An Oral History of the Crime Victim Assistance Field
Video and Audio Archive
How To Search This Transcript:
Seymour: I am Anne Seymour. I am the Director of the Oral History Project.
Boscovich: Harold Boscovich of the Alameda County District Attorney's Victim Assistance Division, Oakland, California.
Seymour: Great. Thank you for joining us today.
Boscovich: I'm the Director, that is.
Seymour: When and how did you get involved in the crime victims' movement?
Boscovich: Well, I was a police officer in Oakland, 1963 to 72. I came to the District Attorney's Office in Alameda County in 1972. The District Attorney at that time was Lowell Jensen.
Lowell Jensen being now a Federal judge, working prior to that he was Assistant Attorney General of the United States in the Reagan Administration. And Lowell had applied for a grant through the National District Attorneys Association.
And I had been working in the District Attorney's Office for a couple of years District Attorney's Office for a couple of years after being a police officer, as an investigator in the District Attorney's Office.
And Lowell -- we had a meeting one morning and Lowell came in and said, "I've got this grant coming up." There was about 20 of us in the room and he had this grant coming up -- that we're going to be expanding, we're going to be going into developing a victim program here to take care of -- to serve victims rights, I don't think victims are treated properly.
And his comment was, which became the focal point for, I think, the victims' movement was victims were people and not pieces of evidence. And Lowell was the first one to claim that phrase. He says, "I'm sick and tired of victims being treated as pieces of evidence. And I think it's time we treated them as people.
And I'm hoping this grant will allow us to treat them as people." And, so, I listened to his little talk to us and, you know, he said, "You know, I'm thinking about putting somebody in there to do that."
So, the meeting finished and I-- it struck me that I hadn't been a police officer for a long time and knowing -- maybe that's why I needed to provide some services to people and what we were going to do.
And I went into Lowell's office and I said, "You know, Lowell, I said, if you're going to study victim programming, then I would be very interested in working on that -- in that grant."
And he said, "Well, I'm glad you said that, because you were the one I was going to put in there anyhow." And I said, "Well, okay we understand." And at that time, a fellow by the name of Howard Jansen was the -- was a prosecutor in the ffice and he had asked Howard to -- because it was the National District Attorneys Association sponsored grant -- he asked Howard to come in and act as unit chief, you know, as the prosecutor link between the National DA's Association.
And I would be working in there as the -- as the victim advocate, I guess, in the unit. And we began the actual -- the program actually, officially got started in November 1974. The opening date we had was November 15, 1974. But November of '74 we got started.
And then what -- there were the eight victim witness programs in the country and the eight were -- it was Farmington, Utah; Covington, Kentucky, two small counties.
We had Denver, Colorado; Alameda County, my jurisdiction and Denver -- and White Plains, New York. And then we had Philadelphia and New Orleans and Chicago. So, three large -- we had three very large county-based programs with populations of two - three - four million people. And then populations of a million in three middle-size counties -- about a million population. And then very small, you know, 50,000 -- 100,000 people.
And the idea was to try to see if -- if a victim in a small rural county was treated the same than in a large county, or a medium-size county. And our job was to gather statistics, questionnaires, talk to people, develop statistics so that the National DA's Association could submit something through LEAA. In fact the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration gave the grant to try to work on how they could improve the system, the criminal justice system.
People at the time -- there was a fellow by the name of Dick Lynch and Bob McKenna, who were the National District Attorneys Association people who were the links between us and it's interesting that we met. It was kind of nice because we talked amongst each other.
And Norm Early, Pat Devlin -- guys that -- names around -- we had a lot of fun together. But you realize when you're across the country and you're talking to people on the phone, you never got to see some of these people.
And you're kid of saying, well, you know, what does this guy look like, you know, are there's any pictures of him and then you talk to like Dick Lynch and say, you know, what's Norm Early look like, you know, and those are kind of like when you first saw each other, you kind of figured well, what are we supposed to do.
The very first meeting that we really had together I think was in California -- one meeting that we had was in a soda bar, conference ground, Pacific Grove, Monterrey Coast.
And I think they -- I don't know whether they picked that because there's golf courses down there, Pebble Beach, or whatever, but somebody picked it, and I'm being very honest about it I'm not a golfer, so I don't know.
But they came down and you got to realize that the -- the District Attorneys at that time were really prominent in the news. I mean, Ed Daley [SIC], Mayor of Chicago -- Mayor of Chicago after that was District Attorney. And Harry Connick, District Attorney of New Orleans. Emmett Fitzpatrick in Philadelphia, JP O'Hara from Covington, Kentucky, Dale Tooly was from Denver, Colorado and people that -- that were there -- and everybody knew who those people were in the country and they were pretty -- pretty much leaders. And Lowell Jensen, who, you know, went on to bigger and better things, but Lowell being one of the leaders.
And we met and the very first time we had a meeting we discussed what we were going to do and how we would get these things done. And we kind of -- after that, we just kind of got tired of taking statistics.
What really happened is we moved away from that. We just kind of went in and -- and said look, I'm tired of taking figures and statistics, takings surveys and people -- what they were doing and whether they were treated right. And, you know, let's do something about it.
I mean, we call a person -- and saying -- "how did you feel you were treated by the system?" And they hung up on you, they told you, you know it sucks and, you know, you can have the system and stick it.
I mean, we had -- people tell me things that I figured -- I thought it was the District Attorney's Office -- you're thinking you're in the District Attorney's Office, you're doing a great job. You know, call up and say, "I'm with the District Attorney's Office" and the guys says, "You son of a bitch" and hangs up the phone just, pffft, like that.
