An Oral History of the Crime Victim Assistance Field
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Seymour: I'm Anne Seymour of Justice Solutions interviewing Rhonda Barnes.
Barner: Barner. That's B-A-R-N-E-R.
Seymour: Thank you. Rhonda Barner. I'm sorry.
Barner: It's Rhonda, R-H-O-N-D-A, I'm with the... I'm Director of the Montgomery County Prosecutor's Office, Victim Witness Division in Dayton, Ohio.
Seymour: You were, you were great. (talks with crew about volume of speaking) Thanks for joining us today, first and foremost.
Barner: Oh, my pleasure.
Seymour: Rhonda, why or how did you first get involved in the crime victims' movement?
Barner: I actually kind of fell into it, to be quite honest. I went to the University of Dayton as a criminal justice major. I'm originally from Philadelphia and was looking to study criminal justice as a catalyst to going to law school. I've always been interested in criminal law and found the University of Dayton and the criminal justice program, which was a new program in 1972 when I started college. My third year in the program I was offered an opportunity to have an internship for my senior year.
I went first to the Public Defender's Office and that position was filled before I could get there so I was not sure where I was gonna go for an internship, had a colleague, or actually a student... fellow student who said, "Come work at this program that I'm at it's the Victim Witness Division," it's actually called the "Victimization Project," the first year that I was there. "It's a sexual assault service but I think you'll really like it and why don't you come do your internship there."
So I went and talked to the Director and got in as an intern doing 20 to 30 hours a week and, back in '75, interns were used to do a predominate amount of the services because there were only three people who were employed. So I did that for my senior year, graduated in April, finished my internship in May. I was ready to go back to Philadelphia when the Director said , "If you'd like to stay, there's gonna be a... an opening in September, it's yours if you want it." Now the project, when it started as a rape crisis center, started as an independent grant funded agency. But it was picked up after its first year of funding by the County Prosecutor, who at the time was Lee Falke in Dayton.
He had the foresight to see that the program was not only valuable but that it could be expanded so that it wasn't just sexual assault services, it was services to any victim or witness of crime, and that's when it became the Victim Witness Division of the Montgomery County Prosecutor's Office. So my thought was I'm not gonna go to law school for a couple of years, this would be a great stepping stone, I'll do this for a couple of years and see how it goes and I've been there over 26 years now. So I kind of fell into something and learned as an intern that it was a growing field, that it was very new. I saw a lot of challenge in it and quite frankly, did end up going to two years of law school and found that working, and I did that while I was still working my job, I did that at night, and realized that I had the best of all worlds.
Because practicing law didn't hold the excitement and glamour that I once thought it had, I didn't even have the interest of doing that anymore. I really liked what I was doing in terms of victims' services. I liked how the field was growing and I liked being a part of that growth. So I never completed law school and stayed as a Victim Advocate and in 1992 was promoted to the Director. (both talking at once) So I kind of grew along with the field.
Seymour: And the excitement, the excitement and glamour of the victims' advocate?
Barner: Yeah. But it was, it was certainly something I can remember distinctly when I was asked about coming to do my internship. Kind of saying, "You know what it's not really what I want to do but it's one division of the prosecutor's office so that means I get to work with prosecutors and judges and get to see what the courtroom's all about" and that was what enticed me because I really had no interest in working with victims.
But what I found was that I didn't know enough about working with victims and once I really got into doing it, I just saw that it was, there was just such a need and that I could be part of, like I said, the growth and development. And so I started in '75, was hired in '76, and have just continued on from there.
Seymour: All right. So when you started in '75, can you describe what the field of victims' rights and services looked liked including the... the context of the era?
Barner: It was very interesting because first of all, as I mentioned, the Victimization Project was started as a sexual assault service, a rape crisis center, for Montgomery County, the Dayton area, and it was a 24-hour service which was kept by the prosecutor when he took the program over. But the program started under grant funds with six staff. When those grant funds ran out, the staff dwindled down to three and so when I came onboard there were three of us because I actually replaced a person who left in 1976.
So there were three of us and what I found was that, we were doing a lot of changing of attitudes or attempting to and attempting to break way into an area that was not very inviting. We were fortunate to have a County Prosecutor who was a real pioneer in the area and really saw a vision for what victim services could mean to his office and to the community. But that was not the same sort of attitude that was shared by local law enforcement agencies and judges and certainly not be the defense Bar.
