An Oral History of the Crime Victim Assistance Field
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Norman Early, Esq.
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Seymour: How and why did you first get involved in the crime victims' movement?
Early: I went to the Denver District Attorney's office in 1973 as a chief deputy District Attorney. And one of the things that I had responsibility for were programs above and beyond the normal prosecution in the prosecutor's office.
It was our intent to stay close to the public and -- and to design programs that would be of benefit to them. One of the things that we noticed when we first got to the DA's office is that in our county court, which is our misdemeanor court in Colorado, court of general jurisdiction, on any given day, you will walk into the courtroom and there would be 50 to 75 people in there. And there would only be 20 cases on the docket.
And those 50 to 75 people, often times the majority of them, were victims and or witnesses who were there as a result of having been subpoenaed to court.
And we knew as did everybody in the system that 20 to 30 cases were not going to be tried in any given day, so those people were coming down to court repeatedly and not having any kind of redress and no kind of satisfaction.
And we thought that there had to be a better mousetrap and that we could build it. So, we thought of ways to keep those people from coming to court on a regular basis and I designed this incredible letter series that was using -- that would notify people and keep them advised of things like if they came to a preliminary hearing -- excuse me, if we held a preliminary hearing and it was -- the case was bound over, we send them a "G letter."
If the case was not bound over, we'd send them an "H letter." And I had -- I mean, every letter had little nuances to it. This was my first contribution to the victim's movement, so don't laugh. [LAUGHS]
So, I must have had letters from A to M or N that we would send out depending upon what the circumstances were, so we had a woman who was sending out letters. And the primary purpose of it was to keep people from coming to court when they did not have to come to court. And one day, the woman who was running that project said to me, "Norm, do I need to send you a letter on this case, were you the victim." I said, "What are you talking about? I haven't been a victim."
She said, "No, you're the victim on this case." I said, "There are two Norm Earlys in Denver, both of us are lawyers, it's the other guy." She said, "Well, only one of them works at the Denver DA's office at 303 West Colfax and this phone number and that's you."
[LAUGHS] And I said, "What are you talking about?" And what was -- what was so amazing was that -- and this was the rudimentary stages of the project and I had gotten all the letters together that weren't -- but my wife's car, my ex-wife's car had been parked at a music studio.
Someone hit and ran the car. The car was in my name. She reported it to the police. The police caught the culprit. The police filed a case on the culprit and -- culprit -- and my office where I worked as the Chief Deputy -- the case had gone to court, it had been disposed of and now the woman was sending a letter to tell me what happened to the case.
And I didn't even know it was in the office, and I work for the DA's office, okay. So you can imagine how frustrated other victims were at not being notified about what was going on with their cases.
I mean, a case comes all the way through the office, runs the gamut and I didn't even know it was there. So, I developed the letter series to make sure that people were notified and that was fine. But that's how I got involved.
And then the LEAA grant, the "Seven Cities Grant" came along where LEAA selected seven District Attorneys offices in 1974, I think it was to participate in the victim's program. We were one of the seven cities that were selected and got money through the National District Attorneys Association, to create projects in large cities, small cities, medium-sized cities, these District Attorneys offices that were selected.
So, we were the prototype offices, those seven, Alameda County, Davis County, Utah, New Orleans, Philadelphia, excuse me, Chicago, Denver and -- any rate -- we were the prototype for the Victim Witness programs in District Attorneys offices.
And back then everything was very rudimentary. It was basically notification and setting up waiting rooms for people so that you wouldn't have World War II in the hallway between the defendant's family and the victim's family as we often did back in the old days, because there was nowhere for the victim to go when they're sitting on benches across from one another, staring each other down.
Because, you know, they're angry that the victim has sought redress in a court of law where they should and have brought charges against their loved ones. And it was pretty much limited to that at the beginning, this notification and witness rooms.
Seymour: When you started in the field, which the field officially started in 1972, so you were pretty much from the beginning...
Early: 1973 yeah. [speaking over] 1973 was our own program. We were just doing it with resources we found in the office, because we didn't have any funding or anything. We just thought it was necessary to keep all those people from waiting in court all day long.