I was amazed, it's like wow, I thought this is pretty -- pretty good job, but I didn't believe that's what people thought of it. And I remember calling a guy and talking with him and saying well, "What happened?" and he said, "Hey look," he said, "I -- I got to tell you that when I was in the criminal justice system," he says, "I went to court."
He says -- he says, "I went to trial, did the whole thing. And I'll tell you something, you got the right," he says," you got the wrong guy." And I said, "We got the wrong guy?" he says, "Yeah the wrong guy." Because we were telling him what happened in the case and he says, "You got the wrong guy" and I said, "What do you mean we got the wrong guy?"
And he said -- he said, "Look," he said, "I got my TV stolen, my house burglarized, stolen, the cops caught the guy, okay. They got him a half a block from my house with a TV in his car. They picked up the guy, put him in jail."
He said, "He had my TV for about an hour -- half hour" he said. "The police department has had my TV for a year." He said, "You should have locked those guys up." And that struck home with us. Like wow, this is what the guy thought about us. You know, "I could care less, this guy didn't get away with anything, but you guys got my TV and won't give it back to me."
So, we really kind of moved along that direction. One of the first things that happened -- property returned or something -- start saying gee, maybe we should do something. We looked at California law, we should start doing things in California.
But the California law -- had law clerks in the office -- and said research this and find out how we can get property get back to people. They wrote some -- did some briefs and looked up law and found out whether or not you could photograph the evidence and retain a record of photographs.
So, in California we wrote the law, victim programs wrote the law and got it passed. Had a Senator in California, Senator Petrus sponsored the bill. It went through and we got 1970 -- I want to way '76 - '75 - '76. We got the law passed to allow photographing the property. And the -- it's amaze [SIC] though when you talk to prosecutors -- in fact, even -- this day is a little better now, but we've got time for this. Like, you can't do that, you know, we're saying, you know, you can't -- that's my evidence. I have no case if you give that away.
We're saying, can't you take a picture -- oh, a picture is not the same thing. It is the same thing, you know. I mean, I told him -- we convinced him. Look, if the guy stole a piano would you bring the piano into court? If the guy steals an elephant do you bring the elephant into court?
You know, this doesn't make sense. And the guy -- what do you do when a guy steals a car? Oh, well, we bring in the registration. I said, "Well, you don't bring in the car, so why do you need the same thing? So, you take some carpenter's left over tools -- so you don't give his tools back to him, you can't take a picture of it. It's the same thing." And they started to get a little bit wiser and saying, "Well, maybe this isn't so bad after all."
So, the nice thing -- I think the best thing that happened to us and moving along and getting involved in victim services was the fact that the leader, Lowell Jensen, really -- he supported victims services right from the start, being a pioneer.
And, you know, when you have the District Attorney behind you, you can do anything you want to do in that office. Believe me, make things happen. And all you have to do -- if somebody wasn't doing something -- you know, the right way -- if they were kind of not -- not providing the right services -- all I had to do is go into the boss and say I'm having a problem in that office, the guys don't want to do this, we'll have a talk with him.
And then the word come down -- and the nice thing about it is you need the District Attorney to -- every now and then to say something about -- say to you, hey, in front of everybody -- that I really believe that we should do this and this is my wishes. So, that's carte blanche for you to get things done. And then I'd say it to anybody.
Seymour: Can you describe, Bosco, the field of victims' rights and services when you started, including the context of the era, the '70s?
Boscovich: You know, the one thing that -- that brought things home was the rape crisis movement started in -- actually in Alameda County in Berkeley -- Bay Area Women Against Rape (BAWAR). And that was in 1978. And that's -- that's when it was founded. And , I'm sorry, 1978? - no 1968, I'm sorry '68.
They started you know, six years before we were in business and what happened really with BAWAR -- BAWAR was seen as an organization that was -- was really running afoul of the police department at that time. It was like they were out in your face.
They were -- they saw someone who was charged with a rape, they'd picket, you know, it was part of the rape crisis movement and let's get out there and demonstrate against, you know, this guys that's raping -- go some place -- he's been charged with a crime, he's a rapist so let's have a sign out there saying Joe Blow is a rapist and walk it up and down outside his house.
So, the police department see that as hey the guy's a rapist, I don't know what I'm supposed to do here, this is not right. And, you know I believe in this, but gee I'm not supposed to be doing this either. And you're kind of like between a rock and a hard place.
But I think that in reality the women's movement was the driving force behind all the victims' services that went on. I really feel that. If it wasn't for the victims' movement I don't think -- women's movement -- I don't think we would have been where we are, bringing attention to the sexual assault treatment of women. Sexual assault was the driving force.
And for a long time, you know, we all know that women -- as a police officer -- we weren't taught that -- it was like, you know, if you were going to get something, make sure that the woman -- you know, what was she doing.
The first question you ask is that kind of -- well, what it she doing in a bar at 10 o'clock at night? It was -- the woman was guilty. It's like you prove that you were an innocent virgin and then we'll think about, you know, making a police report so to speak.
It was like I don't know, I don't know if I can trust. How do I know you didn't lead this person on? It was the mentality at that time.
Seymour: Is this before Rape Shield Laws?
Boscovich: Yes. This is back in 19 -- well, 1968 you had a real -- there wasn't anything out there on the books dealing with rape victims. We had -- you know, at that time you could go into the mental state of the victim -- victim's mental being -- well-being was at issue all the time -- as to whether or not the victim ever -- had ever been to a psychiatrist or psychologist any time in the past.