So we found ourselves day in and day out, you know, really battling for victims because nobody knew what services were available, nobody knew what to do and a lot of people weren't welcoming us in with open arms. It was pretty much, you know, keep them out and, we were seen as tissue holders and, or tissue providers and hand holders and, you know, a lot of do-good women who were just trying to be helpful and needy and it took a long time to prove that there was value and merit to what we were doing and that it was a necessary service.
So, it was an interesting time and there were not a lot of funds around to help, you know, promote those services or to enlarge staff. So that was another issue.
Seymour: Looking at the area of... of victim witness in particular, what was the greatest challenge you think that you and your colleagues faced in affecting change?
Barner: Hmm...I'd say first, one of the things that I look back on and know was the hardest road, to walk was with law enforcement. From the time that victims called the police, as I said, our services predominately were sexual assault even though we were prosecutor based, we were 24-hour, and still are, 24-hour service for sexual assault victims, which means that we were going out to hospitals in the middle of the night in Montgomery County, Ohio. We were servicing nine hospitals, used a volunteer network and our staff. And when we'd go out to the hospital and we'd have a lot of the good old boys in law enforcement who still had very antiquated ideas about sexual assault and victimization in general, it was very tough to get them to be open-minded and non-judgmental to get them to listen to what the victim had to say.
We found ourselves in the area of doing training with law enforcement. And it was interesting because I think in the mid to late '70s there were some people who saw the value in what we were doing and other people who didn't and there was often a clash between the people who were bringing us in to do the training and the training that we had to do. So I remember going to police academies and doing trainings and basically getting booed out of the room or harassed out of the room by a lot of old time cops who just said, you know, "I've been doing my job for years and you can't tell me how to do it," and not understanding that we weren't trying to tell them how to do their job but we were trying to give them skills to get better information. And it took a long time to get law enforcement and prosecutors to understand that what we were doing was doing things that would help them have better witnesses and ultimately help their investigation and help the prosecution of their case.
So as I look back on that, that was a big challenge and now I find it interesting that our State Police Academy, or yeah, our State Police Training Academy and our local Dayton Police Department have used myself and other advocates and certified us to be their trainers, whereas at one point in time it was like, "Well, what do you think you know, how... why are you coming in, telling us how to do our job?" Now they look at us and they say, "You know what, we shouldn't be doing this training. Let us certify you, you can come in, you can help develop the curriculum and you can train the officers in things they need to know." So, yeah, it's a huge change.
Seymour: That's great. What were the secrets, tactics and strategies you employed that were successful primarily in the early days but any since then as well?
Barner: I think for me one of the things that I know our office had to do quite often was learn how to work within the system. You know, we were system based. We were, we've always been part of the prosecutor's office. The best way for us to get things done to benefit our clients was to learn all the ins and outs of how the police did their job and to work within that system. How the prosecutors prosecuted their cases and to try to find ways to fit in, not, you know, there are some agencies, and I know on a state level we talk about this all the time, there are some private agencies that have the benefit of being able to go in and bang down doors. And in a public agency where you're one part of an office, like a prosecutor's office and you're considered a part of the law enforcement community, you don't necessarily go in banging down the doors, you kind of, you try to work from the other side and... and work within the structure that's already there.
And then little-by-little get that change by showing them how you can be helpful and beneficial and... and that it's not barnstorming your way in but it's kind of, you know, showing your worth and value by having an... a door open to you that you can then expand and say, "Okay, you know, I see what you're doing, I see how you're doing it, what about this, how about, you know, if I help you here." And as I mentioned, you know, with law enforcement officers, we went from having a lot of officers say, "Ah, we don't want you anywhere near" to them allowing us into interviews and ultimately for them to call us and say, "Well, could you talk to this victim, could you do the interview because, you know, I think she'd respond better to you."
And, you know, then it all... ..often came, got to a point where, you know, like I'd have to say, "You have to do the interview because my job is an advocate but I can help you along or I can help promote that discussion and facilitate the interview and I'll be there, but I can't conduct the interview." That's, you know, really something in our county law enforcement needs to do because I certainly don't want to be called as a witness which would take me away from providing services for my client. So.
Seymour: Do you think today, are you or any of our colleagues still showing how we can help with your description?
