2016, Cassandra made significant contributions to the Canadian community in Windsor, Ontario, during her residency of over ten years. As a Senior Program Manager, she designed programs for newcomer Canadians and displaced individuals, showcasing her commitment to community service and development. Additionally, as a Canadian registered mental health professional, she practiced community mental health, offering support to both children and adults.

From 2019 to 2021, she served as a Quarter Master (Kwartiermaker) under an appointment with the Dutch Ministry of Health (VWS). In this role, Cassandra focused on investigating the feasibility of establishing a framework to shelter seriously threatened victims of domestic violence across the six Dutch islands.

She served as a Program Coordinator in 2020 at NPOWER, the umbrella NGO organization in St. Maarten, and as the Director of the Safe Haven Foundation, a shelter for battered women, from 2016 to 2019.

Recently concluding her impactful role as the Mental Health Focal Point with the Ministry of VSA, Cassandra led crucial social research and coordinated activities addressing St. Maarten's mental health challenges.
Victims of natural disasters, minor traffic accidents, and political abuse do not fall under the target group of the Victim Support Services.

In September 2021, the Victim Support St. Maarten Foundation was established under the leadership of the Minister of Justice, Anna E. Richardson. The foundation's board was incorporated at the notary but was never realized until the present. The members at that time included Cassandra Richardson as President, Roxanne Howell as Treasurer, and Isaac Harold Richardson as Secretary. The former board members underwent training to ensure the foundation functions at the level required to provide optimal service.

Currently, the Victim Support Services is already working with clients and the community remotely. Information concerning its location will soon be released to the public as the VSS team looks forward to an official opening of the foundation to be scheduled in March 2024.

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