Top photo: Our victim advocates and support staff. 

Bottom photo: Molly Shipley (left) and Destinie Davis (right).

HILLSBORO, Ore.- March is National Social Work Month and the Washington County District Attorney’s Office is taking the time to honor those who dedicate their careers to helping others.

Social workers play a crucial role in our mission; to seek justice and protect the community. While our prosecutors may get most of the recognition, our victim advocates are integral to the legal process.

Whether they are ushering a victim through court proceedings, coordinating flights and transportation for victims and their families who may live outside the area, or merely offering a shoulder to cry on, our team of 14 advocates and support staff help victims every day.

In 2018, our team helped nearly 12,000 victims and had more than 102,000 contacts with those victims over the year. They also help victims recover from crime by seeking restitution on their behalf. Thanks to their efforts, the court system ordered more than $2.4 million in restitution for the victims we served in 2018 alone. Three of our advocates also speak Spanish, helping us to better communicate with those we serve.

But the numbers don’t tell the whole story. Two of our victim advocates, Molly Shipley and Destinie Davis, shared their experiences.

Molly joined the DA’s office in 2012 as a volunteer. She knew right away she wanted to make this work her career. Of course, it isn’t easy. Molly and her colleagues see the most intimate details of criminal cases on a daily basis. They have to meet with these victims and their families during some of the worst times of their lives. Molly says all that negativity doesn’t affect her the way some may suspect.

“A lot of people ask me how I do it when the work must be so sad and depressing,” Molly said of the questions she often gets. “To me, it is just the opposite. Yes, the cases are tragic and cause immense suffering for victims and families, but what is most remarkable is witnessing the strength and resiliency of the human spirit.

“As an advocate in the DA’s office, I am able to work alongside the prosecutors who hold the offenders accountable.  I give victims a chance to be heard and valued.  When a victim gains power in the process, the victim triumphs and the offender loses.  This is especially true with domestic violence victims, who are often made to feel powerless by their abusers.  I believe when the good prevails, it has a ripple effect throughout the community and we all win,” Molly added.

While it may be easy to linger on the more difficult aspects of her job, Molly instead cherishes the positive memories she’s made along the way. One difficult homicide case stands out for her.

“At the conclusion of a homicide case, I once had a victim’s family ask for me and the prosecutor to stand in a family photograph. It was incredibly special and it’s moments like that that re-energize me and show the value of our work,” Molly said.

She isn’t alone in that sentiment. Destinie Davis is a member of our Child Abuse Team-- a dedicated group of prosecutors and advocates who work on cases involving minors. As you can imagine, this work can be especially difficult.

Just like Molly, however, Destinie focuses on the positive impact she can have on these victims when they need it the most.

“As an advocate, there is nothing better than being able to go home at night knowing that I assisted someone who needed help navigating what can be a very confusing process,” Destinie said of her work as a victim advocate.

“Sometimes this means simply explaining a court hearing to someone over the phone, while at other times it means sitting with a victim who has no one to support them while they listen to some of the most heart-wrenching news of their lives. Most importantly, it means helping the most vulnerable victims find their voice and hold up a “microphone” so that those in power can hear them speaking. We all deserve to be heard, and I think of my primary role as ensuring that the quieter voices don’t get lost in the cacophony of the system,” Destinie explained.

As you can see, it takes someone with a special talent for empathy and respect to work in this field. Are you interested in helping victims navigate the legal process? Do you know someone who would excel in this role? Click here to learn more about our volunteer and internship opportunities. Afterall, Molly started as a volunteer and has turned that opportunity into a rewarding career.

 

March 13, 2019