It had nothing to do with whether she was violently and brutally raped. It had to do with whether or not she had ever seen a therapist before. And if she had, then she could discount her testimony, so to speak, and bring it in and make the jury think that the person wasn't really telling it all, or that the person must have delusions of what was going on.
But the rape crisis movement was one that you could see that they were driving to -- they were a separate entity, trying to get into government and the government sees them as, hey, we see them, you know, as a bunch of women who -- out there with hairy legs and braless and unkempt looking people that are running around. And these people are all demonstrating and they were lumped in.
And law enforcement saw them that way. Saying, "Oh, it's, you know -- it's a rape advocate. It's one of those -- one of those feminists, so to speak." And the mindset is -- that people we started working with saying, "Hey, this is not -- maybe there's something different here."
Well, the nice thing about it is we hired one of the founding women as the first rape victim advocate in our office right away when we got started, 1974 - 75 we hired a rape victim advocate and it was one of the women from BAWAR, which all of a sudden is a different story.
Because you have somebody working in your office who was in a non-profit agency, grassroots, kind of struggling just to go along and all of a sudden now they're in the government agency -- District Attorney now they're representative of the District Attorney.
Now, you have to dress differently because you're in the District Attorney's Office, so you can't run around in your tennis shoes or your Birkenstocks or whatever. You have to be dressed nice and look presentable and such. And we have to give a different image that we want.
But what we found from the victim advocates that we had and the -- like the person we hired was -- they offered something that we couldn't do.
They were able to hold -- just the fact that she came in -- a victim came in -- sexually assaulted -- testimony -- they would hold them, hug them, just -- after they got through or being there with them. Just being there for support. Something we never even thought about -- putting somebody in the courtroom.
You know, as a police officer, I testified hundreds of times in cases and I'll tell you it was frightening. It is not -- it is not the easy thing. Even if you get used to it, as much as you're there, you're there and you got 12 strangers and my job was easy, to tell the facts...
...but you're still a little nervous because you don't know what the defense attorney is going to say, ask you, make you look stupid, you know, not hard. But -- but the idea is make you look like you didn't know what -- you know, what you were doing or what you were saying.
And, so, you kind of, it was always questioned and if you had an interview with the District Attorney before and the District Attorney says, "Okay, here's what I'm going to ask you -- I'm going to ask you this and ask you that."
Well they just know what they're going to ask you. The defense attorney, we don't know what he's going to ask you and whatever -- he or she -- and, so, we'll go from there and see what happens and I'll try to take the lead.
Well, sometimes the person did and sometimes they didn't. Sometimes you were there and you were on your own. District Attorney kind of like heard the things, you're looking over for -- like are you going to object or something. The person didn't object. You're sitting there saying, "Okay, you know, I don't know what I'm going to do."
And I imagine how -- you know, you imagine howum the woman being in there, not part of the system, and not being part of the good ole boys' network, in that they come to court, all the cops sit together. They all -- kind of -- what's going on. They know the DAs, everybody knows everybody. And at least they know the judge, they know the clerks, they know everybody because they're there all the time.
The victim walks in. They don't know anybody. They haven't got a person around that they know at all. They walk in there and people start talking codes and numbers to them and it's history.
So, that idea of having somebody in our office was the first court support. We started providing court support. And for a long time, it was hard to get the prosecutors to accept it. It was like -- I don't -- you know, I don't want some -- I don't need it. I can take care of my own witnesses. I don't need somebody to hold their hand.
Until the boss said, "Yeah, you do. Okay, we're going to try and you're going to do it." And so, it's geared toward sexual assault. And we later went on and hired a lady by the name of Karen Haga.
At that time Karen Haga -- she's passed away since. She worked with me for about almost about 15 - 16 years and she passed away. And she was involved in domestic violence, trying to get here and working with victims of domestic violence.
Hired another woman by the name of Ruth Edwards. I brought out, I was in a conference, we had a conference with one of the -- I don't recall if it was a NOVA conference or it was a LEAA -- it was a conference either sponsored by at that time the LEAA or somebody in Federal government and we were back in -- I think we were in -- we may have been in Memphis -- I think we were in Memphis.
And I saw a lady there give a presentation and she was a domestic violence person. Her name was Ruth Edwards and she was out of Fort Collins, Colorado. And I turned to Ruth and I said, "You know, we're gonna move into the domestic violence area. Ruth, how would you like to come to California?"
And she said, "Gee, I don't know, I've got a husband. I've got problems here that -- you know, to take care of -- if I did that." And I says, "Well, I'm interested in getting you to California."
And the thing I know is -- I came back and told the boss I got somebody that we need to hire. She's going along and she's with domestic violence, we can move in that area. He said, "hire her -- if she's good hire her."
So, we hired her, brought her out from Colorado and she became domestic violence. So, we reached out and started working in domestic violence in the '70s. And, so, already we've got people on board and now we have three victim advocates in the first year or two we were there.
Women who never see -- you know, women in the office -- and, you know, for the most part Lowell was always trying to get women prosecutors and there wasn't that many women prosecutors around. We had three victim advocate, so we moved in that area. And started expanding and finding areas we can go into.
And domestic violence was an issue we were in long before it became en vogue, in the '80s - '90s, right after the OJ Simpson thing. We were doing it before. Like most victim programs, you know, we were involved in things and taking hold and working with the different programs.
And, actually, their job was the liaison -- the sexual assault victim advocate would liaison with the rape crisis center. And our funding -- in fact, the funding for the rape crisis center in our county came through the County Board of Supervisors and I was the liaison between BAWAR.
So, the working relationship was forced for us to work together, because they don't get money unless they work with us. And we want them to work with us, they get things done.
