Friday, February 24, 2017

Why I like working for CVAC and you can, too.

This week, CVAC posted two new positions for which we are accepting applications. These positions will allow us to expand our staff and services to better meet the needs of victims in the St. Louis area. Before you check out the job descriptions and requirements here, it might be helpful to learn why CVAC is such a great place to work. 

Dannielle (2 years at CVAC): The people are absolutely amazing. Working within the criminal justice system allows us to do outreach to fill gaps in services where victims often fall through the cracks. 

Peggy (16 years at CVAC): I love working at CVAC because the office culture really values self care. The work is hard, even if you feel you are meant to do it, but the staff is very supportive of each other. Working here is like being part of a family.

Katie (4 years at CVAC): I like working at CVAC because we have very few stipulations on who we can serve. If you feel you have been victimized, you can come to us for help. Because of this, we have a very diverse client population with diverse needs. 

Megan (2 years at CVAC): I enjoy working for CVAC because of my unique setting in the courts and the opportunities available to me within that setting. As a full time student pursuing my masters, I also enjoy the ability, support, and encouragement to pursue higher education.

Jessica (13 years at CVAC): I like working at CVAC because we are encouraged to form meaningful partnerships with other agencies. This allows us to constantly update our services and increase the quality of those services. We also can have a meaningful impact through public advocacy and training that affect victims who never directly receive our services.

CVAC is an equal opprtunity employer and diverse candidates are encouraged to apply.  

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Taking One More Tool Away from Abusers

In an El Paso court on February 9, federal immigration agents detained an undocumented woman after a court hearing (link). While these types of detentions happen on a regular basis, this one caused particular concern in the victim service community. This woman was in court that day to get an Order of Protection. The tip that led to her detention is speculated to have come from the person against whom she was filing the Order of Protection, her alleged abuser.

It is no great revelation to say that abusers will use any and all methods available to them to maintain power and control over their victims. While most people think of emotional and physical abuse, advocates often see sexual abuse and financial abuse in their clients as well. Withholding immigration documents or threatening to report an undocumented individual to authorities is a further extension of this abuse- one more tool that abusers use to maintain their control. This is true for both victims of domestic violence as well as human trafficking.

It is important for advocates, victims, friends, family, law enforcement, and courts to know, however, that there are legal remedies to prevent a situation like the one in El Paso. Victims of domestic violence may be able to apply for a U Visa which allows victims who cooperate with a criminal investigations to obtain a visa to stay in the United States and to potentially earn a green card. Under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), an individual who has been abused by a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident may self-petition to stay in the U.S. lawfully, to work, and to receive public benefits. Victims of sex or labor trafficking may apply for a T Visa which could grant them lawful residence, the ability to work, and a potential path to stay permanently.

No immigration process is quick or simple. While these are drawn out processes with no guarantee of success, simply spreading the word of their existence may help someone. Sharing this information could save a victim whose abuser is threatening to have them deported or who is hesitant to involve the police for fear of deportation. This can allow us as advocates and as a society to take one more tool away from abusers and to give that little bit of power back to the victim.

If you or someone you know is concerned about their legal status and they are a victim of domestic violence or sex trafficking, St. Louis has several resources available including:
Legal Services of Eastern Missouri
Catholic Legal Assistance Ministry
If both of these state they are unable to help a victim, they can call Crime Victim Advocacy Center at 314-652-3623 for intake and additional referrals.

Friday, February 17, 2017

It's All Part of the Job

At a meeting this week, our staff talked about the universal experiences of being a person who works with victims of crime. All of our staff members agreed they had the experience of telling someone where they worked and having that person recoil and exclaim what a difficult job it must be. And it is. There is no doubt about that.

The other universal truth we discussed was hearing of a domestic violence homicide and checking whether you or a coworker had worked with the victim in the past and whether you were working with him/her currently. It’s the sad truth of the work that if someone has been in the domestic violence field more than a handful of years, chances are they have lost a client to homicide. It could be someone you worked with for months, just spoke with once, tried to call and never reached them, or had worked with several times over the years. The losses never get easier, in fact, for some of us, they get more difficult. It's all part of the job.

Some advocates burn out and leave the field. Some advocates burn out and stay in the field. Some find a way to be resilient through it all. One of the most important ways I have found to stay resilient is to focus on all the good that CVAC does. In 2016, CVAC served over 7,500 victims of crime and family members. For those clients, CVAC advocates, counselors, and lawyers provided:
  • assistance for 2,370 Order of Protection filings
  • accompaniment to 330 court hearings
  • legal representation at 149 court appearances
  • 1,023 hours of counseling services
  • 133 free notary services
There are also services too numerous to mention that improve the lives of our clients and help them to move from crisis to resiliency. In 2016, 91% of clients felt they had better knowledge of the resources available to them and 85% felt they could better plan for their safety after speaking with a CVAC advocate. This is also part of the job. This is the part of the job that makes going through everything else worthwhile.

Comments by Jessica M., Director of Community Engagement