Barner: I think so. I think, yeah, unfortunately, I do think there are still times that we are doing that and I think as I look in the field and how it's grown, the areas that we are still having to do that are with judges. I think judges are coming along but when there are changes in the laws, such as the Victim Rights Law, we're still educating them about that. And it's one thing from them to pick up the... the Code, like in the Ohio Revised Code, there is now a whole section called the Victim Rights Law, but it's one thing for them to read it and say, "Okay, well these are the things that I have to do," but it's another thing for them to understand it.
And so sometimes I think the judges are... are the tough group that we have to really impress upon, in terms of how victims feel, what victims' reactions are, why victims' rights are important, what the impact of the crime has been on the victim and how they need to have a say and a voice. And it's more than just reading the law and making a determination based on how you interpret the law, it's really about understanding how this crime has im... impacted the victim.
So I think there are still law enforcement officers and prosecutors, I know in our community and in other communities that I am familiar with, there are still people who don't quite get it. But I think if I were to look at a bigger group that's still, in my mind, needs to be brought in, I look at judges as being ones who have had this kind of forced on them by changes in law and don't all kind of get it. So.
Seymour: Have there been any failures, and if you think there have been, what are... what are the failures in our field?
Barner: I think there have been. I think some of them are minor. I don't know that I can specify. I think some of the failures are a failure to recognize the need for consistent and ongoing funding. That's a constant problem. I think there's a failure of professionals to recognize that victim advocates are, in fact, trained professionals, too. You, we still don't have what we need in terms of credentialling and in terms of education so that you can go to college to become a victim advocate.
Because the field is still growing but I think there is a need for people to recognize that not anyone can be a victim advocate. There has to be training, there has to be a passion for providing the services the victim advocates provide. And I think there are too many people who don't recognize the merit in that training and in that expertise. And until you have the people who control purse strings willing to say, "Yes, this is valuable and we need to commit dollars to it," then you don't get the training that's needed for the beginners and the ongoing training that's needed for those who've been in the field a long time and then you don't get the training, the funding for the programs.
I've, I've been around long enough to see money out there for victim services and then programs dry up because the money dries up. And I can remember in the early '80s watching programs all over the State of Ohio just go by the wayside because the money wasn't there, new prosecutors came onboard and they didn't see the same value or, you know, whatever funding base was there was no longer available and it took a long time until VOCA funds came about providing funding and, you know, now we're in that dicey area again where people are worried about whether or not those funds are gonna go there. So.
Seymour: We've talked about failures, what do you perceive to be the one greatest accomplishment that has promoted victims' rights and needs?
Barner: Oh, well, I don't know that there's been just one. (laugh)
Seymour: Well, then maybe two or three.
Barner: Okay. I think - goodness there's, I think there have been so many and I think that's partially because, as I said, this field is really still so new and it's been growing so much. I think some of the things that have come out have been training, certainly the National Organization for Victim Assistance, NOVA, has been the catalyst behind that. Dr. Marlene Young has put together training materials that have become Bibles for practitioners like myself, for my staff. Going, sending my staff to training that is provided by NOVA has been invaluable because it's the training that you don't get in college, that pretty much you can't get anywhere else, that really details the theory and the practice and how to put it together.
And when I was starting out as a victim advocate, I had a criminal justice degree, I had background in sociology and psychology, but there were many things about victim services and victim advocacy that I didn't know because there was nowhere to get that. I went through some victim advocacy training at NOVA and all of a sudden, you know, that was provided. So that was kind of the launching pad for me, for some of my colleagues, but it's also the recognition that it can't stop there because the field is growing. We're learning, and I certainly feel that I myself over the years, have learned from a lot of my clients.
I learn how to better provide services by listening to what my clients say, what their needs are. And the best way that I can then teach my staff is not just through the trainings that are there but as a practitioner myself, helping to ensure that the training grows to address the new and different issues that come about. I think the other thing is professionalizing the field and certainly I know in Ohio we've worked toward that goal. We started working toward that goal by networking. The Ohio Victim Witness Association was formed in 1978 to bring together those of us who were providing victim services in the State of Ohio so that one, we didn't have to reinvent the wheel, so that we could share ideas and information. And I can tell you as a program that's one of the oldest prosecutor-based programs in Ohio, we had brochures that we had developed and after a while I could go to several different offices and see our same brochure with a different prosecutor's name and... and letter on it because they would be able to take that information and use it.
