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Written by James Pollack   
Wednesday, 19 August 2015 19:16

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Danica Smith - Victim Advocate - Summit County Prosecutor's Office

We all learned so much at NOVA this week and really had a great time. Wednesday morning started with a Victim Tribute given by a member of MADD, a father whose son was killed in a drunk driving accident when he was seventeen. Then I attended Surviving Sexual Assault, Dear Kevin; A Letter to My Brother, and Child Endangerment: Children Riding With Substance Impaired Drivers. 

Surviving Sexual Assault was about a woman from Canada who told us the story of her rape. Her main points were that the reaction from the first person a woman confides in in this situation is key. It is important for us as advocates to validate their feelings and recognize the normalcy of their emotions and the effects of the process. We are not here to decide whether or not it happened, we are to let the police decide and make sure what we are telling the victim is accurate. If we do not know what to say, it is better not to say anything. 

Dear Kevin was a really touching workshop. Lisa, the presenter, played us a letter she’d written to her brother who was stabbed to death in a bar when he was 19 and trying to save another friend. She emphasized how once they finally got their advocate when the offender went to trial, she was a huge help to her mother. This was a good way to see what surviving victims go through in situations where the primary victim is killed.

So that’s all for this week at NOVA. Hope you enjoyed reading all about it!


Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Danica Smith - Victim Advocate - Summit County Prosecutor's Office

Tuesday at NOVA we first attended a Plenary by Victoria Carder which was a panel discussion about different ways they exercise self-care. I also attended Two Paths to Justice: Successful Collaboration Between Prosecutors and Victim Advocates, “Two Victims, Two Voices, Two Countries: How You Can Join An Effort to Bring Transformation to Your Community”, and Overview of the Criminal Justice System.

The Plenary was good because it gave insight into the self-care tactics of different people in the field of crisis response. They emphasized that boundaries and knowing your limits are good and exercising them does not make you an less of a service provider. They told us that healthy living, diet, and enough rest are also helpful.

Two Paths was about bridging the gap between prosecutors and advocates, but in this particular case the prosecutor and the advocate were great friends, so they worked together well. It was actually just saying “communicate” and listing the things that advocates do and what prosecutors do. 

Two Victims Two Voices was presented by Monika Korra from Norway and Courtney Underwood from Texas. They both told their stories of their sexual assaults and how those incidents drove them to change their communities. For example, in Monika’s case, the largest newspaper editor in Norway flew to her in Dallas (where she was in school) to interview her for his newspaper. It was the first story he’d ever published about sexual assault. Also, two of her offenders got life while one got 25 years. The maximum sentence for anything in Norway is 21 years, not stackable. So the most these offenders were looking at, had this happened in Norway, was 3-4 years. So Monika’s story is helping to change that and raise awareness. I ordered her book called Killing the Silence so hopefully it gets here soon because Alyse and I are both looking forward to reading it. Courtney was assaulted by her pastor, and although she never reported to anyone outside of the church, she was a part of founding the first SANE program in Dallas among many other resources. This was my favorite workshop from the week. 


Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Mark Beckwith - Victim Advocate - Summit County Prosecutor's Office 

Yesterday, I heard a panel discussion, "Tales from the Field." The panel discussion was moderated by Dr. Victoria Calder, the Executive Director of the Texas School Safety Center at Texas State University. Five different speakers presented on personal stories that had dealt with in their profession, including victim advocacy, law enforcement and education. 

I also attended Impact of Trauma on Children: How to Help, not Hinder. This workshop explored how traumatizing events impact children's developmental, behavioral and psychological health.  Treatment approaches were explored as well as evidenced based treatment strategies. 

I later attended LGBTQ Victim Services: Everything You Need to Know. The presenter was Michael Sheline, Assistant Section Chief, crime Victim Services of the Ohio Attorney General's Office. We learned about the history of LGBTQ advocacy, special concerns for the community within the legal system, and ways victim service providers can be informed an inclusive. 

