An Oral History of the Crime Victim Assistance Field
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Beatty: Beth, could you please start by stating your name, spell it for us, tell us which agency you're here with and also your title with them.
Rossman: I am... my name is Beth, B-E-T-H, Rossman, R-O-S-S-M-A-N, and I am with the State, Office of the State Attorney, Eighteenth Judicial Circuit in Vera, Florida and I'm the Director of Victim Services, Witness Management and Community Alliance Programs.
Beatty: Okay. Thank you. Well we're going to start out with sort of an obvious one and that is what brought you to the field? What got you involved in the criminal justice movement in the first place?
Rossman: Well, believe it or not, I graduated with my criminal justice degree back in 1980 and about the same day I graduated from college, I started at the Brevard County Law Enforcement Academy, one of four females in my police academy. And the day I graduated from the police academy, at noon I started at the Cocoa Beach Police Department as one of their first female police officers at four o'clock that afternoon. So that started me as a police officer but I was literally working the road as a regular police officer.
Beatty: Well now did you come to the field because you were sort of assigned to it or was this a special interest of yours or... how did you end up down that road so to speak?
Rossman: Well for a lot of reasons, probably, but a lot of it's just through default, I think.
Rossman: Being the first female, you can imagine that when there was a homicide who'd they call? "Oh, okay, well let's call Beth, you know, she's got that female perspective." And we had a condominium collapse down on top of itself after I'd been there for just a few months and, of course, again I always tell people, being the first female what do you think they had me doing and a lot of people say, "Oh, directing traffic" when, indeed, it was actually working with the families. And I laugh and say I wish I could go back and help those people. I was twenty years old. I'm sure I traumatized them to death.
I mean I'm sure they were traumatized for life because I didn't know what I was doing. So I had spent six and a half years with the Cocoa Beach Police Department and I worked my way up into the Detective Bureau and was, a, everything from a decoy prostitute to working homicides. So I did just about it all because it was a small department and then in 1986 our State Attorney was elected and one of his campaign promises was to start a victim witness unit and he asked me to come to his office.
He came to me and recruited me because I had been, again, that first female, been out in the community a lot and people had been very good to me. And he asked me to come and start his first division as a police officer. I'm still a certified law enforcement officer and have been now for 22 years and so that's when I started. That's how I got, kind of went in by default.
Beatty: Bottom, bottom up, too, bottom up.
Beatty: Well harking back you sort of mentioned your start there. Could you tell us sort of how you viewed the field, what was the field like when you first got into it versus sort of how it is today?
Rossman: Well I think it was, in the State of Florida, and that's one of my first frames of reference obviously, we had Janet Reno. Janet Reno was a wonderful advocate in Dade County and I really looked to that program to give me a lot of information. I went down there. There was not a lot of State Attorneys' Offices, maybe just a couple, that had programs in their office. So I really looked to the shelters, to the rape crisis programs, there were, just one in our county, it was all volunteer, really kind of looked to them to try to give me a start, did a lot of reading, did everything I could. And my boss, who again ran on a platform, Mr. Norm Wolfinger, ran on a platform of victim services. That was his whole thing.
So it wasn't just a matter of starting a unit for me. It was that we had to train everyone from the secretary to the highest paid attorney in our office. Everyone does victim services. We all do it. We have a unit, but everybody's involved. So that was a real unique approach. So I went, he sent me to the, my first NOVA conference in Denver and the first time I saw Norm Early, who was then the Prosecutor of Denver and a Board Member of NOVA, get up and speak, I was hooked. I thought, gosh, these people are, they're doing what I need to be doing and then Dr. Marlene Young got up and I thought, oh, my gosh, there's people out there that have all this information. And this was back in 1986 so it hasn't been that long ago but I found such a... a comfort on a national level that I soaked up everything I could get but it was... it was very few and far between in the state of Florida.
Beatty: Okay. Now what did you find out as sort of a... a pioneer, as you mentioned both in the law enforcement arena but in the larger field as well, what were you finding were your greatest challenges early on?
