An Oral History of the Crime Victim Assistance Field
Video and Audio Archive
How To Search This Transcript:
Beatty: This is David Beatty interviewing Kathryn Turman. It is January 13th. We are interviewing from Washington D.C. Thank you for being here Kathryn, can I start by having you state your name, spell it for us, tell us your current position in the agency you're with.
Turman: Good. Kathryn Turman. K-A-T-H-R-Y-N. Last name T-U-R-M-A-N. I'm currently Program Director for the FBI's Office for Victim Assistance at Washington headquarters.
Beatty: Kathryn, you've kind of had a unique career path in terms of your involvement in the crime victims' movement. I'm wondering if you could take a few minutes to tell us how you got involved and how your career has sort of evolved within the field.
Turman: I started actually when I got out of college, I worked as a social worker in Texas. And I worked in a children's hospital. I worked with, abused and neglected kids, there and became interested really in victimization as an issue particularly as it regarded children. And this was in the mid-1980s. I left that job, left Dallas, moved to Washington and worked on the Hill for U.S. Senator John Heinz who had his own early involvement in the victims field -- something I was aware of, something we talked about. During that time when I worked for Senator Heinz, we had opportunities to be involved with some crime victims issues including the Central Park jogger, who was from his own district. And then also Pan Am 103 happened on his watch, and we worked with some of the families at that time.
Beatty: I'm sorry, go ahead.
Turman: Senator Heinz died in a plane crash in 1991 and I went from his office to running the Missing and Exploited Children's Program in the Department of Justice in the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. That took me into a much broader world of child victims -- real education for me and an opportunity to take a program that had been fairly dormant and try to make it a viable sort of living thing, expand it to look at the whole range of issues around children who were abducted either by strangers or parents or who run away, who become sexually exploited. So it was a really unique opportunity. After that or during that time I got to know the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, Eric Holder, and worked with some people in his office.
He had a real interest in improving the way his office handled child victims. That office is somewhat unique in that they prosecute all local crime in DC as well as Federal. So they handled a lot of child abuse, a lot of domestic violence, sexual assault cases. And they wanted to start a Children's Advocacy Center, so I spent some of my professional and personal time helping them work with a group of people in the community and in the government to try to get a children's advocacy center off the ground. And then Mr. Holder called me and said, "We have an opening over here for chief of our victim witness assistance unit. Would you like the job?" And I laughed at first but then he called again and talked me into it. And so I ended up running a unit which started with six people. And by the time I left three and a half years later we had 26 full time victim assistance folks including the first two child interview specialists in the Federal government. And that was all with the support of Eric and the then Attorney General and just the whole U.S. Attorneys office. And I was happily doing that work dealing with thousands of victims, a program that dealt with probably around 10 to 12,000 victims a year ranging from misdemeanor crimes to international terrorism, worked on Kobar Towers, some other things.
And then I got a call one day from Eric Holder who was then the Deputy Attorney General who said the OVC Director has left, we'd like to send you over there. And I thought it was going to be for a 120 day detail and I was still there a few years later. But one of the most remarkable experiences of my life to work with that office and the people who were involved in this field.
Beatty: And you are currently...
Turman: Currently tay--well a little background. Over the years working with the FBI, I had a lot of respect for the agency, but they never had a very strong victim assistance component. And I used to complain about that over the years. And Attorney General Reno and I used to commiserate every now and then sometimes about why can't the FBI get a viable program going. So last December 2001 the new FBI Director, Robert Mueller, who I'd worked with over the years particularly on Pan Am 103 and then at the U.S. Attorneys Office, called and said we don't have much of a victims program over here. And why don't you come over and run it. So I've been doing that for a year. And it just goes to show you know I complained so much about the program that now I have the opportunity (laughs) to make it work. So there is justice in the world.
Beatty: (laughs) That's right (laughs) Careful what you complain about 'cause you'll may be in charge of it the next day.
Turman: That's true.
Beatty: I'd love to follow up with you and have you talk a little bit a more about your experience as the Director of OVC. That really was kind of a seminal role at a very critical time. Could you spend a little time talking about sort of, how you came to that job and sort of what you had intended to accomplish and..and what you were able to accomplish during your tenure.
Turman: Well I think when... one of the things I've learned and I've been around OVC a long time, I've known a number of the Directors and I knew Jane Burnley Sigmon now, I knew Aileen Adams. And it seems to me each OVC Director leaves a mark. But it--a lot of it has to do with the context of the time that they're there, the issues that are going on, where the field is events that sometimes people can't control. As I said I went in thinking I was going to be there for a 120 to a 180 days or something on a detail. So my first response was to go in, learn the office even better, I knew most of the staff, but really find out what they were doing and look at how I could help facilitate their work. Then I thought it was more just sort of a caretaker role. And then the ju--Justice Department in the AGs office came back and said no it looks like you're gonna be here awhile. So my sense of the office was that it was a good office, it had a good mission had a lot of different interesting projects going on and my thought was to try to sort of sort through those. One of the things that when I came in there were a lot of projects that were sort of nearing completion or that had just been completed and then trying to figure out where do we go with these?