And, so, it was wonderful, and I think our relationship with BAWAR now is excellent, for all the years of service they've been there and having the first rape crisis center, us having the first victim witness program in the Prosecutor's Office. It makes for an easy -- easy operation.
Seymour: What was the greatest challenge that you and your colleagues faced in affecting change?
Boscovich: I think it's the education of the prosecutors and law enforcement and understanding the role of the victim advocate. I think that's the biggest challenge. Selling it.
You know, the nice thing -- you know, for the people coming in now -- everybody has one and people want one. The time you gotta realize there's nothing like that in the state and you start off, the challenge is -- well, it's got its pluses and minuses.
First of all, there's nobody to compare you to. So, you can't make a mistake because nothing's being done. That's the easiest thing. There isn't any job that you can think of -- start off right away -- how do you compare if nobody's done it before? No matter what you do it's going to be something better than what is there now, if you do it the right way.
So -- but the challenge is really getting people to -- to understand what you were doing and why it was necessary. You still have the -- and I will say the dinosaurs that were in the office -- we never did -- I've been trying cases for 25 years. I don't need anybody down here holding my witness' hand. I never had a witness ever yet -- had any problems yet -- they don't see the witnesses. They have no idea what is going on.
And I got to say one interesting thing we did is that we made a movie that was -- money come out from the National District Attorneys Association -- to make a movie. And I want to say it was called the "Justice Maze." It may still be around some place in print some place.
It was like done in like '75, I think we did it, and this movie featured many of us in the victims movement that were there just as little cameo roles walking in, I remember I had the role of -- as a witness in this case -- and walk in the courtroom.
And what it was was -- a lot of double talk. We made it -- what we did is -- first movie was to portray victims and really getting shafted by the system. To walk in and do everything that you could do to make the victim feel like garbage. Do it and enhance it.
And, so, we had a victim come to court and when the victim got to court, walked in and the guy said, "Yeah, have a seat over here." And she looked at him, and she sits down next to the defendant's family who sits there and eyeballs the person.
And she -- we got her going into court. She goes into court and the DA says, "Yeah, you're here -- yeah, okay, fine. Have a seat down there" and he's double talking, talking about all this stuff in court and she hasn't got a clue to what's going on.
And the -- the -- when she finishes her court he turns around to her and says, "I don't need you any more," because he took a plea in the case. He says, "Okay, thanks for coming, I don't need you."
And she says, "But I" -- and he says, "I haven't got time for you, I'll see you later". And, so, you know, she walks out and she's, you know, got this -- she couldn't park -- in fact, we even started -- she couldn't park and she wound up walking around the block.
He said, "We have parking lots all filled up lady, we can't -- we can't do anything for you here. You have to go some place else." And, so, everything that happened to her was wrong.
We talked about parking, we talked about not being able to find the courtroom. When you got to the courtroom you sat next to the defendant. We showed that when you got into court that the DA didn't pay any attention to you. And nobody cared about you.
When you walked out and I was -- the witness, I played the part walking in as a witness and saying, "What's going on? I just got -- I was late getting here, I couldn't park" and everything else." And he says, "Well, it's over." And I said, "What do you mean, I just took off work, I just got here, what do you mean it's over? It's only been, you know, like two minutes."
He says I walked in -- he said it's over -- I don't understand it. And I'm like -- like what is this. And we just kind of turned around and showed that thing and everybody's laughing at parts 'cause you had us showing how -- messing up.
But people could identify it. This is a typical situation that happened. It wasn't any different. And then we turn it around and showed -- exaggerated it the other way.
And, so, the woman's coming around the block and the parking lot says all full and she holds up a little sign saying witness and the guy says, "Oh, witness, come right in" and he opens the gate for her and brings it in there.
And we did everything that we could to -- to show how -- and it was really exaggerating on both ends. We're showing this is the way it is, you know, now and it's -- you know, you may laugh at it, but this is the way it could be, if you really did something.
But you're someplace in the middle there that, you know, you really should be. And, so, we're going to take you to the extremes. You have a cup of coffee, sit down, is there anything else we can get you.
I mean, everything you can do because like -- flying, you know the best airlines in the world and you're sitting in first class. So, that was kind of a NDAA project to do that. So, it made it fun for us to do that and pass it on to people. So, making the movie was exciting.
Seymour: What were some of the secrets and tactics and strategies you employed in the early days?
Boscovich: You know, I think that sometimes by just the fact that we were able to do things as a model for other programs -- because one thing -- as we started off implementing the photographing of property.
We pass it on to people -- our colleagues around the country that were doing it and said we just, you know, did this law thing, and of course she says, can I have a copy of it. And, so, maybe I can just go ahead and copy that law. So the work is done.
And I think that all the model things that we did, everything that we tried, we talked about it. And somebody else would say, gee, that's a great idea, tell me about it and we were meeting and traveling.
You know, I spent I guess the later part of the '70s -- I want to say '77 - '76 - '77 - '78 traveling around the country with a fellow by the name Emilio Viano, Dr. Emilio Viano, who was I guess the professor of victimology at American University -- I think it was at the time or whatever.
And he was a consultant and he had -- he had written -- put out Victimology Magazine, I think it was called. He had produced -- editor of that.
He knew I was -- what I was doing in California and he called me and said, "Would you like to do some technical assistance and travel with me and provide technical assistance creating other programs through" -- and I can't think of the organization that was -- you know, he had a contract with.
But just provide technical assistance to different communities to get victim programs started. So, I went places like Santa Fe, New Mexico and Albuquerque and Austin and San Antonio and Birmingham and Minnesota, St. Paul, and Anchorage, Alaska, and Oregon and -- I mean, states that I traveled to and some placesthat, you know, you didn't know how you'd get there.