Rossman: Well it was a new field and the first thing that I found was that the prosecutors didn't want anything to do with it in our office. They felt like it was interrupting their cases and why should we consult the victims, they're really just witnesses. And I think one of my very first challenges was getting them to believe in the program. And my theory all along, and victim services is only one of the many things that I do now in the office or one of my divisions, but is if you can show them that you're not going to give them more work, you're going to take work away from them, that they will naturally become involved. They'll naturally just, anybody, anybody in any field would say that oh, somebody coming to take my job, some of my work away from me, yea.
And it was the same thing for law enforcement because we not only do the cases that are brought into the State Attorney's Office, but we do cases that are just out there with no arrests because we don't, we have limited services in law enforcement and always have. So we're a 24 hour a day program in a prosecutor's office. So that was, the challenge was getting law enforcement to call us when something happened, getting the prosecutors and the judges; I mean I can't tell you and I still battle these people all the time. The judges are continually, they're probably one of the worst areas that we have, I found that to be one of the greatest challenges. But, again, I think that by showing them that we're going to take some of this work away from you. We are going to do this and also having the support of the State Attorney.
He literally said, "You will do this." And I can tell you that there have been attorneys, there have been secretaries, there have been investigators in our office that have been suspended because they didn't contact the victim. So, I mean, even though that was a challenge, he was right there boasting me the whole time. The other thing was getting them to be honest with victims. I found that was an incredible challenge. Because, and I'm sure it was this way in other states, but they would go out and interview a victim about a case and they would tell them, "Oh and they're going to serve 20 years in prison. The judge is gonna give him 20 years." Well we knew that that was just a bunch of bologna. That they were gonna give them two, they would maybe get 20 years but they'd serve two.
So it was getting the attorneys who... who would tell me afterwards and I would say, "Why, why did you tell that victim that? They're not even going to get close to that. They're not actually going to serve that." And they're like, "Well we just don't want to hurt their feelings." And I understood that, and they meant that from the heart, but it was educating them and it was a continual education process for them to learn that you may be hurting them but in the long run you will save them, you know, you will help them. You've got to be honest with them. That's part of what we do here. That's gonna be our new thing in this office. We are gonna be honest with victims and really getting them to treat them, call them back, you know, you get, you know, let's face it, not all victims are angels.
Some of them we call our victims from hell and I know everybody has them. And, you know, people want to know and they want information and it was getting them people to talk to them and so on an office issue it was, it was quite a challenge. But again, my thought was if I could work 24 hours a day, which I almost did there in the first few years, they would see that this is serious, we mean this and if she's going to work that hard, then maybe we should do something.
Beatty: Well, you may have partially answered this question but what were some of the tactics or secrets or strategies that you used to deal with some of those challenges or maybe some of the challenges that you didn't particularly mention?
Rossman: Well, I think for me one of the secret challenges was I, and I still do, I work directly for my State Attorney and so I had an inside track to him all the time. So if an attorney or a secretary in the office or a law force or a chief of police or a law enforcement officer would say something that would be really ridiculous or horrible or do something, I had his ear and he acted immediately. I mean and harshly if it needed to be. So I mean that was really just not every victim advocate program has that and I continue to have that to this day and it's very fortunate that he has put victim services and the unit up to that level where it's a daily conversation with him which I found was very helpful.
Some of the other things I found helpful I mean I would bribe, I mean I literally would bribe. Such as when we were having trouble with our crimes comp collection. The judges weren't ordering in the State of Florida it's $50 per case that's ordered into the Crimes Compensation Trust Fund, and they weren't doing it and our statistics were low. So at their judiciary meeting I sent them the most expensive sheet cake I could possibly get my hands on that said "Don't forget crimes compensation," the fifty and, you know, worded it right there on the cake.
Beatty: That's great.
Rossman: And although it's that's stupid, but it was little things like that just continually pushing it in their faces. Um, you know, I would have meetings with anybody that would meet with me. I mean it wasn't something that we just tried to do by policy, it was actually you have to get out there. You have to, you know, knock on every door, talk to every person, and they've got to constantly see you and they've got to constantly say, "Oh, my gosh, here comes that Beth Rossman again. She's after us about something."
