In 2007, I walked my sweet little girl to school as usual and went to work. That night her dad picked her up, she jumped in the car visibly upset and blurted out, "my teacher touched me inappropriately." Life changes instantly when you are faced with something like that, it is so surreal. I had so many thoughts and questions spinning around in my head. I believed everyone would feel the same horror and sense of urgency that I did. I expected answers to be easy to find and that justice would be served swiftly. I was sadly mistaken.
I spent the next eight years navigating the criminal and civil justice system. Even though I had the best lawyers in the country, I felt alone and lost throughout the whole process. Every conversation with my attorneys left me with more questions than answers. My attorneys were wonderful humans with kids of their own, I liked them and trusted them. However, that didn’t make them any less intimidating. I didn’t understand their legalese and I was too proud to admit my ignorance. I was successful and a leader in my field but didn’t have a clue about the litigation process.
I spent many sleepless nights searching the internet for answers, sometimes not even knowing what I was looking for. I didn't want to bother my attorneys every time I had a question. I knew their time was valuable and better spent building a strong case for my daughter. I longed for a support person I could call that would translate the legalese and explain to me what was going on and what to expect in a way that I could understand, as a mom in crisis mode. I wanted to speak to someone who understood the situation from my perspective.
I am self-reliant, tenacious, and a fighter and yet sometimes I was brought to my knees. It was the hardest thing I've ever had to do in my life. There were moments I wondered if it was all worth it. Now I can say with conviction I would do it again, only because I’ve learned so much, including where to go for support.
My daughter and I made it through, from victims to victors. I emerged from the situation determined to fill the void I felt going through the process. In the last twelve years, I have discovered I am not the only person who felt this need. Many people have reached out to me to share they had very similar experiences and said they really needed someone to help them navigate the process and provide resources.
I hope to pave the way for victim advocates to help people through both criminal and civil cases, to make their journey easier, and be a bridge to their path forward. Victim advocates have unique training in trauma-informed best practices, cultural humility, safety planning, resilience building, self-care, and working with survivors. Victim advocates can help victims withstand the rigors of the justice system and complete the process feeling supported.
For many victims, this is their first time they are a part of the legal process. They will not speak up and tell you they don’t understand. Fear will keep them from fully trusting you and potentially not divulging much needed information for their case. Adding a victim advocate to your legal team can help build a stronger plaintiff while you build a stronger case. Experience and training give victim advocates a different perspective that can help attorneys provide services that leaves their clients feeling satisfied with the results regardless of the outcome.