You got on a plane, you got some place and you took a car and you drove for miles to get there. And you spent like two days -- dog and pony show -- you came in you said this is what we have in Alameda County. This is what we do, this is what programs do and this is what you could do if you did these things. And people were interested.
And I -- and the nice thing about it is talking to other people when I was there and they'd say, "Gee, I think that's a great idea, I think I'm gonna start one here." And prosecutors would come up to me and say, "Could you come to my county and talk?"
Same time in California it was happening -- programs in California started and Lowell Jensen said, "I want you to go down and -- you know -- District Attorney in San Diego is a friend of mine. I need you to go down and -- Ed Miller -- and talk with him and try to you know, get a program set up there.
And I want you to go here and I want you to go there." And, so, I was traveling around the state and just meeting for a day or two in San Francisco and Los Angeles and San Diego and I -- gosh think of the different places that I went all over.
And meeting with the people there and saying here's what we do and here's what you can do, you know, to make things happen. And, so, they bought off on it.
And meeting these people later -- and made a lot of nice friends -- good friends all over the country. Had a lot of good stories, lot of fun times that we had together. But they were very proud.
In fact, the nice thing about it is when you go to a national conference they'd be at and they'd look for you or something and said, "Gee my program's working great" and it was maybe a year and a half later, "Gee, I thank you for, you know, for that."
And I'd say, "Well, tell me about your program." They'd say it and I'd say, "Well, gee, that's something I didn't try, let me go back and add that to mine." So, I think we borrowed from each other, all of us, you know, nobody has a lock on anything you did.
And, so, whatever I did -- I put it out there and you told me what you did and I said, "Gee, that's something I'm not doing. Maybe I could look at that too. And, so, what do you have?" So, we keep -- it keeps growing, you know what I mean, I modify your thing, you modify mine and it gets bigger and bigger and pretty soon we're all kind of doing anything and everything we can.
Seymour: Whoa, memory lane. I'm so glad you mentioned all those people. Have there been or are there any failures in our field?
Boscovich: You know, I think the biggest failures that we have is the fact that sometimes we get into turf issues. And that's been our failure, because the victims suffer.
There's a lot of -- there's always been turf issues and that's been a kind of -- failures -- we see -- we move along quite often instead of working together for the benefit of the victims.
But money makes things tight and we find quite often we're at odds over -- over who's getting -- you know, who's serving the victim. And I think the failures come into play where we're saying, "Well, we do -- we do this, you shouldn't be doing this, because we're taking care of the victims."
As opposed to working down this angle, "let's get a plan in our community to work with these victims" and I think it's afailure. I think it's a failure on a lot of programs' part to want to be territorial. I kind of say, don't step in my territory because I do that already.
Or if a new program [SIC] gets up and says we're going to start doing this right away you feel threatened, you're saying, "Gee, we're doing a good job on this ourselves. We're not -- you know, we're doing this. You're not -- you're not capable of doing this." Instead of saying, "Well, let me see what you're doing this. We're doing this now. How about you doing this to enhance ours?" I mean, let's work together on it. I think that's the big key. Our failures have been that.
And who suffers? We go backwards because we're too busy putting out the fires, working against each other. The victims suffer, you know. That's a failure.
Seymour: Is that a 30 year failure or just today?
Boscovich: It's -- it's happened through the history of the program. You know, you get in there, it's -- it comes and goes and it goes with -- as you get in there people -- they'll say, "Well, gee, we're doing, you know -- we're serving victims of sexual assault and this rape crisis center now wants to do this." And all of a sudden everybody goes, "Well, they can't do that, because we do a better job."
Well, there are things that they can't do that you can do. Let's find out and the victims get a complete package. That's where we are.
Seymour: What do you perceive to be the one greatest accomplishment that has promoted victims' rights and needs and services?
Boscovich: Greatest accomplishment, gee, you know. I thought about that question before -- talked about it and I thought about that. And I just have to say that -- that the accomplishment is the fact that we've got so many victim programs now and looking aback about 20 -- I mean, I'd say the fact that 28 years ago there wasn't anything.
And I think of -- we're talking about 1974 in District Attorney's Offices. Think of all the cases that were tried since we became a country in 1776. Think of -- from 1776 to -- to 1974 -- I mean, 200 years. All the people -- all the victims and witnesses that went through it. It wasn't like all of a sudden somebody was raped in 1974. Somebody was raped in 65 and 52 and 14 and 25. And somebody was murdered in those times. And all those people that we've had at that time -- when you look at this whole thing, that's -- that's where it is.
It's really -- it's the accomplishment that the system has finally recognized it. And victims' services, the biggest accomplishment is that people know about victims services -- you watch television shows. They have victim advocates on television.
We never had that before. Nobody ever heard of it. Walk up to somebody -- if you saw somebody 15 years ago and said, "what do you do for them?" "I'm a victim advocate," they'd go, "what's -- what do you do?" "I'm a victim advocate, victim of crime advocate." They said, "well, what do you do?"
Most people now know what a crime victim advocate is. If you watch television, you kind of know what the people do. If you're aware of what's happening -- people know that. And it's a profession. And I think that's one of the best accomplishments -- is that we created a profession that was needed and we set some standards.
And the people know they have to live up to the standards and NOVA being, you know, an organization that espouses those standards has made it some place that we all kind of say, "hey, you've got to get with the program. You can't just go out and do these things."
We kind of hold each other in check. It's probably -- you know, one of the professional agencies that makes sure you're doing everything the same -- we're all doing the right thing -- that you don't do things the wrong way. I think that's probably the best accomplishment, I think.