And back in the early days when you were short staffed and short of funding, you know, that's how you got things done. You had to find ways to, you know, conserve of your resources and... and get the best bang for your buck. So we were sharing information and helping one another out, learning from one another how to do different things. So that was kind of all pulled together in Ohio through the statewide network, and it helped us to determine that new people coming onboard needed training.
We developed the Ohio Advocate Network to help promote training and registration of advocates to verify in our state that whether you were in Dayton or Cincinnati or Cleveland or Columbus or Toledo, that you were gonna pretty much be consistent in terms of your basic services, your basic training and criteria for providing victim advocacy.
Seymour: Would it make a difference, Rhonda, if a person had a college degree or not? Is that a requirement to get certification?
Barner: All... all offices are different. I can tell you in my office, I have people on my staff who started in the field for a variety of reasons. Maybe it was their own personal victimization or for doing volunteer service because they wanted to, you know, just be involved in a group and they learned more about the field than they ever could have gotten in college. So I have people on my staff who are not, you know, do not have a college degree, but I would put their services up against some of the people who've been in my office with Masters.
I think there is a passion that is involved in providing victim services and I think that is something that you can't teach, you know. So, when I hire people, even today, I tell people, I would like to have a bare minimum of a bachelor's degree but if they don't have a bachelor's degree and have years of experience then I will look at that in place. And so I think that the field at this point in time still has to be open for that and recognize that there are people who may not have degrees. Now I'm also one of the co-founders and co-coordinators of the Ohio Advocate Network, which means I have a strong belief in ongoing education, continuing education, and training and pre-service training. So that means when I hire someone, they don't hit the ground running where, working with clients.
They don't start working with clients until they've gotten the basics and that's at least twenty hours of training in a variety of different fields. So I make sure that when I send them out working with a client, I'm not gonna do secondary victimization by putting them with someone who can't address their needs. So that's, I think, very important and I think that's something that, you know, we promote on a local level, state level and certainly on a national level. It's something that OVWA is working toward, certainly NOVA, continues to be out as a frontrunner in, you know, providing that kind of training and ongoing expertise for those of us in the field who want to keep learning and growing and helping victims.
Seymour: Rhonda, what do you think is needed today to continue the growth and professionalism of our field and, the only way to put it is, what's missing from where we are today, 2003?
Barner: Well certainly, as I mentioned earlier, funding to keep programs secure and to give them the opportunity to expand. There have been high points in funding. I know our program, when I first took over as Director in 1992, there were 8 of us; within three to four years my staff was up to 16. And that was because we had never applied for any of the grant funding, predominately because our community is such that our prosecutor was able to pick up everyone and we always had the kind of philosophy that, you know, the money should go to areas that needed it more.
Eventually as the funds became more available, our prosecutor said, "You know what, we should look at getting some of those." And when I came on in '92,there was a change in our prosecutor so our prosecutor, who was Matt Hecht now said, "Let's see if we can get some of those funds." We were very fortunate we got VOCA funds, we got VAWA funds and we were able to bring people on, additional advocates to do additional specializations. Now we're seeing a time that those monies are in jeopardy and not as lucrative and the sad part about bringing more people onto an office, is that's the good news but the bad news is if that money's not there, you don't have less of a demand, in fact, by now you've got more of a demand because people are starting to realize there are services out there, I can call someone for help.
And it's very frustrating when you see more and more people calling and having a need and not being able to provide that service. When our office first started, we were the only victim witness service. Now there are private programs for domestic violence, there are court-based and police-based programs in our community, but it's very difficult for me personally and professionally and for any of my staff to turn people away. So sometimes there are people who will call for our services and maybe their case is being handled on a misdemeanor level. It's not something that is normally our jurisdiction but we'll take that on.
In the early days, I used to go over to Greene County and provide services there because the prosecutors there would call and the police departments there would call and that was before their program started. So if we go to a point where funding dries up again and programs go by the wayside, someone's gonna have to fill that gap and that's sad because I think that that's something that should not happen. Certainly not in 2003, you know.