I can remember working on a homicide case with a victim, and it was a horrendous case, and I was at the Sheriff's Department in one of our counties and the detective who was working the case, who I had known for years, was just really being ugly to her, not wanting to give her information about the investigation, not wanting to tell her anything. And I said, "Okay, we're going to stop right here," and he's looking at me like what are you talking about. I said, "We're going to the Sheriff because we're not going to do this." And he said, "No we're not" and I said, "Oh, yes we are" and I picked up the phone and I called the Sheriff. He immediately took all three of us into his office and he told his detective, "You will tell her this information now."
And although that hasn't made me real popular over the years but I'm also a law enforcement officer so they can't get away with a lot. I mean I understand the system and what's going on but I, it was probably pretty harsh in the first few years but I tried to do it as diplomatically as I could and people knew it only came from the heart, so.
Beatty: Well, it makes all the difference. Well you're already mentioned a couple accomplishments but I was wondering could you think about sort of your own work and perhaps the larger movement and, tell us a little about what you view as perhaps your greatest accomplishment and maybe what the greatest accomplishment of the movement is as well.
Rossman: Well I think where the movement's concerned, which I obviously would love to talk about much more because I don't know that I've had any individual ones it's always been team efforts, but I think the movement, the Presidential Task Force, to me, in my mind, even though it was really before I got into the field, to me, that was just such a critical step in where we needed to go. It was actually a group of people on that Task Force that everyone respected universally, pretty much, and it really gave some solid answers on where we needed to go.
And I think for me it was one of the first documents that I read and it just felt like okay, well, I can pick up the flag and we can go forward. And I think where the state of Florida is concerned, for our movement in the state, it was the fact that we took on the Constitutional Amendment on our state level and we passed it and we were the first state, us and I guess Michigan, the first states in the nation to do it and we did it by old fashioned stumping pretty much. I mean we literally went, obviously from legislature to legislature just to get it on the ballot. But then it was, we went on the mashed potato circuit which is all the rotaries and those things, the Kiwanis Clubs, but we also on election day stood out there with signs.
I have pictures of us standing out there with, you know, "Vote Yes on Amendment Two" and we were out at every street corner in the state of major consequence and every polling place. I mean it was such a neat team effort and, you know, we passed it in the 90 percentile. I mean that's just amazing. So to me as a state, as a movement, that was so critical for us. I mean and having that, you know, so I... I consider that one of our greater accomplishments in our state. But then just seeing the evolution of the enabling legislation that would say okay, well we have these rights but what does that mean, a victim can get up and say okay, I want to be heard now. And it was really coming together as state entities, whether it was non-profits and prosecutors' offices and law enforcement agencies, we came together as a group and we wrote the enabling legislation for our state. And to me that was just, you know, that's a living, breathing document that our state has.
So that was a great accomplishment for us. I think we continue to, my, well, and it's a concern I have but we continue to always look at how our state looks at VOCA monies and that's come such a long way and how they, you know, award crimes compensation -- constant battles, but it's there. And, of course, on a national movement I am a firm believer in the Crisis Response Team, NOVA's Crisis Response Team having...I felt like a little black cloud followed me around for years because I told you that we had a condominium collapse and then the shuttle exploded and that's in my community. And we had that community-wide disaster and then I start at the State Attorney's Office and we had a lone gunman go through two neighborhoods and two shopping centers killing eight people and wounding hundreds of others.
And we had another community-wide disaster and that's really where I got involved with NOVA's Crisis Response Teams and I am a true cheerleader in that effort and I think that the effort of many, many people has just been incredible and the... .the thousands and thousands of people's lives that have been touched by the crisis responders around this country. Um, you just can't talk enough about it and the vision of pioneers in that which were more than Dr. Young -- Dr. Marlene Young -- there were many people but certainly she was the... the, is the heart and soul of that.
It will, you will never be able to tap into how many thousands of people that that has assisted over the years. So I consider that and being a part of that from, not the ground floor, but early on and certainly in the coordinator of the State Team, Crisis Response Team, the Florida Crisis Response Team now to me it's just been a monumental accomplishment, both personal, and as a national movement.