Seymour: This is a nice continuation of what your just said. What's needed today to continue the growth and professionalism of our field?
Boscovich: Money. (Laughs) I think the leadership -- the nice thing about it is that we have new people coming in, okay. You know, a lot of us old buffaloes, as you say, or whatever, we've been around a long time.
What I hope will happen is that as mentioned before -- that we become, you know, the people who guide -- provide that history, the guidance for the people that are there that could carry on. You know, we slow down a little bit, we get to the point where we're saying, "Hey, we're kind of like not moving like we used to.
'We're a little grayer." The one thing that comes with gray hair, I found out, is people say, "yessir," you know, "can I help you, sir," you know. Also, you know, you need help out with your groceries. That the -- things that still -- kind of bother me a little bit.
But that -- kind of like when you walk into a room -- I find out now when you're a little older -- they tend to listen to you a little bit more, because you tend to be wiser. I mean, that's the idea. And I think that we need to -- they think the new people coming in need to look to the people that have been around awhile to see what's been tried and what's there. And that's for guidance, not to tell them what to do, but to see what's been in the history.
Let's look back at the history, see what's been there, what have we done, where are we moving and did it work, why didn't it work if we tried something.
If we're moving in a direction -- listen to the person that says, this didn't work at this time, because -- not because of anything you did, but because the leader at the time wasn't there. It may be right to do this now.
And the failures I think that people took place -- you asked a question earlier -- come to mind is -- the -- I think failures only occurred when the leadership didn't allow something to happen.
The people that were in -- powers the authority -- that stifled what was happening, that's your failure, because you didn't educate that person. Then when the person got out of office or whatever they were, things moved along.
You know, I think that we need to -- we need to educate more. We need to train more. We need to certify our victim advocates. We need to make certain that that profession is one that is respected. That -- that a prosecutor, a, you know, doctor, lawyer, whatever recognizes the victim advocate as key player in the entire treatment of the victim, whether the person goes into a examining room with the victim.
That person is there for the well-being -- that you don't have to have a Ph.D. to provide services to the victim. That a person has to show some empathy and caring, understanding. Some -- develop a relationship with that victim so the victims get through it all.
And I think that if we continue to train, we continue to count on the older people that have been around before us -- for history, for information, for guidance and we do the work.
The new people coming in, they do the work and get things done and use these people as advisers, just call on them, saying, "Hey, have you ever done this before? Do you know somebody who can do it?"
Because these people that have been around for a while are valuable resources. I really believe that there are people that I still call on that -- saying, "Hey, who do you know in such and such that does this. So and so, right away."
And we all know their names, just like any profession. Twenty-five years ago, you know -- it's like any profession -- a physician -- if I could -- you could go to your physician had say, "Hey, doc, who's a good knee guy," you know. "You know a guy." "Oh yeah, I know a guy who does knees" and whatever. And you knew who to go to.
Now you can say, "Hey, who's a good person that works with domestic violence -- disable victims of domestic violence? I need somebody who's focused on that." "Oh, yeah, so and so." And right away you pick somebody out.
And those are the kind of things that count on the people who have been around for a while to do that. I think we -- forming a network is the best resource that we can do, network together. Organizations like NOVA allow you to network.
But any time you can get together and network with other people to make -- enhance your program -- you're going to continue to go. Otherwise you're going to get stagnant if you stay in your little -- you stay in your community and you don't get out there and meet the other people and connect with them, you're not going to grow and your program is going to pretty much stay stagnant.
Seymour: Do you think we're doing enough to, the old buffalos, to mentor the new generation?
Boscovich: You know, mentoring to me is the thing, that I can state -- I've -- I believe that every time a new person comes into the program, my idea is to get -- meet that person right away. Call them and say, "Hey, I'm here, call me for anything you need."
And I -- we do it in the state of California. We have a mentoring program where somebody comes into the office -- comes into a victim program some place in our 58 counties. And right away, we send -- okay, let's say there's a new -- there's a new director in Fresno.
And saying okay and I call up and say, "Hi, you know, I'm Bosco, I'm the person from Alameda County. I get together with you. If you need me -- something -- you know I'll tell you what's going on.
'We need to talk with you, I'm going to connect with somebody else close by you. You can talk to that person. If you have anything, call me." And I think the best -- you know, it's that mentoring is the most important thing that we can do for -- for victim advocates, for coordinators or directors of victim programs, because -- you can't do it alone.
You really need somebody that's done it before and the guidance is important. If I had to, you know sometimes -- looking back -- what I had, you know, 24 years ago there was nobody doing it -- that has it's pluses and minus [SIC].
And again, what do I do? You can sit in your office and say, "Okay, I have to think about this." And it brings to mind the first time a letter went out to the victims and how -- I can tell you -- how a letter went to a victim notifying a victim of a case.
We were sitting in the -- sitting in the office and I was looking at a police report that had come to my desk and this is 1974 -- '75, I guess it was. And I looked at the police report and it came in and a victim had been assaulted.
The woman had beaten -- been beaten and such, sexually assaulted. And I looked at the police report and I was just jotting down her birthday. And I said -- I happened to notice her birth date was the same day as today's date, it was like today was her birthday.
And, so, I said, "Gee, I should send her a card, say happy birthday, congratulations on being a victim or thanks for being a victim." It was kind -- thrown out like that. And my secretary overheard it and she said, "What did you say?" And I said, "I should send this lady a happy birthday card and just say, you know, sorry you're a victim and, you know, and happy birthday and thanks, I'm sorry, you know -- I'm sorry I had to do this, but, you know, sorry that you're a victim. You know, thanks, but sorry you're a victim."
