July-August 2013

A busy month for victim assistance coordinators

April is host to Crime Victims’ Rights Week and myriad other events in Texas prosecutors’ offices. Here’s how one VAC spent this very hectic month.

Mary Duncan

Region 1 Board ­Representative and ­Victim Assistance ­Coordinator in the ­Lubbock County ­Criminal District ­Attorney’s Office

As most victim assistance coordinators know, April is a very busy month for us. I’ve been asked to share with everyone what activities I held or participated in on behalf of the Lubbock County District Attorney’s Office.
    First and foremost, I always start by reminding the media how important the month of April is to all of us in the prosecutor’s office. I sincerely believe media is a must. I start getting the media’s attention in March. I was fortunate this year to have two radio interviews (which were also televised) on FoxTalk, wherein I was able to speak about the upcoming Child Abuse Prevention Month and National Crime Victims’ Rights Week.
    On April 13, we teamed up with the Children’s Advocacy Center and had a booth at its Stand Up For Kidz Event, which was a huge success. I was able to hand out goodie bags provided by our office that contained the literature I hand out on a daily basis.
    Around this time, I received a call from a representative of the League of Women Voters. This group asked if I would obtain some information on human trafficking and speak on this subject at a forum on April 18. I immediately agreed as I think it is very important that the public is educated in what all human trafficking entails. Fortunately, Jennifer Bassett, one of our assistant district attorneys who handles crimes against children, and I were meeting with a victim on the very day that I received the call from the League of Women Voters. I told her about the invitation to speak and asked her, “From a prosecutor’s perspective, what would you like the public to be educated on regarding human trafficking?” Her response: “That it is not all about illegal aliens—it’s about child prostitution.” I very much agreed with her as so many individuals out there don’t even know that human trafficking and/or child prostitution exist. We discussed how human trafficking is real and it’s in everyone’s county. Our office, in conjunction with the local federal prosecutors, has prosecuted multiple cases involving child prostitution and human trafficking. As  Chapter 20A of the Penal Code was amended in 2011, it is a great hammer against child sex crimes.
    I then contacted State Representative John Frullo’s office requesting any updates on two bills dealing with human trafficking. His office immediately sent me the bill analysis on both so that I could read them to the League of Women Voters on the lawmaker’s behalf. (One of the two, HB 2268, passed.)
    The forum on Public Awareness of Human Trafficking was very informative for not only the attendees but for me as well. I was able to observe firsthand what we, in the prosecutor’s office, need to focus on educating individuals outside of the prosecutor’s office. They were very interested in what all our office does on a daily basis and how my employment as a victim assistance coordinator is crucial in every case that comes through our office. One of their main questions was, “Is there counseling for victims of human trafficking?” I went on to explain how our office works closely with Voice of Hope (formerly Rape Crisis Center), Women’s Protective Services (WPS), Child Protective Services (CPS), and the Children’s Advocacy Center. The attendees were elated to hear that we had that many entities ready to assist victims. The League of Women Voters asked other questions regarding a task force designated just for human trafficking. I was proud to say that Lubbock County has a designated task force for this particular crime.
    On April 25, the Crime Victim Coalition, of which I am a member, had our awards ceremony to honor those who have gone above and beyond to assist victims of crime. I am honored to announce that five people from our office alone were nominated and received this award. (See the photo on page 13.) Since my employment with the Lubbock County Criminal District Attorney’s Office, these individuals have worked with me to assist our victims to the best of our ability. Their teamwork is to be commended.
    Once again, on April 27, I was contacted and was invited by the League of Women Voters to attend a fundraiser called An Evening of Hope with Chong Kim as our speaker. Chong Kim is a survivor of human trafficking, and that evening a movie based on her life, called Eden, was screened. Before the event, we attended a meet-and-greet with Chong Kim at the residence of Mr. and Mrs. Kent Hance. Mr. Hance is the chancellor for Texas Tech University, and State Representative John Frullo was a special guest. Meeting Chong Kim was a very memorable and informative. We continue to communicate via email.
    Lastly, as you can see from all of the above, I encourage all victim assistance coordinators to be proactive in attending events in your jurisdiction. There has not been an event that I have attended that I have not learned something. Victim assistance coordinators, our job is sometimes difficult, stressful, and very unpredictable. However, in my office I have a sign from a victim that reads as follows: “God has anointed you to comfort the broken.” I couldn’t have said it better myself. Our job can be rewarding as well when we comfort the broken! Please feel free to contact me with any questions and or comments at mduncan@lubbockcda .com or 806/ 775-1153.