Beatty: Uh-huh. Well I want to get back to that too as we, get towards the end of the interview. But I was wondering, we've talked about some of the accomplishments. I'd be interested to hear about the other side. What... .what is would you consider either in... .in your own work or the work of your agency a failure or something that remains a challenge out there?
Rossman: And I really, to me, in my mind, one of the things that remains a challenge is always going to be the judiciary and I'll go, come back to that. It is always going to be keeping the passion in this movement. But... but mostly to me, where I look at it, the judiciary continues to be a stumbling block for us. Um, for the most part, there is no, and I can only speak for the state of Florida, our judges are elected and they run four-year terms like a lot of the rest of us... the rest of the elected officials do, but the bottom line is they have no challenge. No one ever challenges them. Rarely do you have another, somebody wanting to run against a judge.
And we've got judges on the bench that literally don't appreciate victims' rights, they don't want to learn about victims' rights, they will say things that are just so incredible, and unfortunately we don't always have those agencies out there that are willing to take them on. And from a personal perspective, I work for the Prosecutor's Office, if I took on a judge for everything he said, they're going to null pros and drop and, you know, kill us in court if they feel like we're after them. So it's almost like you need somebody out there and that's a continual, something that we've not accomplished. And they're getting away with things that are just so horrible and set the victims' movement back twenty years by one thing that they could say.
And the bottom line is victims' look, I mean they, we can work with a victim for four years and the prosecutor can and law enforcement and victim advocates but if a judge says something good to them, they will always remember it. That will be the person that they will say, "Thank you, judge for doing that." They may never thank anybody else and the fact that that judge has so much power is frightening to me and I think it's something that we've really not done a good job of. I know early on in my career I went down to a judges conference in Key West, you'd think it was gonna be a wonderful, idyllic vacation as we went down there and I almost got egged off the stage by the judges. Literally they booed me just by virtue of talking about victims' rights. That was in the... ..the mid-80s, I guess, but it was horrible.
Beatty: Obviously a lot, a lot left to do there. What else is new? What is missing in the field? What do we need as a impetuous to continue our movement forward both in terms of services but also professionalizing ourselves as a profession?
Rossman: Well, and again I continue to say the fact that we need passion. You know, we had, there was so much passion early on and a lot of those people with passion are getting ready to come to the end of their careers and God bless them if they get to retire. I mean I want people to retire. But I don't know that I see as much passion with the people coming up and... .and somehow we, some of the old timers, need to really work with the newcomers to get that passion, to know that yes it is a profession, but it is still a movement, and that we have constantly got to have that fire lit inside of us to keep it going because I don't see as much of that.
I also think that we, as agencies and networks and consulting agencies out there and governmental agencies out there, we have got to find a way to continue to move forward together. I am again somewhat new on the national scene as... .as far as working in victim services and I have a concern when I hear things like "well this agency doesn't get along with that agency" or "this person doesn't like this person and, therefore, we can't work together" and, and that's a, a big concern that I have. I mean I don't understand why we can't get together. I mean we may not always agree but we need to move forward. And we need credentialing. I mean we need a field, I mean I hate to say, I don't think we need to be unionized although I'm a big union person but I, we need professionalism. We need credentialing. We need degree programs to get people involved on a university level. But we need ourselves, we need to find a way.
I mean, in many offices around the state of Florida, and I'm sure it's this way all over the country people, victim advocates are just barely above a secretary, and not that a secretary is, you know, I don't mean it to sound like they're on a low level, but the bottom line is we need to be considered as a professional and I don't know that that's... that's happening all over the country. And I think credentialing degreed programs will help us get there. And, of course, we need a Constitutional Amendment. We need to get that passed and I know there's brilliant minds working on that as we speak but we all, as a movement, need to get behind it and I... ..and I am as guilty as anyone for, you know, I've got two legislators or two senators that don't necessarily support the constitution amendment. I should be living on their doorsteps pretty much.