Seymour: And you were there pretty close to the beginning of the entire field. Can you describe the context of the field of victims rights and services, also maybe a little bit of the context of the era in 1973 that was going on that might have influenced the field of victim services?
Early: Well, you know, one of the things that was happening is that the women's movement was in full gear. And had there been no women's movement in this country, there would -- never would have been a victims' movement.
Because we are truly an outgrowth of the women's movement. It was women who got tired of being reduced to tears on witness stands because they were delving into their entire sexual history which had nothing to do with the rape at hand, because it was a stranger rape on the street and whatever.
And they were going into relationships with boyfriends and all these things. And it was women who got tired of things like the Lord Hale instruction, which was given to juries when I -- when I started prosecuting that said rape is an easy crime to accuse one of, a very difficult crime to defend against.
So, when viewing the testimony of a woman, do so extra critically. Basically saying don't pay attention to the victim. Don't listen to them and don't give credibility to what the victim says.
Well, the name Lord Hale implies that it's a very old instruction that has its roots in England and it was something that was carried over into the law in this country.
It was women who got tired of being treated as if they're -- they were still subject to the rule of thumb, which had been eliminated in this country in this country in 1871 by law, but still operated in the minds of many people because, you know, they still treated women as if they were chattel when dealing with the confines of a marriage.
And, so, it was okay until 1871 for a man to beat his wife with a stick as long as that stick is no longer -- no bigger than that man's thumb; hence, the rule of thumb, which -- and I don't use the words any more knowing where they come from.
But the problem was -- it was a male dominated system and the judges were male. The prosecutors were male. Everyone that a woman encountered in the criminal justice system was -- was male, I mean, for the most part. There were a few exceptions, but not very many exceptions. And, so, what you have is you have a system where women who are normally the nurturers in this society were not really in positions of importance in the system. So, when they cried out about the things that were happening to their children, not to many people paid attention.
Because in that male dominated system, the way you judge whether it was fair or not is if you did the same thing tomorrow the way you did it yesterday, you were being fair. There was no attempt to ascertain whether or not what you had been doing the day before and the day before that really was something that -- that benefitted the people who were coming into the system.
And that kind of analysis just was not being made, so it was a system that tended to do things tomorrow the way they did them yesterday. And certainly there was no room for changing an entire system so that you would have more -- more sensitive rules and more sensitive procedures as people proceeded through the system.
So, it was women who just got tired of being treated like that and having their kids treated that way who finally jostled the system enough. It was women who set up safe homes. It was women who set up notification for process in their basements and it was women who ultimately caused the criminal justice system to change.
So, that was the biggest impediment to change at that time. And even people, men who were fairly creative and thought to be on the cutting edge, at least in their minds just weren't getting the message about how the system had to change more radically in order to adequately serve victims and witnesses.
It's like the pebble that's thrown into the water. It ripples and ripples and ripples. And if, in fact, someone is treated badly in the system, they tell others and others don't -- don't -- who don't want to receive that treatment just shy away from it.
So, you have crimes that are under reported. You have criminals getting away with crimes and you have a criminal justice system that is not at all responding to the needs of people who it's supposedly serving. And it becomes just that -- the criminals' justice system. [Break in Interview]
Seymour: How did the system -- and you can speak about back then and even today or anywhere in between -- respond when it's being rattled by, in this case, the example you gave-- women?
Early: The system doesn't respond well when it's being rattled by anyone, because there's a siege mentality and we tend to bunker down and the system rather than -- and analyzing whether it's a fair criticism -- we'll absolutely bristle.
You're talking about some fairly important, at least in their own minds, people. You're talking about judges, you're talking about probation officers, you're talking about prosecutors and other who operate within the confines of the system.
And generally people have been pretty revered, and for good reason. I mean, they had done some very good things and I'm over -- being overly demonstrative to -- to get my point across.
But, you know, there were some good things done in this system, but when it came to issues like these -- like domestic violence, like rape, like children's issues, we didn't handle them very well.
The criminal justice system was able to handle a burglary case just like that. (Snaps) I mean, any young prosecutor could do it. But when it came to a rape case, and understanding the victim fully -- or like a domestic violence case when they wanted to drop charges -- they'd say, "Go ahead and drop them. Bye.