Yeah, the other thing is the need for continuing credentialing. I think in the early years when people got into victim services there was that passion, there was that interest in providing services. It was new, you know, the whole field of victim services was really new and developing and a lot of people got into it for that reason as being something new such as, you know, someone like myself. Now I see people needing to have more reason to get in, more training, more, they want to be recognized as a professional. And, I think when you were like myself in the field in the early '70s, we saw ourselves as professionals because we were the ones who were working hard to educate people on the needs that were there.
Now a lot of people understand it and they see it and it's out there, but it's kind of come around to the fact that you have to have that credential or that recognition so that you can then en... entice others to come on to the... the field and exhibit that same passion and work hard to continue to promote the efforts that still need to be done, you know, we've come a long way but we still have so much farther to go. (Change tape)
Seymour: Rhonda, what advice can you give to professional and volunteers who have recently joined our field in the past one to 10 years?
Barner: I would say probably one of the first things is to understand that this is a field you enter because it's something you want to do, and this is not a field you come into just because there's a job opening, and as a Director of a program who's had to screen applicants, I can tell you there's nothing more frustrating that having people who really want a job, but you know, don't have any clue about victim services means, and I know I've said this word numerous times, but I think it is about a passion.
It's about understanding that you're affecting people's lives and you may not know it and sometimes I even find myself feeling like, well, gee, I didn't really do much for this particular person because they really seem to be have... having everything under control, and... and the times that I don't feel like I've much to help a client is when they usually come back to me and they go, "Oh, thank you. I couldn't have done this without you," and I realize that it's probably just because I've been able to be there, listen to them, address their needs and their concerns, and if you see it as a job I don't know that you necessarily put that same attention to it.
You're more concerned about doing the job and not doing the work that needs to be done to address the needs of victims. So I think that's one thing. Another thing I know from my experience. What I tell new people in my office and new people in the State of Ohio is the new people have energy, they have ideas. A lot of things that have developed and come about over the years were because those of us who started in the field in the '70s had ideas that we were not afraid to go out and, you know, push buttons and challenge things and try new things, and to listen to our clients and say, "Oh, okay, this would have been helpful if you had these things or, you know, victim rights' law," we didn't have that in the '70s.
That didn't exist, you know. You had so many circumstances that were not afforded to victims that are there now, so I think new people in the field have to understand that, yes, we have victim rights now and, yes, we've come a long way, but they have to continue to break down some of those barriers that still exist for victims and they have to be open-minded to hearing what victims say, but they also have to be willing to put themselves out there. I get very frustrated when I hear new people in the field say, "Well, I didn't come to that meeting or I didn't say anything because I'm still too new, and I don't really know enough."
And I think, goodness, if I had that attitude when I started, you know, nothing would be done, you know, because all of us who started in the early days, you know, we were kind of flying by the seat of our pants and by, I think, you know, a collective idea that there's a new and something has to happen to work for the benefit of victims, you know. And... and I look back on Marlene Young and John Stein and, you know, I think they were to me like the people I look to.
There were the pioneers who were doing things on such a big scale, you know, and I was having a hard time just kind of managing my community and then trying to branch out into the State of Ohio, and I look at that and I think, you know, if... if those people had sat back and said, oh no, this is too big a task, where would we be. But they weren't afraid to keep punching and plugging away. We still that today, but we need that new energy and that new passion to keep it going because there are a number of people in the field who have retired and moved on and... and who are close to that point in time. So I want people to know that it's not about just coming into something that's fixed and just doing the same thing.
It's really about continuing to build and grow, and so if you, you know, if you come into this field, I get people who call me and say, "I really like what victim advocacy is all about, how do I get into it," you know. I look for the day when I can say, "Well, you know, these universities have programs or these academies have classes that will teach you specific victim advocacy and there's training that you can go through that's, you know, already laid out, so that you can come out as a certified victim advocate."
You know, that'd be wonderful. And that's, I think, going to happen in the future, but I think in the meantime, the new people in the field have to see that as important. They have to see where the comprehensive services, and the knowledge and training that kind of goes all across the... the borders and across the country as being very standardized, so that, you know, people know when they are talking to victim services and victim advocacy, we're all talking the same language. I think they have to realize that... that that's still coming about and they have to play a part in it, you know.