Beatty: Well you're a veteran in this movement, Beth. If you were to have a newbie, someone who's coming to the profession maybe for their first year and you had them in a sit down and they asked you what would you want to tell? What advice would you give them to help them along in their profession?
Rossman: Oh, that's a good one. I would tell them to always be honest with the victims because if I've made mistakes personally in my career it was also of not being necessarily as honest as I should have been because it was hurtful or sad. That victims will always find out when you don't tell them the truth for whatever reason. I would tell them to work from their heart because it is a profession and there are right and wrong things to do but the bottom line is if you work from your heart and you think about the right thing and you think about how you would want to be treated, and you try to give them the information that they need, I mean I think that that's... that's so much of it.
I worry for this profession that we are getting so caught up in red tape and bureaucracies now that we aren't back there on the level where we're just giving them services and we're working from our hearts. I mean we want to be professional but I don't want us to get to a point where we are so institutionalized that we can't break through that to help somebody.
Beatty: Well, and you may have mentioned this, my next question is what is your greatest fear? Is it the red tape? Is it that we're... we're becoming too institutionalized, that we're... we're losing our heart?
Rossman: It really is and I look at it from... from many perspectives. But when I look at the VOCA cap and the way our destiny's being controlled by people that have little knowledge about our field, that concerns me. When I think about, even in my own state, in the, and not so much in the early days but in the mid-90s, when we would have changes in leadership, when our governor would change, when our attorney general would change and we would find them shifting around crimes comp and VOCA and it would be going "oh, the governor doesn't want this any more, he wants it to go to the Attorney General's Office." And one of probably the most unpopular things that I did, and I still pay for it to this day actually, is that I really went and lobbied hard with the Governor of the state of Florida at that time and the Attorney General because I didn't want them in the same place because I felt like we would have no checks and balance on this at all.
If you give, in state government, someone all of the authority to give out VOCA grants, to give out crimes compensation, to do all your training, to certify you, to credential you, you have created such a monstrosity who's... who's watching them? I mean, and I don't, I trust my leaders and I have and we've been very lucky but my concern has always been when will we get when we get someone in there that we don't get along with? I mean, what's going to happen? I mean, it's going to turn into this huge red tape bureaucracy and that is fearful to me. And so I always, somehow we need to keep a checks and balance on it... on these things and, and I don't always think that... that occurs.
Beatty: What do you see as your vision of the future of this field?
Rossman: Again, you know, my vision is to be professionals. That everyone would be considered as a professional. That before someone could start providing victim services, that they would have to have some sort of training, cred - and I definitely would like to see everyone credentialed, whether that be in their first year of service and I say credentialed, I don't mean just go through a course and once you get through three days of training, yea, hold up your right hand, you're credentialed. I want to know that you understand crisis intervention that you have some knowledge of the criminal justice system, even if you're working in a non-profit, because crime victims, many of them, go through the criminal justice system.
I think that that is lacking. That there's some sort of standards for who can become victim advocates. So that's important.
Beatty: Okay. Fair enough. I know you had a special role in developing some of the organizational, particularly the state level there in Florida state networks are almost in every... .every state now but I'd be curious to know what your experience is. What were the challenges? How did you overcome the inherent difficulties of getting people to work together particularly at a state level?
Rossman: Well I was very lucky. When I came in, in '86, our state, the Florida Network of Victim Witness Services, which is our state organization was already developed on the backs of a lot of people such as Greg Novak and Meg Bates and Laura Knudson and there were so many of them that had been in the field, probably five or six, and Paul Freeman that had been in the field for a lot longer than I had that had started it. And, again, I came in as somewhat of a radical, probably, because I came in, again, just really pumped up and ready to go. So I'm sure they looked at me and just went "oh, my gosh, who is this woman and can we get rid of her?"'
But the Florida Network has played just an integral role, I mean in the development of victim services for the state of Florida and the Network, it was not difficult getting people involved. I mean we really in the '80s and through the '90s, it was a competition to get on it. And people worked together and it was, we, the only problems I guess we had was getting too prosecutorial based, where we really needed to watch ourselves and make sure we were geographically spread. Anyone will tell you that lives in Florida that Miami thinks they are their own state and deserve everything that they could possibly get their hands on. So we had to keep Miami in check too, very often and tell them no you don't get 50 percent of the VOCA funds.