'One less case on my case load," rather than understanding the cycle of violence and understanding that you should have no drop policies. And understanding that -- that once a case comes into the system, you cannot legitimize the conduct of the batterer by dismissing the case and allowing the batterer to have the criminal justice system sanction their actions.
So, we never really made that kind of analysis and when you think about it, prosecutors tend to be among the most conservative of attorneys. And that being the case did not take kindly to criticism of the way they were doing things and did not often open up, so -- to ascertain whether the criticism was valid.
Seymour: Through NDAA and others, you took a very strong leadership role in terms of victims' issues. Do you mind sharing some of your experiences, maybe from the beginning of when you really started pushing victims' issues and how, what did that look like when you went through the process with different DA's groups?
Early: Well, at the beginning it was DA group that tried to implement nationally victims programs. And as I say, it was a modest effort that really dealt with notification issues and waiting rooms for victims and those kinds of things.
When it came to actually granting victims rights within the criminal justice system, the way prosecutors had embraced notification -- at least semi-embraced it -- and embraced waiting rooms for sure -- when it came to rights for victims of crime, there was no embracing at all.
There was -- I mean, I think I was considered and still am considered somewhat radical among my prosecutorial brethren. I remember when the original Attorney General's Task Force Report was returned -- we had a meeting in Reno, Nevada -- and, what 63 recommendations, I've forgotten what the total number was.
But the first 60, let's say, had nothing to do with local prosecutors. Most of them dealt with the FBI, all these other things. But the last three were victims' recommendations.
And the prosecutors voted positively, voted affirmatively for the first 60 or whatever the number was -- and voted down the last three that dealt with victims of crime.
And it was one dissenting vote, my own, in that room or on the Board. I mean, the entire Board said basically if we give victims rights, they'll be able to sue us, they'll be able to hold us accountable and that we can't do this.
I mean, that was the mentality of -- and this was, you know, when the original the task force was -- report was -- what was it 79 or 78?
So, there was no -- and it was -- it seemed so incongruous to me, because victims are our clients. And when I was -- before I joined the DA's office, I would never have done anything without sending a copy of a letter to my client or notifying my client what I've heard.
Because, you know, first of all, you kept them informed and, secondly, it made things run more smoothly. And that's one of the reasons we did it when we got to the DA's office.
Well, we were dealing in an atmosphere where most prosecutors had felt that they were there to get convictions and to run the system. And to do these things for victims and to certainly give victims rights was something that was ancillary to their job and something that they did not see as being extremely important.
Same thing happened when I started talking about crime prevention. I mean, I think crime prevention is a victims' issue and certainly a prosecutor's issue. That felt like -- you know, there he goes again, [LAUGHS] and really didn't embrace the correlation, even if they saw it.
And I think most of them really didn't see the correlations and didn't see it as part of their jobs. Their jobs were -- was -- were to move the cases through the system.
That's why I had a guy like Steve Siegel in my office. That was one of the first -- first things that I did -- is I stole them away from the Jefferson County DA's office and expanded his powers and authority.
And in the prosecutor's office where somebody has their desk and where they sit is very important in terms of conveying a message to the rest of the staff. And I had Steve right up in the front office, even though he was not an attorney, which was something that was also fairly radical.
But -- but to me those community programs were absolutely essentially and Steve still does for the current DA -- run those programs with great precision. [Break in Interview]
Seymour: What was the greatest challenge that you faced, or you and your colleagues faced, in affecting change? How did you make that happen?
Early: Well, it depended on the topic. And, for me, in Denver, when it came to, let's say, rape, we tried to affect change in that arena through publicity, through education of the public with community programs that dealt with the topic.
We developed a brochure called, "Rape, The Best Way to Protect Your Body is by Using Your Head." Did a lot of community groups and that brochure basically divided it out into how to protect yourself at home, how to protect yourself in the street, how to protect yourself in your car, at work, you know, those kinds of things, to prevent rape.
And a big part of the program was letting people know that rape was not a crime of sex. It was a crime of violence. Because back then women jurors were the worst in terms of giving convictions.
They were the ones who least understood what the woman had been through. They were the ones who falsely proclaimed that, you know, it wouldn't happen to them if they didn't want it to happen. Those kinds of things, you know, which were very provincial.