It's funny to hear people in Ohio since I've been around a long time and since I'm like one of the oldest OVWA members around, but people jokingly refer to me as the matriarch, and there are times that I think, oh my gosh, am I that old? But at the other times I think, well, that's... it's kind of neat because I look back and I think, well, you know, that's a title that I'm kind of proud of because I realize looking back that while I was doing so many of the services I was doing, I didn't really see the significance of it. I didn't really understand the impact it was having on my colleagues, but over the years I've gotten to realize that while I was busy doing the things that I saw as important and helping the clients and learning from them and teaching others that I was, in fact, making a little part of history, you know.
So that's a kind of sense of satisfaction to know that I've seen some really good things come about and I've been able to be joined through state-wide and national organizations where the other people who I tremendously admire... you know, and even people, you know, Jeannette Adkins is there, a prime example. She came into the field after I did, but I look at her and think, look at the things she's accomplished, you know, and that gives me more energy to continue to do what I do.
And I think... I guess the other thing I would tell even new people is as many years as I've been doing this, I still don't have all the answers by a long shot. I still have so much more to learn, and I want my staff to know that I want new people to... to know and understand that because I think there is room for all of us to continue to grow. And if you get into this field and you think, oh, I've got it all, I don't need to learn anymore, then you need to get out, you know, because you're a disservice.
And again, we're not in the business of re-victimizing victims. We're there to try to help.
Seymour: What's your vision for the future of our field?
Barner: Well, some of the things that I've mentioned. I see, my vision would be to see advocates recognized as professionals that they are by other allied professions. You know, it would be wonderful to have our field recognized in a way that says, you know, when a victim advocate comes in, they are not challenged, for their credentials, that they're recognized for the value and merit of what they do and for their voice. And I don't know which has to come first, you know, the funding or the credentialing, but I think both things have to come about. And the consistent funding to help continue to provide services for victims, and not just on a crime victimization level, but on a more global level because, you know, we've seen the merit, the crisis response team that NOVA has.
I've been trained in crisis response. I'm a certified NOVA crisis responder and when I went through that, my goal in doing that was to be able to use that training on a local level in my community, but I'm also part of the Ohio Crisis Response Team, so I've used it in the state level, and then I also had the privilege to be called to go and respond after September 11th and work at the family assistance center in Liberty Park, New Jersey.
So it was how to take all of that victim services training and put it to use in a terror... after a terrorist act and realize that so many of the skills that I had already used and so much of the training that I already had was really necessary and needed and was so helpful, and to spend 8 days at the Family Assistance Center realizing that you were helping people who were victims of crime, but who were just overwhelmed. And then come back to the community and still, you know, deal with people who were also affected by those events even in Dayton, Ohio, you realize that there's much more global significance to what victim advocacy is all about and the crisis response needs.
I, myself, have not gone out on crisis response teams for natural disasters, tornados and hurricanes and that sort of thing, but I know of the responses that have occurred and those are just as significant, you know. Our Ohio Crisis Response Team has sent teams out for helping people during floods, you know. So there are times when all the emotional impact of those circumstances, all come to the surface and need specialized training, and you know, I think that's part of what victim advocacy has been about, so I'd like to see that all continue to grow, and I think the more we're out there providing that services... that service, the more there is a need.
So people are gonna be coming to our organizations to NOVA and saying, "Can we do more?" And when NOVA which is the national organization gets called all over the world to provide services and training, it obviously says there is a need and there are people who are impacted by crime, by violence, by natural disaster and in need of those specialized services of crisis intervention and victim advocacy to help them get back on equilibrium, so...
Seymour: Last question. Greatest fear? Do you have a fear?
Barner: Yeah, a couple. I'd say one fear is that some of those goals that I'd like to see accomplished in the future won't get accomplished because people who are in power to make those changes or make those economic decisions won't see the relevance and they won't, as we say in the field, "get it." It takes, I think, special people to recognize where this field can go and should go and not just see it as bunch of fluff and considering where we were and... and how far we've come, I think it's frustrating to consider the fact that there are still people who don't get it and don't see the long-term needs.
I think there's also concern that I have that the people who started the field, I guess the fear is that those of us who've been around a long time will eventually be out of the field and that the people coming in won't take it on with the same kind of fervor and passion, and that concerns me, so...
Seymour: Are we doing enough to look for those people in terms of mentoring the next generation?
