Advocate gives crime victims support and solace

She saw her boyfriend shot twice at close range and was only a few feet away from him when he died.

Traumatized and fearing for her own life, the Stevens County woman came to rely on Renee, a crime victim advocate at Rural Resources, during the months-long investigation and legal process that followed. She came regularly to the Crime Victim Service Center to meet with Renee for emotional support, information and guidance, and asked that her advocate accompany her to legal proceedings and be present at the trial.

The trial was itself traumatic: during the woman’s two and a half hours of testimony, she became so distraught that the judge had to call a recess. But she got through it. The defendant was convicted of second-degree murder and ordered to have no contact with the surviving victim, who is now doing well and moving forward with her life.

“She was extremely appreciative for my support during this painful time,” says Renee, who estimates that she has helped nearly 160 crime victims since she started her job with Rural Resources in 2006. The victims’ cases she handles run the gamut from burglary and other property crimes to human trafficking and homicide. She also backs up the Victim Services staff who help victims of domestic violence and advocate for children.

As a liaison between victims and the legal/judicial system, she works to ensure that the victim’s rights are observed and keeps them informed and educated during the legal process. She listens, answers their questions, and refers them to other programs and services, including professional counseling, if necessary.

“Quite often, they just need someone to turn to because they’re going to be involved in a legal system they don’t know anything about,” she says. “My main goal is to be there for them when they’re trying to deal with loss and fear. We’re not therapists or attorneys, but we can be a buffer. We can make what can be dreadful a little bit kinder.”

Renee speaks from experience. Her brother was shot and killed in the 1970s before the victims’ rights movement led to reforms. She later spent 11 years as a district court clerk and worked as a registrar in a hospital emergency room.

“It can be hard sometimes, but I really do enjoy helping victims,” she says. “There is such a need. These people are going through something I wouldn’t wish on anybody.”