And you really had to get past that. And back then a prosecutor would much rather have had a -- a blue class -- blue collar male on a rape jury than having a woman who was educated.
And it was -- I mean, so it took an incredible amount of education in that arena. In the domestic violence arena, what we did is we used the bully pulpit of the DA's office to bring all of the people who had to interact with a domestic violence victim, whether they were social workers or teachers in some instances, probation department, the nurses at the hospital, the DA's office, the police department and on and on and on throughout the system, and brought them together to develop a protocol. It was one of the first ever developed in the country on domestic violence.
And it spelled out the responsibilities of everybody and those meetings were very contentious. We had a -- we had a woman's group that was about ready to sue the DA's office, because we had not responded well in the past to domestic violence issues.
When we get in our meetings, I try to create an atmosphere where we would understand that there would be criticism, but as long as it was fair criticism and it was criticism that was designed to move the process forward, then we had to listen openly.
But even if you set those kind of ground rules, you know, you're still talking about somebody's turf and we eventually did it and we did the same thing with -- dealing with children -- developed a protocol for children as well.
So, it really depended upon the issue as to how you attacked it. And it was -- it was important to us to design a strategy to attack each issue that came along.
Seymour: In cases you just mentioned of rape and DV, collaboration seems to be critical to success. How easy was it, is it, will it be, in terms of collaboration around victim services, victims rights' issues, getting the players to the table?
Early: Well, I mean, if you're the DA you can get people to the table. They tend to respond when a DA calls. I mean, that's just -- that's just what happens.
Because you're the highest law enforcement official in the jurisdiction and as a result they're going to respond to your call. And -- and a lot of it is the way you approach it.
If you're telling them we're going to come together, we're going to -- we're going to lay down our swords, we're going to come together in an atmosphere of mutual respect and understanding and try to -- try to do something that's best for the victims of these crimes, then it's -- you know, and then you're doing the meetings in the DA's office. People are coming there.
And -- and you try to select people or get an agency to send someone who truly understands that -- that this is a problem that's not being handled as well as it can be handled.
And once we finish with the domestic violence protocol it's a lot easier to get people together on other kinds of protocols. Because that was one of the more difficult ones.
And people saw how the process went and understood that it was not a gripe session, not a finger pointing session. They were sessions that were designed to accomplish an end.
Seymour: What were some of the tactics or strategies you employed that were successful for increasing victim services and their quality? I know you had a major hand in some major legislation.
Early: I think the most important thing is to understand the power of the position of the District Attorney, while at the same time understand that because it does have that power that it can be awfully threatening.
And make sure that -- that everyone knows that you're just another player at the table. That it is not your table. That you are not setting all the rules, by which these things are going to be accomplished, that you're there to aid the process and you are a participant.
And I think it was very important for the DA to be there, to actually be there. When the meetings were set, they were generally set with full knowledge of one another's calendars and there was none of this last-minute stuff that -- you know, something more pressing came up. Because there was nothing more pressing in my mind than -- than dealing with these issues.
When it came to legislation, same thing. We were another player. Our input was -- was respected, but it -- not always carried the day when determining how our legislation should be fashioned.
As you know, we are one of those few states that -- that has a decentralized victim comp system, which works extremely well. We don't have a bureaucracy, a state-wide bureaucracy, which is -- which takes weeks and days and months sometimes to get compensation through and it's handled very locally.
And those are things that people within various jurisdiction around our country felt very strongly -- around our state -- felt very strongly that these things should be decentralized and they should be localized.
And victims services are best delivered at the local level, ergo, why shouldn't victim comp be administered in a decentralized way as opposed to in a state agency.
So, I think that when -- everything that it dealt with -- and you cannot underestimate the effect that Steve Siegel had on the process, because he was just the right person for this kind of involvement.
Because he has a good touch with people. He has a great command of -- of interpersonal skills, a tremendous wealth of knowledge, always willing to share and will work awfully hard.
So -- so, the team that you start off with is -- is very important and -- and I think that that was a big part of strategy is to make sure you had the right team.
Seymour: We've been speaking a lot today about state constitutions in interviews and Colorado is recognized and revered for passing the state Constitutional Amendment faster than any other state in the country. Tell us your version about Colorado and Constitutional Amendments...