(throat clear) But the Network has acted as somewhat of a watchdog and I think it's been very effective. It also certainly started the first Crisis Response Team in Florida, which was big and worked very hard on the constitutional amendment and the enabling legislation. We continue to this day to work on legislation. People wanted to be on it and it was really neat in the early days 'cause I can remember just being in so awe of these people. They were just like legends when I would read all that literature and pamphlets and things as I was trying to familiarize myself with the field. Their names came up over and over and I'm forgetting the gentleman that now lives out in Colorado that was... whose daughter was killed.
Beatty: Bob Preston?
Rossman: Bob Preston, you know Bob Wells, they all started in Florida. Actually even NOVA was incorporated in the state of Florida. So Carol Sheridan and there's just really some neat people and getting to meet those people were just incredible. So Florida was doing a great job before I ever came around. I just was lucky enough to get to play a part in that. I am a past President of the Florida Network and continue to remain on the Board today and they just, I can't say enough about the people. We've got a great organization. I'm very proud of it.
Beatty: That's good. That's great. You said crisis response has been a... a major part of your professional life. Could you tell us a little bit about what your experience has been with that as a general concept and then maybe specifically in terms of the attacks in New York and in Washington, DC?
Rossman: Again, I... I'm not sure whether it's because I'm a law enforcement officer, or why but again when I talked about the fact that in, you know, 1980, this condominium collapsed down on top of itself and that was my first exposure and I traumatized those people so bad and I probably didn't do much better after the shuttle exploded because what they asked me to do after the shuttle exploded, the Challenger exploded, was my job was to walk the beach and pick up parts of the shuttle, because they were washing up on the shore. Because that is our bread and butter in our county, the Space Center. And who, you know, you can imagine the people I encountered down on the beach. They were people grieving.
We all witnessed it with our own eyes and so again I think it was a result of that that just got me so incredibly passionate about the fact that we need to help these people, that we've got to be able to tell them that they're not going crazy. These are some of the things that they can expect. It goes back to that whole information and knowledge base, I guess. And so we sponsored the first Florida Crisis Response Team and it started out with forty people and now it has about a thousand. So that's been a major part of my life because you can imagine, not only responding to different things in the state of Florida, because we have lots of disasters, if you haven't noticed.
If it's not Hurricane Andrew, it's fires, it's tornadoes, it's hur, you know, hurricanes and shootings. And you know, to me I think our state, we are so proud of that in our state, and we're so proud to be a part of NOVA and be an affiliate of NOVA's. We have taken that and it... it has just been a tremendous effort and I think that people are so excited about it and, but it's also been a lot of work because we've had no funding for it. So we've literally run it out of our prosecutor's office for... for many years now and funded it. So that's been a unique challenge but again my State Attorney is very dedicated to it.
After, as a result of that, and certainly NOVA put me on their crisis... their National Crisis Response Team, and I've been lucky enough to be a trainer, which I probably enjoy more than anything in my career at this point is just training and getting people excited about the whole concept. And the materials are wonderful that we use in the training curriculum from Doctor Young. We, as a result of that also I guess, I've responded in many, many places around the country and certainly Oklahoma City when we were there. I got dispatched to Oklahoma City within about a half-an-hour to an hour after the bombing, and went there and spent two weeks at what they considered Ground Zero at the Federal Building there and trained and worked with victims and watched a lot of teams come in and out.
And I stayed and was very exhausted after that. And I guess literally we thought that that was the biggest thing that was ever gonna happen. I mean we thought this is it. We will never see anything else like this. We have done the granddaddy of them all. We can all kind of just sit back now and do the... the crises and the disasters as they come up, which we continued to do over those years. And then when September 11 happened, and I've told a lot of people this, the first thing that I can remember when it happened, we all have our memories, was just being exhausted immediately because I knew what was coming. I mean you didn't even have to... .to say it. I knew and sure enough I knew, you know, it wasn't within a couple days that I was driving to New Jersey, and working with the New Jersey Government and setting up the Family Assistance Center with them.