I later attended The Link Across the Lifespan: Animal Abuse's Links to Child, Domestic and Elder Abuse. The workshop basically explored the link between animal abuse, child abuse, domestic violence and elder abuse across the lifespan. 

Today, Wednesday, August 19th, we heard a very moving speech from Brad Bulla, a father who lost his son to a drunk driver. Incredibly powerful and emotional, it ended with a song he wrote about his son that he performed. The family is very musical and performed in 48 states. 

I then attended Darkness to Light/Stewards of Children (Prevent Child Abuse Training). This was an intensive speaker and video instruction that should be part of training in an social service related office. Simply outstanding overview with real life examples and tools to help prevent child abuse. 

I then attended Joyful Healing: One Body at a Time. This was basically a workshop to help prevent burnout in victim advocacy. This was an interactive session with strategies designed to help identify risk factors leading to burnout. 


Monday, August 17, 2015 

Danica Smith – Victim Advocate - Summit County Prosecutor’s Office


Today at NOVA my workshops were What To Do When The Police Leave: The Checklist, The Neurobiology of Trauma (which was a whole group event with Dr. Christopher Wilson), and Listening To The Voice of Victims: Understanding Victim Behavior Within The Context of Sexual Violence 

What To Do When The Police Leave was an amazing story told by a father whose sixteen year old son was shot and killed outside his job eighteen years ago. He told us how to handle the immediate aftermath of trauma and how to help the families in the most effective way. I think his checklist (for example to start gathering the support system, start an information tree so the immediate family makes as little calls as possible, and so on) is brilliant and something I will definitely carry with me in the future. 

In the Neurobiology seminar I learned about why victims behave the way they do and what neurological functions contribute to the behaviors that eventually make them seem unreliable. An example of this is bottom up attention when victims are focused on something that might be completely unrelated to the trauma, and then when they can't recall simple details it makes it seem less credible. 

The Voice of Victims workshop was the most touching and enlightening workshop I've been in so far. Two sexual assault victims told their stories and opened the floor for a Q&A session afterwards. This brought the Neurobiology seminar full circle in both stories in the regard of 'why did she do that'. The first woman made her rapist breakfast the next morning because he asked her to, and when he allowed her out (of her own home) to go to Starbucks, there was a police officer in the parking lot but she ordered her latte and went right back. The other woman didn't report her assault for three years and the case is still open. 

What was special about today was when the second woman credited her victim advocate (who was the presenter) for helping her get clean and stay clean for three years now at 22 years old. I found that really inspiring. 


Sunday, August 16, 2015 

 Alyse Ziga – Victim Advocate – Summit County Prosecutor’s Office 

 The first workshop I attended was titled "Teens and Stalking".  I wanted to go to the one about using Canine Companions for Independence (CCIs), but due to flight issues, that one was cancelled.  The teens and stalking was very interesting though.  The presenter covered many topics.  What I found to be specifically interesting was that teens in an abusive relationship, specifically during school, see it as normal or endearing when their boyfriend/girlfriend is exhibiting stalking like behaviors. Constantly texting, waiting outside class, always around.  These are all signs of being possessive, yet the person receiving this attention finds it flattering, normal, loving.  If their partner isn't doing these things, something must be wrong.  They did it to their last boy/girlfriend, so it's only normal that they are doing it to me now. 

Like many other types of victimization, the beginning stages of helping teens and young adults get out of a stalking type of relationship is validation of their thoughts and feelings.  Believing them and following through with what they're scared of. 

A follow up question I have for when I get back regarding this is do teens or those under 18 have to have an adult to file a CPO on someone? 

We were also provided with several new websites for resources that I believe will be helpful for not only the office and coworkers, but survivors as well. 

The second work shop I went to on Sunday was about Vicarious Trauma.  This was an excellent workshop.  The presenter went through the different ways we can be affected by the people we are working for:  Distress, burnout, compassion fatigue, vicarious trauma. 

She detailed each ones with examples and how the beginning ones such as stress and even burnout are somewhat normal and can be fixed if addressed correctly.  As you move to compassion fatigue and vicarious trauma, the advocate has to be very careful because there can serious physical, mental, and emotional problems that come with them. 