Early: [speaking over] Well, we had very little to do with all that.
Seymour: How you all did that?
Early: I'm serious, I had very little to do with getting that thing passed. Our COVA organization is so good and we have so many people involved that, you know, people from time to time say, "This is what we're doing, Norm."
My philosophy as far as my staff was concerned is that you hire good people and you get out of their way. And that's what started happening in the victim's movement. We assembled good people. We just got out of their way.
So, once we got out of their way they were able to put that together so fast -- and, of course all the alliance that had been formed during the years were very important.
And, you know, we had one of the seminal NOVA conferences in Denver when I was District Attorney -- 16 years ago now, maybe even longer.
Early: People still talk about that conference. And that helped propel the victims movement in Denver, even though it was burgeoning already. You know, people were in Denver for a reason. They didn't want to live on the east coast, they didn't want to live on the west coast.
And they decided where they wanted to live and they selected this town and they came here with that pioneer spirit, with a can do attitude. And that helps us an awful lot.
I mean, it's not like -- I was born on the east coast and raised in DC, as you know, and it's not as if though they fell entrenched in any kind of -- any kind of circumstance that dictate how to respond to something. They do it with that good old western pioneer spirit. And it's a great place to live.
Seymour: And, this might be the wrong word, and in the field of victims' rights and services and from your perspective as a DA, what have the failures been?
Early: [speaking over] The biggest failure in the victim's movement in my estimation has been the inability to attract people to this movement who have not been victimized or worked in the field.
This movement is one that everybody should be able to identify with. Everybody is one or two people away from victimization in this country. And most people know somebody who has been victimized.
And, yet, they don't come here. Why. Well, you know, I think it is -- it's -- we are as victims not seen as champions. We are -- we have yet to be able o make people understand that the defendant is not the underdog in the criminal justice system. It is indeed the victim.
We have not -- you don't want to glorify being a victim, but it's not cool to identify -- in most people's minds -- to identify with the victim.
I mean, you know, and most people want to shun it, bury it, don't believe that -- that it really hurts. Neighborhoods, close-knit neighborhoods, right -- somebody dies in the neighborhood as a result of natural causes.
Everybody flocks, the pies come, ice cream comes. The dinners come and somebody dies in the same house as the result of a murder, you don't get the same kind of response. And certainly the whole stigma to victimization is something that we have yet been able to break through and get people to start coming to this movement in the numbers that they should be coming to it.
And as many people should be contributing to victim's issues as are contributing to cancer or to lots of other things out there that are -- that are onerous -- incredibly onerous, you know, what's happening in this criminal justice system and what's happening to victims of crime is -- it's criminal.
It really is and unfortunately we have not been able to get that message out there and get people involved. It is hard to get businesses involved. It's you know -- it takes a September 11th for NOVA to become a financially viable organization.
Unfortunately, because they recognize the good that we do under circumstances such as that, but before that, money wasn't coming into this organization in any great numbers. [Break in Interview]
Seymour: What do you perceive, Norm, to be the one greatest accomplishment -- one -- that has promoted victims' rights and needs?
Early: The one greatest accomplishment in the field that has promoted victims rights and needs. It probably was getting the Federal government fully involved in assisting victims of crime. I mean, getting a Federal agency that -- that deal directly with the issues associated with crime victims and have them lobbying in conjunction with the victim's movement for different pieces of legislation that have really helped victims.
But I would say really the Federal government is stepping up and certainly that didn't happen with a lot of people pushing and pulling and cajoling and making folks on the Hill understand that --
Seymour: Talk about that, who and what and what happened?
Early: Well, I mean, I think that -- well, we were mentioning Lois Haight Herrington earlier today. She -- I mean, I think when she got into that office, she revolutionized it. She did things that hadn't been done before.
She had a presence that -- that really meant an awful lot to the victim's movement. There were -- there are so many heroes in this movement, the Frank Carringtons and Jim Rowlands and then you go to the victims, the Betty Jane Spencers and on and on and on.
And I mean, you can just imagine these people talking about the worst experience in their life over and over and over again, in order to impact individuals on the Hill and legislatures around this country to get them to do the right thing.