Barner: I think... well, I hope that we are. I certainly know enough people who are doing that and making every effort to be the role models and to promote the kind of... of passion that... and... and the services and, you know, the inspiration to learn more, do more. It's really hard to say and I guess that's a fear is that, you know, you don't know what's gonna happen. That people might tend to take things for granted. You know, that certainly happens when you... when you get to a time like we've been through where it was more money and, you know, everybody is on the bandwagon, people tend to get a little complacent, and then they get a little hyped up again when the money's not there.
There so much still needs to be done. I don't people to... to look and say, "Well, it's been 25, 30 years and so we can coast." I don't think this is at all at a point where we can coast, and I hope that when people who are the pioneers in the field are no longer able to be the leaders, that there are, in fact, other people ready to step up and take over. And my fear is that, you know, some of those people are there and we can see it but they don't have the confidence in themselves, and I know in my staff, I look around all the time and I try to inspire them to feel confident about their abilities, and I think the only difference between them and me, when I started is I wasn't confident in my abilities by a long shot.
I mean, I was right out of college and thrown into this field but... but you know, it was like, okay, I just got to do it, you know. It was like somebody told you to get out there and train those law enforcement officers and you walked into the police academy and you just acted like you knew what you were doing, and often times it was certainly by the seat of your pants, but you know, you knew you had a message to get out there and you did it. And I think some people will look at the field and say, "Oh, I can't do that," and you know, they have to trust their abilities and just jump right in and do it. So, my fear is that some of them will take a little bit longer to do that, and I hear people all the time saying, "Well, I could never do it the way you do it or I could never do it the way this person does it."
And you know, that's, I think, the legacy that we're leaving for them is that there are so many people who are just phenomenal in what they do and we can look all across the country at true leaders in victim services and that should be a catalyst and an inspiration for the new people, not a source of dread and fear like, "oh, I'll never measure up," you know.
Seymour: Anything I didn't ask you that you want to add?
Barner: Oh goodness. You know it's hard to encapsulate so many years.
Seymour: You did... and you've done a great job. Amazing.
Barner: I don't think so. I think there were a couple of things I was thinking about when we were talking and then I was kind of like, oh, I should have mentioned that, but I don't know that there's anything real significant. I think, you know, I've been really pleased. I think we've seen some great things happen, and I think there's a lot more good to come, so I'm glad to be a part of it.
Barner: Well, I just brought a few things in to kind of highlight Ohio a bit in terms of some of the programs. The Ohio Victim Witness Association is the statewide organization that I mentioned, that started as a networking group. When we first began, it was a way of pulling together the few programs in the State of Ohio and now we went from having maybe 10, 12 organizations that were memb,ers to over a hundred organizations, and OVWA was also a catalyst behind putting together a conference, statewide conference bringing all the other state agencies together, state sexual assault services, state domestic violence services, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Parents of Murdered Children, so that all people could come together for one conference, and so, that's the State Association.
Out of the State Association was born the Ohio Advocate Network for training, and that was because our Association, one of the committees that we had, that I chaired was in training because our members were coming and saying, "We need more training in this area, that area," and the Ohio Advocate Network was there and developed to promote training, but also to promote recognition of pre-service training and experience and to register advocates, so that if I were to call one of my member agencies in another part of the state, that I could tell a client who lives in Montgomery County but who may have been a victim in Cuyahoga County that I'm gonna recommend that you talk to these people at this office and you're gonna get the same kinds of services, and I would feel confident about that.
And then the Ohio Crisis Response Team is our statewide response team that was trained by NOVA to do local and statewide crisis response, but our team has also been active on a national level called in by NOVA to provide crisis responders to all kinds of different events. I mentioned September 11th, but also some of the school shootings, some of the natural disasters, and so forth and so...
I have several pins that I'm wearing. This one is the Ohio Crisis response team and it's the pin that we give out to the Ohio Crisis Response Team members. We have identification badges and shirts that we wear when we go on response, but this is just identifying us as a member. This is my NOVA pin, which just signifies being a member of NOVA. This pin over here is also Ohio Crisis Response but it was a special pin that we had made up for those of us who were from Ohio and went to New York, New Jersey, and Washington, D.C. after September 11th, so it specifically addresses September 11th.
And this was a badge that I got when I was at the Family Assistance Center doing crisis response after September 11th, so I'm proud of them.
|This project was supported by Grant Number 2002-VF-GX-0009 awarded by the Office for Victims of Crime, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. Points of view in this product are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.|