And the secretary, and then she said, "Oh," you know, like that and didn't say any more. And I started thinking about that and I said, "Gee that's -- why couldn't I just say 'I'm sorry you're a victim?'" Why couldn't I send a letter out that says, you know, "I'm sorry you're a victim?"
And, so, I started writing -- I wrote a letter -- and you got to realize the technology we had at that time was going to produce letters. And the letters -- we had the old -- some people know the old mag card machines -- now dating myself. But this is prior to, you know -- we had the typewriter, the electric typewriters and we had these little tape disks that went in little tape cassettes that went in and you could code in stops in the thing, much like you do on a computer and we did that.
And found out that I could write a letter to a victim, telling a victim that I'm sorry you're a victim and here's the guy that did this to you or whatever.
And that was the first time victims' letters started going out. We didn't -- there was nothing -- you know, no brain -- it didn't take any brains to do what I was doing. But the thing is that somebody coming in now just expects that you send letters to victims. Nothing was done before that. So those kinds of things -- I think they're important to find out what's been happening.
Seymour: Bosco, the newbies in the field, what advice do you give them?
Boscovich: Listen and move. Go. Go as fast as you can, do whatever you can, educate, learn, train, network, okay, and talk to the people who have been around for awhile.
And look for the help -- any time you can get the help do it. Don't be afraid to ask for help. Don't be afraid to ask -- don't feel that you are -- you're weak, because you called somebody and said, "gee, what are you doing with such and such?"
Don't think if you're doing something with letters or you're calling people on the phone or you're making contact with people in court as court support or whatever you're doing, that you don't want anybody to know that your program is not doing it or whatever.
You know, because it's not going to happen unless you talk to somebody. I think you really need to go ahead and say, "hey, tell me about your program." Go out there and visit other programs. Take a look at them, see what they're doing.
Find out -- and -- and it's not one of these -- I think we're in the position of -- we shouldn't be looking at other programs that -- my program is better than yours thing. I don't think that -- I think that's the wrong to do.
I think the best thing we can do is help each other. I think we can look at some -- some of these programs and say, "hey, you know, how can I -- you know, how can I better my program?" Let me go out and talk with you. And just come by and say, "gee, Anne, what are you -- you know, what are you doing? -- how are -- you know, how are you doing here?." "Tom, I want to see what your program is doing and say why."
And then don't expect the person to say, "gee, you don't do this," you know. No, you know. You know, that's the whole issue. People are worried about that. They're afraid of somebody finding out that they don't do something.
For god's sake that's the worst thing you can do. But the best thing I can tell newbies is go out and talk, listen, move and try to educate. And the best thing is to win over your boss.
The leader there -- the one that's going to make things happen for you is your District Attorney, your Chief of Police, your Sheriff, your administrator, whoever that may be.
Win that person over. Get that person on your side, show them the need for your program, work with that person and make your thing happen. Because with that person's blessing you can do anything.
You can -- I mean, you can change the whole office. You can have the biggest office you want and do everything you can for victims. Just make sure it happens.
Seymour: Bosco, what vision do you have for the future of our field?
Boscovich: Well, my vision is that -- that we'd have victim programs that were fully funded, that you had nothing -- you know, we can't cover every victim. I'll tell you right now, I don't know of any victim program that takes care of every -- if they say they take care of every victim completely, they can't.
There's nobody -- there's not enough dollars to do it. And I would love to see -- my vision is we can move in that direction where it becomes a priority. That in budgets -- that in victims services -- is not one of those -- after everything goes -- okay, we got money for victims.
No, that's a priority and it should be on everybody's plate that that's a priority, it's part of the criminal justice system and you can -- just like you do police or anything like that, you put them up front and you do those things.
Because you put them on the front end for prevention. You put them on the back end for the service. You got them out there outreaching and saying,"if this happens to you, I'm here."
My vision is -- it's a vision as much as I think it can happen. I think that people are more aware of what's -- goes on. As more and more people get disgusted -- what we see happening -- 9/11 was an example.
People responded to 9/11 like you've never seen before. We have -- so many people became victims of crime, victims, not direct victims of crime, but indirect victims of crime. And the fact that you witnessed it, you saw it. You were touched by it.
That had to make you think and I can tell you right there that that is the vision, saying, we don't want this to happen to anybody. We see these things that are happening in every corporate -- and I see that as a vision of saying we're moving in that direction.
Every time we have that happen -- it's sad that we have to have a tragedy every time to wake people up and I don't think we should be able to do -- we have to do that. I think we should be doing that before. People should be awake. Why wait for a tragedy to happen. Because now we're just -- we're finding ourselves doing this.
But my vision -- that's my vision it's going to happen. We're going to get there some place. You know, it's only been -- we're young -- we haven't been... 30 years. 30 years is nothing, okay. I mean, I'm twice as old as that. and it's not -- it's nothing. So, the point is that hey, the next 30 years I predict it's going to happen. It's going to be there. We're going to be doing all those things. And I hope I'm around at 90 years old to look back and say I remember when we had that thing there. And, you know, we didn't have all these things that were there.
And I think that, it's a goal for me. I would love to see it happen. And I think it will, eventually it will. It's like anything else, we didn't have half the things we have now -- that's -- that's happening, but it's there.
Police departments don't have what they had, you know, 20 years ago, 30 years ago, 40 years ago. And they have it now, so we're getting better and better all the time. And technology helps.
Technology gets rid of a lot of the stuff that we have. A lot of our -- a lot of things we weren't doing before. The fact that we were able to produce documents, track things faster, quicker, knowing what's going on.