I mean, they certainly developed a thick skin. They certainly had a way about them which allowed them to do something that -- that I think will be very very difficult.
I mean, you know, I remember -- if you can think of the worst thing that has ever happened to you in your entire life -- and probably for me it was losing the mayor's race -- and knowing that that is how you are identified for the rest of your life -- you know I mean, I remember like, like there are still times when I'll say hi to somebody and it's a group -- as I'm walking away -- and the mayor's race in '91 -- you can hear them saying [whispering] "mayor's race," as part of the conversation that's going on after I leave, you know.
Now you know, often times it's former DA or whatever, but when they start -- you know -- but you know that they're identifying me with having lost the mayor's race back in 1991.
Okay, I mean, that's all people knew me for is that, you know -- I mean, I've done a lot of things in my life, as have all these victims. And all they're known for is having been a victim of crime. That has got to be an incredible mind set to take that every time you go into a meeting, to know you're there because you were in the wrong place at the wrong time and somebody took advantage of you, whether that wrong place was your own house or whether that wrong place was bus stop or whatever.
Someone took criminal advantage of you and that is how you're identified the rest of your life. It's unbelievable. But they allowed themselves to be identified in that way, so they could get the things that were necessary to be done, done.
Seymour: What is needed today, Norm, 2002, to continue the growth and professionalism of our field and/or what's missing. What do we need or what don't we have to keep moving forward as a victim's discipline?
Early: There are a number of things, in my estimation. One, I think that it is critical for us to continue to understand that we have got to racially and ethically diversify the victim's movement. Most victims in this country are minorities. And most victim service providers are not.
And in so doing and saying, there is a big factor in trying to educate minorities that they have a place in the victims' movement, as service providers and that they're needed desperately in this movement to be able to relate to the people who are becoming victims.
We run into this problem in terms of the constitutional amendment for victims of crime. We have the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People coming out against the crime victims' amendment. And you have to think that some of it is knee jerk.
Some of it is because we traditionally identify with defendants as opposed to victims being minorities and there are so many defendants who are really getting short shrift in the system and getting -- getting jacked over.
But be that as it may, there's a larger number of victims that the same thing has happened to and those victims are minorities. So, making the minority communities of this country understand that they have a tremendous stake in the future of the victims movement and that they're needed desperately here -- passing the Constitutional Amendment is critical for so many reasons.
And you know all the reasons, but we can't -- we can't -- we can't say that it's okay that states have constitutional amendments because their constitutional amendments are different. The Federal Constitution trumps everything else.
And we're not trying to derogate the rights of defendants. We're just trying to promote the rights of victims and habit. And you know, I got into a TV discussion not too long ago that it's window dressing, it's feel good stuff.
It's not feel good. It is incredibly important to have victims in the scheme of things in this Constitution when they're -- when there are competing rights, okay, maybe defendant's rights should win.
But when there is a -- no enumerated right for a defendant and there is an enumerated right for a victim, victims right ought to win and because we're not in the Constitution, we often don't win in this country, so...
I don't think the founding fathers of this country ever intended that victims be left out of the system and be treated the way they are. [Break in Interview]
Seymour: What advice can you give to professionals and volunteers -- the newer people to the field of victim assistance who have joined our field in the last 5 or 10 years?
Early: Patience is number one. Because no matter what we seek, it's not going to happen quickly. Some of the things that were low hanging fruit that you could accomplish very quickly like notification programs and waiting rooms for victims and those things that have been done for the most part around this country -- and, so, now you're dealing with the issues that change systems, severely change systems.
And those things are not going to happen quickly or easily. There are too many people who have a stake in them not changing or whose personal philosophy will not allow them, even though some people are very good on some victims' issues -- for instance, they're not going to be very good on the constitutional amendment.
So, there will be a lot of patience needed. I think that determination has been what this movement has thrived on. We have been a very determined bunch of people, who have not always been consistent in our thoughts, but we were always very determined to place the interest of the victims paramount and to work hard for those interests.
And then we have to continue with that same determination that has been displayed in the past in order to be successful in the future. Maybe even have to have more, considering the fact that we're dealing with a whole new set of issues that do challenge some people's belief systems and also challenge entrenched systems in this country.
