The National Center for Victims of Crime, as part of its committment to raising awareness of the importance of forensic DNA as a tool to help solve and prevent crime and bring justice to victims, has conducted a series of interviews with survivors, leaders of innovative programs, and dedicated individuals whose work is affected by forensic DNA.

Interested in being featured in our Member Spotlight? >Tell us about your work. (For National Center Members Only. To learn more about our membership benefits click here.)

Heather Williams, Program Director and Crisis Response Team Coordinator
National Center Member

Organization: Community Service Programs, INC
Victim Assistance Programs
Contact: (949) 975-0244

Traditionally, when a crime occurs within a community, law enforcement and victim services focus on primary victims, often leaving witnesses and neighbors fearful and without resources to process their own trauma. CSP's Crisis Response Team (CRT) works in cooperation with local law enforcement to provide coordinated response to those individuals who, while not the primary victim, are impacted in significant ways. CRT provides individual and group crisis intervention and support helping to normalize stress reactions, offers a framework for understanding what has occurred, and encourages cooperation with law enforcement. CRT's support promotes community healing in the aftermath of violent crime.

Q: What does being a member of the National Center mean to you?

A: As a member agency we are appreciative of the quality, up-to-date resources available through the National Center.  The resource library is an especially beneficial asset in these times when training dollars are so limited.

Q: What have you learned from working with crime victims?

A: 1. In the 10 years I have been doing this work I always thought that the word "victim" meant so much more then just the primary person impacted by the crime. The metaphor of throwing a rock into a pond and seeing the continuous ripples is appropriate to what happens in the aftermath of crime. Each time we respond to a critical crime related incident the metaphor is validated as we realize the far reaching impact of the crime. In order to change the way the system responds to crime we must educate first responders and give them the template to think beyond the often narrow view of victimization.
2. We can NEVER understand what a victim goes through no matter what we've experienced ourselves. We can only imagine the impact it's had on them as an individual. This keeps me humble and I feel honored that I able to assist someone in the possible worst day(s) and moments of their life.
3. LISTEN to what a victim tells you, don't assume you already know.
4. People are incredibly resilient and have more strength in a moment of adversity then we can imagine. The will to survive is powerful.
5. In a system that traditionally protects the rights of the accused, we must be strong, professional and diplomatic leaders while standing up for what is just and fair for the right's of the victims.

Q: What is the critical need in the victim services field?

A:In November 2009, California passed Marcy's Law which extends the definition of "victim" and provides more rights to victims of crime.  The CSP Crisis Response Team is an innovative program that is unique to the State of California and possibly the nation. As of today, we are unfunded and this program runs on the sheer determination and passion of the team members and CRT Coordinator. I wish that all counties would have institutionalized grant money available to create and operate crisis response teams. Every person in a community impacted by a critical incident should have the ability to talk to a crisis counselor, have their responses validated and normalized. Immediate response to people impacted by crime can minimize the onset of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), prevent mental illness (which is a form of crime prevention), create healthy communities and build a strong partnership with law enforcement.

Mark W. Nowacki, Director
National Center Member

Organization: Culpeper Victim/Witness Program, Virginia
Assisting crime victims
(540) 727 3413

For the past 13 years, Culpeper Victim Witness Program has organized a luncheon in April to honor survivors of crime and to raise crime victims' rights awareness during the National Crime Victims' Rights Week. Dignitaries from the community attend this annual event during which a "Victim's Advocacy Award" is presented to members of the community who deserve recognition for their care of victims and committment to victims' rights. This year's speaker was University of Virginia football coach Mike London.

Q: What does being a member of the National Center mean to you?

A: Membership at the National Center has been a wonderful tool to educate our victim service providers. With the National Center's help, we build alliances with other advocates and stay informed on important legislation and news about victims' rights around the country.

Q: What have you learned from working with crime victims?

A: First of all, victimization knows no boundaries, and every victim should be treated with dignity and respect. Our work as victim service advocates is a critical component of the criminal justice system and has a huge impact in reducing the burden and trauma victims experience in the aftermath of a crime, as the recovery is a long and complicated process.

Q: What is the critical need in the victim services field?

A: Those of us that provide direct services to victims and witnesses of crime are proud to offer a variety of comprehensive services. The limitations and restrictions on funding have prevented us from doing more. With help and support, we can do even more to help reduce the trauma every victim of crime suffers through

Herman Milholland and David Voth
National Center Members

We congratulate Mr. Herman Milholland and Mr. David Voth on receiving the 2010 Ed Stout Memorial Award for Outstanding Victim Advocacy from the Congressional Victims' Rights Caucus, chaired by Reps. Ted Poe (R-TX) and Jim Costa (D-CA), in Washington, DC.

Mr. Herman Milholland, director of Crime Victim Services for the Texas Attorney General, has established state and local programs that provide crime victims with compensation and restitution.

Mr. David Voth
, director of Crime Victim Services in Lima, Ohio, is a founding member of the Board of the National Victims' Constitutional Amendment Network, which seeks to promote victims' rights across the nation. In 2009, he published "Quality Victim Advocacy: A Field Guide," which aims to simplify program planning and evaluation for victim assistance groups.

Larry Tackman
National Center Member

Organization: New Mexico Crime Victims Reparation Commission
Crime Victim Compensation

We congratulate Mr. Larry Tackman, former director of the New Mexico Crime Victims Reparation Commission and a member of the National Center for Victims of Crime, on receiving the 2010 Ronald Wilson Reagan Public Policy Award presented during this year's National Crime Victims' Service Awards ceremony in Washington, DC.

This prestigious award is given to those whose leadership, vision, and innovation have led to significant changes in public policy and practice that benefit crime victims.

To view his profile from the award ceremony click here.

Vilma Torres
Victim Advocate
National Center Member

Organization: Safe Horizon, Bronx Criminal Court
Expertise: Working with homicide survivors

For 25 years, Vilma has worked with families affected by homicide in all five boroughs of New York City. Currently, she supervises the Bronx Criminal Court Reception Center and Complaint Room that provides crisis intervention, safety assessment and risk management, shelter placement, and advocacy with the New York City Police Department and the District Attorney's office.

Vilma conducts Safe Horizon's staff training on grief and loss, bereavement, and the impact of homicide on families' lives, which adapts Dr. Edward K. Rynearson's group model of therapeutic intervention for families of homicide victims.

Vilma has launched activities, such as the Safe Horizon Children's Chorale, to support the most vulnerable family members. She has also helped coordinate large-scale events, such as Safe Horizon's National Crime Victims' Rights Week observance, the Children's Requiem, and the Million Mom March. Such initiatives build on victims' strengths and convey attention and respect to those harmed by crime. She also presents regularly at national conferences and regional trainings throughout the country.
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