We get access to reports, to computers, to bases, to databases so quickly that we're able to find out who the people are. I don't want to lose that personal aspect of it.
When you start going to you know, numbers. We still got to go with -- we're dealing with people and not pieces of evidence. Back to what Lowell Jensen said, "People are not pieces of evidence." That's the most important thing.
Seymour: Okay, Bosco, what is your greatest fear?
Boscovich: That programs will be cut to the point to where they will lose interest. That programs will lose heart. That people when they get cut they lose heart. And they go into other professions. That we lose -- my greatest fear is that -- to lose trained qualified advocates because of the funding. And as a result people are going to other places -- said I can't take this any more.
I've got a family to go along with, I have a job, I can't work for peanuts any more. I need a -- you know, much -- as much as my heart's here, reality is I need to make a living and -- and that's my greatest fear. Greatest fear is losing people because people short sighted -- and you have leaders, so-called leaders, administrators who are short-sighted and say, "well, it's a budget cut" and start talking about we're trying to be cost-effective.
I hear cost-effective -- you can't be cost effective with providing services to the victim. There's no way that you can put a cost-effective factor on treating a victim of sexual assault, domestic violence or whatever.
It's like you can't be cost effective when you have police departments. It doesn't become cost effective. You have to have it. You have foster children -- you can't be cost-effective. You have to give -- provide the service.
You're giving something. Anytime you give something away, you can't be cost-effective and the same way with victims services.
Seymour: Could you just talk a little bit about Lois Haight?
Boscovich: Wonderful. Lois -- you know, I'm kind of -- I'm kind of biased, because Lois has been a good friend of mine for years. Lois was a prosecutor in our office in Alameda County.
I was very impressed with Lois. Her work, especially with domestic violence victims way back in 1975 - '76, that year -- those years. Lois was a prosecutor in our office.
Lois' nature, her good nature, her affability, she's just the kind of person that would just, you know -- concerned about the -- and her empathy -- you could see in Lois' -- when -- as a prosecutor she would come to me and say, "This victim" -- she says, "I started crying," she says. "I'm crying," she says. "I'm supposed to be a tough prosecutor. I'm crying."
I said, "It's okay, Lois, you can cry. It's all right." And she said, "It just hurts my -- it hurts my heart to see a victim act like that, you know, have the treatment like this -- what happened to this person."
And I was really -- I was happy when Lois went to Washington. But when she went to Washington, she wasn't going to take the victim OVC or anything like that. Lois is going back to Washington with her husband. And I wished her well.
We lived in the same area -- and all the blessings and such -- and, of course, she was going back to Lowell Jensen at the time as the District Attorney, and he left. And he was going back to Washington, D.C.
And I have a lot of people in my office that have gone back with Lowell. And when Lois is back there -- and next thing I heard is, you know -- we kept in touch and Lowell said, "I" -- you know -- Assistant Attorney General, "I've got a job. I've been asked to head the Office for Victims of Crime."
And I was just elated. And the first things Lois is -- you know, we got to work around things we need to do for the country and what was going on. And I have kept in touch for years and we live close by.
In fact, recently -- I was married in September and Lois married us. How's that. So -- and I couldn't ask for a better friend. Just because she's so dedicated to really serving -- and she really believes it. She's really -- cares about victims. Her court -- she's now a Superior Court Judge in Contra Costa County. And she runs a juvenile court. And there was an article in the newspaper done about a month ago on Lois and how she cared for people in her court.
Lois -- one thing she's done that really, I'm impressed with -- I asked Lois -- I -- I'm responsible for all the training for all victim advocates in California -- provided the entry level training for all victim advocates, 40 hour training and advance training that I provide -- from 32 hours.
So, I have all these newbies coming in, brand new victim advocates that I see and I'm mentoring these new people coming in. I get them for a whole week at a time and they get me -- you know, from 8 o'clock in the morning to 6:30 at night. And I'm the -- I'm the drill sergeant, whatever it may be.
And they can come to class on time and keep them on -- you know, on board -- and I always ask on Friday if Lois would come down, leave her court, and come at lunchtime and give their diplomas to them, their certificates to them.
And Lois never refused me. The only time when it's a problem is when she's out of country or something like that. But Lois has always been there. She takes time off from her court to come down to meet the new victim advocates in the State of California -- to meet them.
And she personally gives each one of them a certificate. They come up and she waits and shakes their hand and says, "I'm so happy, where are you from?" She talks to them and finds out what kind -- "Oh, I'm so happy you have a program in your county. I'm excited about this and good luck to you."
And she tells them the message she gives them as a judge to victim advocates is that when you get a judge in your court that doesn't pay attention to victims, you let them know and you can tell them that Judge Haight told them they can call.
And she has no problem. She was on a commission on judicial performance for California, which -- which disciplines every judge that does anything wrong and she constantly uses that -- use that to say you tell them that Judge Haight told them they're wrong when they do that.
And that's the fear of god, you know, and I really believe that she really believes in this. And -- and victim advocates -- she tells them what she does as a judge and people -- the victim advocates, when they leave the training, they -- the first thing they said is, "Could you come to our county? Would you be there? Would you talk to our judges?" And she says, "We'll try it."
I've taught classes with Judge Haight at Hastings Law School. I've taught with her at the Judge's College. And the classes she teaches on victims' services -- victim advocates -- victimology, victims rights -- those classes she teaches as a judge.
You don't find many judges that want to out there and teach like that. And I can tell you that you have a strong advocate in Lois Haight as far as service to victims.
|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.|