Keep a good sense of humor. In this movement, you know, I can't think of any specific instances right now, I have laughed more with this family of victim advocates and providers and service providers than I've laughed in any setting in which I've been involved.
And, you know, the hugs, I think I invented the group hug in this organization years ago. Because it just felt like such an incredible family. I think they have to be open, they have to continue to provide input and never be afraid to speak up.
Because some of the silliest ideas may rule the day in the final analysis. I think that determination and humor and patience are very critical. And of course we have to be well-trained.
It's critical that we -- that we get trained and we get credentialed and only those who are the best are -- I mean, because this country has not seen the last of terrorist attacks.
And when the next 9/11 occurs, whatever it will be and whenever it will be, it's going to be people who have been trained in this setting, who are going to respond and they're going to perform yeoman work like was done in New York City and the Pentagon site and Pennsylvania.
And that can't be done without adequate training, because you can do so much to -- to exacerbate the situation if there's not been adequate training.
Seymour: The impact of 9/11 -- talk a little bit about that.
Early: Like I said, 9/11 is the reason that NOVA is financially solvent and not approaching our future with our hat in hand -- in a hat in hand manner. That's unfortunate.
Because the good things that NOVA's been doing around this country in crises that don't arise to the magnitude of 9/11 -- in individual crime situations from the east coast to the west and the northern borders to the southern borders are critically important and they should be financed.
And the individual grassroots organizations and organizations in prosecutors offices, in courtrooms -- throughout this country -- are very important and -- and they should be supported because of the value that they bring to those communities. And unfortunately they're not.
9/11 was a cash infusion for the victims movement on so many levels. And with that cash infusion, of course, goes responsibility, but that's one side of it. The other side of it is we knew we had developed a very very good crisis response model and knew that it worked and it could work under any circumstance.
And God willing we will never have to prove it again, like we had to prove it after 9/11. But the people responded and -- with alacrity with which they responded. And with the professionalism. It just made everybody proud to know the model worked and to know the people had been trained to do what we do and the people that we hug every day and see every day were getting hugs and kisses from victims who thought they were angels, thought they had wings on the backs of those blue shirts.
I mean, that's so touching to me. So, 9/11 was -- was a real proving ground for this movement to show the country and the world what so many people knew already from Kobe, Japan, when the earthquake happened to the Mexico City earthquake to Homestead Air Force Base with the hurricane.
Every shopping center shooting and school shooting and on and on and on in this country where people know the value of the NOVA model and the people that NOVA brings to the table. That was proven in big terms as a result of 9/11.
On a personal level, I was supposed to be flying out that day to teach at the National College of District Attorneys down in South Carolina and never made it. And then I had a friend who had to pinch-hit for me, harass me about "cleaning up for me," he says. [LAUGHS]
But, you know, we had a lot of conversations, because you remember that right after NOVA wanted to go to DC -- I mean, to go to New York City -- one of the critics said it would be like fighting a forest fire with a squirt gun for us to send victim advocates into New York City.
They were wrong. They were wrong for two reasons, one because they underestimated the model; and two, they underestimated the people who were employing the model. When people underestimate you it gives you a real big hand up -- leg up -- because I remember a few times, just a few times in my life I've been underestimated and it really gave me a leg up on the other person.
And that's what happened here. People just had no idea the dogged determination that would be played out by people wearing blue shirts with NOVA on the front of them at the World Trade Center site and in Pennsylvania and the Pentagon.
And, you know, it's a success story in that sense and it's one that we hope we don't have to implement again on that level. But being the realists we are, we know that there is going to be more need for crisis response teams.
I'm glad we implemented that when I was President of this organization back in 1985 or so, I think it was, after Edmund, Oklahoma. We started those crisis response team and Edmund was the first post office shooting.
And Mike Turpen called and said I know what to do when an individual is in crisis, what do I do when a whole community is in crisis? Well, we helped when the whole nation was in crisis. And it's because of the systems that were put in place from Edmund to 9/11. [Break in Interview]
Seymour: Two more fun questions: ( Those were really good--thank you.) What vision do you have for the future of our field?
Early: Well, you know -- as you know, I do a lot of speaking for NOVA on victims issues. And I've given speeches on visions of the future. And, you know, what you would like to say is that there will be no more need for the victim's movement. And that would be the altruistic and unrealistic thing to say.
