Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A Day in the Life of a Court Advocate

Today’s guest blogger is Sara Decamp, Hope House Court Advocate.

Imagine that the police were just at your house because your spouse assaulted you. Your spouse is arrested and the police leave you with a piece of paper telling you when your court date is. Would you know what to do next, and what to expect at court?

Photo courtesy of Sammylee at stock.xchng
Now imagine that you need protection from your abuser. Would you know the where to start or how to fill out paperwork?

I feel fortunate that I am part of a team that is able to assist victims in navigating through the often confusing court system. When people ask “What is a typical day like for you?” the real answer is there is no typical day. I can plan a day out in my head, but as soon as I hit the door that plan usually crumbles.

In the court program, we get police reports from the different departments and make contact with the victims by phone, letter or face to face, if necessary. What can start out a simple phone call to see how they are doing can turn into an all day event of trying to safety plan, filling out paperwork for orders of protection, perhaps finding shelter, or making more police reports for this one person.

When in court, we hear the stories that the abusers make up, see the intimidation that they try on the victims and see them, many times, escape consequences.

These are the tough points of the job; seeing a victim reduced to tears because she is terrified to testify or because there just wasn’t enough evidence and the abuser gets off on the charges.

It would be so easy to just throw your hands up and say “Why bother?” at this point. But when a victim who has avoided court in the past because of fear finds her voice and finally stand up to the person who has kept her down for so long, that trumps everything.

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