Crime Victim Assistance Program: Domestic violence advocate Iris Wong doesn’t wait to begin helping survivors
At the precinct she serves in Queens, you might see Iris Wong in the waiting room, offering her assistance – or a hot cup of coffee – to fellow Cantonese speakers. Ms. Wong is a committed Domestic Violence Advocate with the Crime Victim Assistance Program (CVAP). She is an invaluable resource for survivors of violence in the community, especially for Chinese and Chinese-American New Yorkers.
Typically, advocates get in touch with clients after a referral from an officer, but Ms. Wong often doesn’t wait. She can be found checking the waiting room or posting Cantonese flyers with her contact information wherever survivors might see them.
Ms. Wong’s go-getter spirit became even more evident during the pandemic, when many of her clients faced new challenges and dangers while staying at home. In addition to an ongoing domestic violence situation, one client was anxious about losing his job, and struggling with teaching his daughter from home. Ms. Wong was available around the clock to assist him.
After Ms. Wong spent her day off assisting this client, he asked to speak directly to her supervisor—just so that he could sing Ms. Wong’s praises. “I’ve worked with many government workers,” said the client, “but none of them have really cared like Iris.”
According to Lizette Felipe, Manager at Safe Horizon, the non-profit that implements the Crime Victim Assistance Program, that’s not an uncommon experience. “I’ve gotten calls and emails about how well Iris has done,” Ms. Felipe said. “It’s because she listens genuinely—Iris doesn’t have a checklist or a script. Everything comes from her heart.”
From Ms. Wong:
“I do this work because I know there are many individuals in the Asian community who are underserved due to language barrier and lack of representation. I want to help all individuals achieve their best possible levels of personal and social well-being.”
AT A GLANCE: Crime Victim Assistance Program
• Victim advocates in 77 precincts, 9 Police Service Areas
• Advocates offer:
o Crisis and supportive counseling
o Safety planning
o Advocacy to schools, employers, creditors, and
landlords for accommodations
o Assistance applying for victim compensation o Referrals to individual or group therapy o Referrals to legal and social services
• Over 165,000 people have received support or services
• 93% of victims report feeling safer physically and/or emotionally after receiving Crime Victim Assistance
• 75% of victims served by the Crime Victim Assistance Program are people of color