Because we've always had crime in this country and we're always going to have crime. So that being the case, what are we going to do minimize its effects once it occurs and reduce the number of crimes in this country.
I've always said that if we really want to eliminate crime in the US, all we have to do is stop having children, no more babies. Because then -- of course we'll have no more society, but there'll be no more kids who are not cared for in the way they need to be cared for that would preclude them from getting involved in criminal activity. Norm Early
My -- the one thing I know about every kid in this country is that not one of them ever asked to be born. Something else I know about all of the is that none of them chose their parents.
Something else I know is none of them chose their circumstances in life. None of asked to be born rich, poor, black, white, parents who love them, parents who hate them or parents who are just indifferent about their existence, none of them asked to be here.
And some of them, because of their circumstances into which they're born -- those who are born in very fortunate circumstances -- some of them look down their nose at other people and some of them born with one foot in a hole, fighting for the rest of their lives -- try to get out of that hole or just give up. And decide to either act out criminally or commit suicide or whatever.
It is my feeling that the victims' movement and the prevention movement have to come together and understand that they're one and the same, that the first goal of the victims' movement has to be the reduction of the number of victims of crime.
If we're going to reduce the number of victims of crime, we'll have to reduce the number of, amount of criminal activity. And if we're going to do that, we're really going to have to invest in young people at an early age and we're going to have to make the -- I mean, my motto is I'd rather build a child than repair an adult.
And I think that goes hand in hand with the victims' movement, because if we're building children and if they are truly -- that's one of the reasons I wrote the -- wrote the children's books in the last -- STEP DOLL was the first one we released, because we're dealing with issues that -- that help bridge some very serious gaps in this country and deal with some very serious problems that kids have.
And if we do that and we do that in an effective way, we will reduce -- reduce the number of victims in this country. Won't eliminate it by any means, but we can reduce it. But it's not going to happen just by talking about it.
We have to really get out there and develop programs and things -- we know that mentoring programs work. We know that after-school programs work. We know that programs that deal with children who are being abused and neglected work. We know that early childhood education programs work.
I used to work at the National Laboratory for Early Childhood Education years ago and we knew back then the incredible impact that early childhood education has on reducing criminal activity of young people, because they're investing in them.
And if we don't invest in them, we're not going to reap the benefits. So, I want to see this movement get a lot closer to the prevention movement and I want to see as victim advocates understand our role in terms of helping reduce crime in whatever ways that we can.
And I never give a victims speech any more without talking about prevention. I just don't do that. And I think that we will all embrace that notion eventually and understand how greatly important it is.
And hopefully the same energy and vigor that we brought to the victims movement will be applied not only to the victimization after it occurs, but victimization before it occurs.
Seymour: Last question: Future of the field -- what is your greatest fear?
Early: My greatest fear. You know, I really don't have an overarching looming fear for this movement. I see a lot of good things happening in the future and -- and I don't have the fear because I know the caliber of people that we have in this movement and I know the ability of the people in this movement to face obstacles and overcome them.
And, so, I can't see any obstacle that would be too great for us. I mean, unless you had a pro -- proliferation of terrorist acts and suicide bombings and on and on and that people just got worn out. But there would be others to come long and replace them.
I don't see the -- I don't see the sources of funds drying up any time soon. So, that's not a great fear. I think more and more people understand the value in what we do and that's -- and that will be a fairly permanent spigot and it's got to be when you're facing terrorist attacks or potential terrorist attacks in your homeland.
And that -- those have been the things that we've generally worried about. More money and more people. And people are starting to come to the movement and then -- and quality people in every -- larger numbers and the money is here and certainly the creativity is here and the ability to analyze the future to the extent that we could create programs and systems that will -- I mean, whether it's technology and how we deal with technological crimes...
You know, I mean, folks just put their heads down and go shoulder to shoulder and come up with ideas for combating that sort of thing and it happens over an over again. It's just been proven in this movement.
I mean, this movement started with very few people and very little money and as needs dictated always didn't happen simultaneous with the need. But, you know, the people and the money have continued to come and they will continue to come. I don't see any obstacle on the horizon that we can't meet.
|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.|