This presenter is working on a study called the ProQOL5- quality of life scale that she asked us to take the time to go to the website and complete.  I think it would be good for us all to do as well as send to the office.  Not only would it help her in the study, but it would give those of us who work long, hard hours’ time to reflect on what we do and if we're taking enough time for ourselves and making sure we're okay. 

I was thinking about our office and formulating some kind of "support group" for lack of a better word.  I do think it may be beneficial to set some kind of debriefing night, after work once a month or every few months.  Where everyone could stay late or we go somewhere and just debrief.  Do an exercise to relax and remind ourselves why we're doing this job.  Remind ourselves that what we do is important.  Each and every one of us is an important part of the process and each and every one of us is important to the victims and survivors we work with.  If we're not healthy; if we're burnt out and tired/jaded, that is going to show in our faces and be heard in our voices. 

It would also be beneficial I think to have someone like this presenter (maybe someone closer as she resides in San Francisco) to come and speak to us about the vicarious trauma and what to do about it. 

She passed around a sheet of paper where we put our email address to receive additional info for the survey, her power point, and her contact info which I will share with you. 

The third and final presenter I went to on the first day of the NOVA conference was regarding Death Notification.  Personally, one of the things I feel I struggle with the most is finding the words to say to homicide victim's surviving family members and loved ones.  This presentation was very focused on the actual notification process right after an accident or death happens.  There is a "team" that goes out, usually no more or less than 2 depending on the situation.  One person is the talker, and the other is assessing the situation. 

A very interesting part of this was that the presenter is advocating making the process of notification a universal process.  There is training on a website which I'll provide in a follow up email that I think should be sent to our police stations if they don't already have this information.  Telling someone that their loved one is dead is going to change their lives forever and if it's not done in a professional, yet sensitive way, it can traumatize the person in ways that can never be undone. 

So far, I am absolutely thrilled to be here.  I think this is a wonderful opportunity to grow and learn as an advocate.  I wish I could go to all of the trainings and learn everything, but I am trying to pick the workshops I not only find interesting, but the ones that I think I need to expand on and learn more of.  I am in no way the best advocate.  I certainly try very hard, but there is always more I can do.  It's really humbling to be here with so many people with the same beliefs and goals.  It's great to hear their stories and see so many people fighting the good fight!  I look forward to this week and I'm already excited to bring back what I've learned so far and implement it into my daily routine and advocacy!


Sunday, August 16, 2015

Danica Smith – Victim Advocate - Summit County Prosecutor’s Office.

Today at NOVA I attended three workshops: Teens & Stalking, "That's Your Job, Not Mine!" Collaborative Effort From Law Enforcement and Victim Services , and Addressing Vicarious Trauma and Burn-Out: Professional Self-Care Strategies for Victim Advocates.

At Teens and Stalking I learned a lot about stalking as a behavior and how teens, with their access to internet and social media, are unaware sometimes that they are exhibiting behaviors of stalking. I learned how much teens rely on their peers to learn and how instances of stalking can be easily mistaken for infatuation and love. For applying this in my day to day work, I learned to advocate properly for teens means to validate their feelings about these 'relationships', make them aware of their options, and educate them at staying safe while using technology.

During "That's Your Job, Not Mine" I learned about how crucial a close relationship and consistent collaboration between law enforcement and victim advocates can be. This presentation, given by the detective and victim advocate on the case, told the story of a father who sexually abused his biological daughter for more than 20 years and how they worked together towards his conviction. I learned that getting behind the victim and making them feel empowered and supported is very important. The law enforcement and victim advocate teamwork helped this woman to feel empowered and free for the first time in her life.

Last was Vicarious Trauma and Burn-Out and although I am new to the job and haven't yet experienced these issues, I know that they will eventually come and I left the seminar equipped with tools to cope such as taking time for yourself whether it's making sure you're getting a little time away from your desk, or managing your schedule so that you can get home a little early on Fridays. It is very important to take that time for yourself.

Last Updated on Thursday, 10 December 2015 20:55