ANSWERED CALL: Media, marketing, public relations coordinator turns into victims’ advocate

Published 4:00 pm Sunday, April 30, 2023

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VIDALIA, La. — Brandy Spears, with a background in public communications and marketing, started working full-time at Concordia Parish Sheriff’s Office in 2021 as the department’s public information coordinator and, through CPSO, found a new passion — helping abuse and assault victims.

Spears was previously the director of marketing at Trinity Medical Center and has worked on the website design and launch of the CPSO mobile app while writing press releases for media.

At that time, the sheriff’s office was working on its victims’ support program, which provided reimbursement for medical expenses and death to some using grant funds. However, realizing the high number of domestic and assault victims there are in Concordia Parish, Sheriff David Hedrick wanted to do more, Spears said.

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“We wanted to be able to offer some additional resources” beyond just paying medical bills, she said.

Hedrick approached her about heading up a program that would further support those victims. Spears’ only hesitation was that she wouldn’t do it without training, she said.

“I don’t have a background in that, but I do have a compassion for victims,” she said. “I feel like it’s the only job I’ve ever had that I’ve had the opportunity to really be a servant to the community and to individuals and to help them out. I’m very grateful that Sheriff Hedrick trusted me with this because I know that it’s something he is very passionate about as well.”

Spears initially went through 40 hours of online training and then two other yearly trainings through the Department of Justice. She will spend a week in San Diego for another training this summer, and will likely need a box of tissues, she added.

“My perspective has changed 100 percent,” she said. “It has taught me how to look at things differently and identify what people need to get themselves and their children in a safer environment.”

Through partnerships with organizations such as “Love Indeed,” Family Justice Center of Central Louisiana and the Children’s Advocacy Center, CPSO’s Victim Advocacy Center has been able to connect victims to a broad range of services for immediate needs such as emergency housing, clothing and toiletries and counseling as well as paralegal aid, medical care and education services all while keeping them informed on the status of their cases.

“Every situation is different,” Spears said. “We take it case by case.”

A soft interview room, known as “Hope’s Space,” has given victims of abuse a chance to get their lives back in a safe, comfortable setting.

With the center located in the same building as CPSO’s investigative unit in Ferriday, victims who are introduced to the program through a crime do not have far to go to get the help they need. Abuse victims are not always women or children, Spears said.

“We have had a couple of males who are certainly more hesitant to come forward,” she said. “My passion is where almost every time we have a domestic situation, there are kids involved. “Statistics show that kids who grow up in domestic violence situations, there’s a 75 percent chance that they will either become abusers or that they will be in a relationship where they are abused later on. I think a lot of it is being able to provide education and counseling to those families.”

This month, the center began hosting bi-weekly support groups open to whoever needs them and led by social worker Gay Coleman of the Family Justice Center.

The support groups met at 5:30 p.m. on the second and fourth Tuesday of the month at the CPSO Community Justice Center, located at 27797 Highway 15 in Ferriday.

“In these sessions, no one is under any obligation to say anything,” Spears said. “Everything is confidential.

For more information, or if you need assistance, Spears can be reached at 318-437-0439.