And, and so that was really my role on the first team was to... to work with New Jersey and the government and the Port Authority Police Department get those, help Ed Nekel with those teams in getting those up, and really getting the Family Assistance Center, which I think is... is going to be a legacy. And I'm very proud on a personal level that my little itty bitty team that went up with me, we worked hard to help get that established. And I think that the role that NOVA crisis responders had with those 10,000 victims that came through that Center is a lasting memorial and I'm very, very proud of that as, personally but more proud of it on an organizational level.
And we worked hard to get that done and it's just a great thing. I went back and ran the Family Assistance Center after, I went home and took a break for about a month, collected my energy level again, went back for another 10 days, ran the Family Assistance Center, went home and meanwhile through that I'm coordinating teams out of Florida because we sent over a 120 people to New York from Florida from our teams. So I had to make plane reservations, make their hotel reservations, debrief them after they came back, so you can imagine for about one year my life was just consumed with 9/11 and I... .I don't think people realize that it takes a lot to coordinate all this. And you just can't let people come back from these things and say, "Okay, now go back to work."
You know we had a long process of debriefing each one of our team members. Debriefing them as a team as they came back and I'm really proud of the effort that Florida... Florida had in that. And then back in about two or three months later, I went back to Ground Zero and worked, at the... at Ground Zero in the RESPA tent and around the perimeter and took a team up there from Florida and worked with the construction workers and the police and firefighters and actually was there for the six-month anniversary. I got to see the two beams of light lit and I can't say enough. I mean, NOVA's response to that, and I am a big cheerleader, obviously, of the National Organization for Victim Assistance, but their response to that will not be written down in probably a lot of history books, but there are thousands of people that responded there for NOVA that had that memory and know who they served and the work that they did and they have just, were incredible. We were so lucky to have so many wonderful people around this country to do that.
Beatty: That's great. What would you say were the most important lessons learned during that experience that might help us deal with a... a disaster of that magnitude in the future?
Rossman: Well the first thing that I would say, and again I am biased and I recognize that, but I feel I, from a personal perspective that I know what I think works, but we were completely not prepared for it from national organizations. As we tried to come together I heard a lot of things said that I just couldn't believe. Well it would be like putting out a, if we can't send teams up to New York, it would be like putting out a... a forest fire with a garden hose. This was what another national organization said. We were completely unprepared to work, as many national organizations, to try to come up with a solution and that was very sad that we were not ready for it. I believe that NOVA was. I mean and NOVA got a lot of flack and people said, "Oh, you can't send teams up there. What are you going to do?"
Well what are we going to do? Are we going to sit back here on the telephone and talk about what we should be doing? Who's helping those people that are standing in line at the hospitals, waiting to find out if they can find a loved one? Who's helping those people that are standing out there with signs of their loved ones? I mean, come on, guys; we're all victim service professionals. These are victims of crime. What are we gonna do and I think that was aggravating. But again I just thank Dr. Marlene Young and the other people at NOVA and our volunteers because when the call went out for volunteers, people weren't scared, people weren't concerned about their own safety, people said, "This is what I trained to do, this is what I do everyday on my job and if you need me, we'll go."
And, (cough) excuse me, people will, it's... it's, you know, it was just a incredible response and I don't, but I think on a national level, national organizations did not work together and that was very sad.
Beatty: Um-hum, being in all of our histories. Is there anything that you would like to add for posterity, so to speak. Anything we haven't had a chance to talk about that you feel is important for others to... .to think about and remember as they look back on... on this social movement, the victims' rights movement?
Rossman: And I'm sure there is. I think, I guess if I... if people watch this or listen to this, I would tell them that once a year hear a victim speak, once a year take care of yourself. But the bottom line is don't ever let that fire go out because we are still a movement and will be for quite a while and we need every bit of passion that you have.
Beatty: Thank you, Beth.
Rossman: Thanks, Dave.
|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.|