Supporting victims and survivors of crime is a critical responsibility. The racial and ethnic diversity of King County has changed, and victim advocates face new and complex challenges in providing effective and culturally sensitive services.
To do this work well, we must understand and consult victims and survivors of crime – including those who have been traditionally underserved, such as victims with disabilities, victims of color, victims of bias and hate crimes and those with cultural and language barriers. We must respect their cultural differences, perceptions, beliefs, values, and experiences.
For many victims, justice does not always mean having their day in court. Some victims, families, and communities experience greater satisfaction and healing by achieving justice through the use of culturally responsive, victim-centered, and restorative justice practices.
I created and secured funding for a brand new Director of Victim Services position within the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, dedicated to strategically improving and coordinating victim services across King County to ensure that services are victim-centered, culturally sensitive and responsive, and restorative. I added ten new victim advocate positions to our team in order to provide services to victims of mainstream violent crime, elder abuse, hate crimes, and also to provide extra help for Spanish-speaking victims. I also increased advocacy for victims of sexual assault.
Experiencing harm can also create unexpected collateral legal issues for victims and survivors of crime, such as protection orders, restitution and compensation, and loss of employment or housing. For victims, figuring out how to address these issues can be confusing and overwhelming, and re-traumatizing. Undocumented individuals and those from other language backgrounds face additional hurdles which can seem insurmountable.
I was instrumental in the creation and funding of “Project Safety” – a nonprofit partnership that provides civil legal aid to victims of domestic violence, and I am currently working with key stakeholders to expand those services to a greater number of victims who have experienced violent crime or sexual assault.
I also believe that we can increase the reach and level of victim services through the use of technology and virtual platforms. I have empowered advocates and IT to work together to bring these innovations to the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.