Which ones are worth continuing? What have we learned from some of these that lead us to the next steps? The products that we've developed in some of these grants, you know how do we get them off the somebody's desk and out into the field? So that was something that I really was interested in doing. Also really interested in... in hearing from the staff what their... what they were learning from working with the different grantees and projects, their ideas for new projects. It was an interesting time; a really good learning time for me and I think for everybody there. But very early on I think actually I was there maybe three months and the embassy bombings happened. A month before that there'd been the shootings on Capitol Hill. And then six months after that I got a call from Miss Reno's office to come over talk with her and the Deputy Attorney General. And two Libyans had just been handed over for the trial of for Pan Am 103 in the Netherlands.
And they had cut a deal that the victim assistance was to be part of the U.S. contribution to the trial. And we had several other things happen: U.S.S. Cole, other things. So, so much of and we had an Attorney General that was very hands-on. Her expectations of OVC were to be out there, to be educating the field, helping support the field, but also when there was an incident, when something happened, she would pick up the phone and say what are you doing for these victims? What are we doing? Are you in contact with them? Are they getting services? How are we going to do this? I remember one time she called and with Egypt Air right after it happened and she said there's a meeting at the FBI Headquarters for three... three... four thirty. I want you to be there. They may turn over the investigation from the NTSB to the FBI. I want to make sure these victims, the families know before it hits the press. So I got dropped sort of into that situation. And she was forever doing that. So and calling saying what are we doing here? Columbine, all kinds of things. So that to some degree shaped my experience at OVC. Her expectations, Congress's expectations in terms of what we were gonna do for these terrorism victims. And it was an area that I think Aileen Adams had sort of pioneered and Carolyn Hightower with Oklahoma City-- that was really the first major terrorism incident on American soil. And I think we learned a lot from that. It also led to certain expectations on the part of victims because when I got involved with the Pan Am 103 victims they knew what Oklahoma City had been about, they knew the kinds of assistance that had been provided to those families, and they wanted the same thing. Embassy bombing came along, heard the same thing from them. You know, they did this for Oklahoma City, they did this for Pan Am 103, what are you gonna do for us? You know and it just sort of continues...
Beatty: Set the bar higher...
Turman: ... to build. Yeah, it does set the bar. And you know I think that was, there's always a new issue. There's all--you know unfortunately people in the United States and in the world are... are very creative and criminals are very creative. And it seems that there's always an issue. There's always a new avenue to sort of explore different types of victims needs, different types of resources. And it's a continually evolving sort of overall issue. So for me working with the terrorism victims was interesting. I had had some experience with the U.S. Attorney's Office because we handled the victims in the trial of the Egypt Air high jacking from 1985, the bombing of the Indonesian--the Eur--American Embassy in Indonesia, which was '85. Those things came to trial 12 years later. Kobar Towers, worked with those families very closely. So I'd had at least some exposure to terrorism and understood some of the issues and some of the difficulties of families particularly when they're American victims who the crime occurs... where the crime occurs overseas not in their own state. See a lot of the gaps in the system and...
Beatty: Clearly your work, and again, it may be a function of the circumstances but I think it was more than that, you obviously sort of understood these issues at a... at a very seminal level and, I think got very creative and did some and really had to invent some strategies to provide specialized services because of things such as the geographic diversity of the victims and things of that variety. I'd be interested to know ... hear you talk just a little bit about some of those specific strategies, and then maybe talk about what it means for future victims who are in those, ... you said that the bar is set high. Are we better prepared, or how are we attempting to provide a more comprehensive, strategic approach, even outside the bounds of the justice department and OVC specifically.
Turman: Well I think one of the challenges, I remember with Embassy bombing because the crime happened overseas, there was the issue immediately of how to get services to families. And most of the Americans that were killed all of the ones that were killed were government employees. And you would think that government agencies would step in and take care of their people. It's not that simple. As a matter of fact it gets even more complicated because you have a whole web of different benefits and agencies that get in the way and workers comp, you know, versus benefits versus. And one of the things we found with a lot of the victim service agencies and the organizations in the states some were very responsive to terrorism victims overseas but in other cases they were blocked by their own legislation, their own program criteria from helping people.
And I remember we worked with two Embassy bombing victims: Ellen... Ellen Bowmer and a guy named Frank Presley who both spent seven and a half months in Walter Reed Hospital recuperating from catastrophic injury. And they both had the same kinds of issues and needs but Ellen was from the state of Texas where her home residency was although she worked abroad with her husband. And Frank's home state was another state. And the difference in what they were eligible for in terms of compensation was phenomenal. It was you know almost... almost 90 percent (laughs) difference. So trying to explain that to victims and you know why one person can get something and somebody else can't get the other and that was difficult. So we worked very creatively with, tried to with the different programs. We were very amenable to trying to help where they could. Pan Am 103 came along and one of the obstacles we had, I mean this is Miss Reno sort of dropped us into this, and the trial was supposed to start within five to six months. Luckily it was postponed. But the first thing we had to do was find all the victims. No one had kept a... an updated list of all the families over the years. So the first thing we had to do was assemble a... a database of the eligible family members of two hundred and seventy victims.
Um, there were some policy decisions that had to be made. We went to Miss Reno on one and she went to the Hill, which was, "Okay we have a 179 American victims and the rest are British and other countries. You know, what do we do?" And they basically, Miss Reno came back and said, "We treat 'em all the same. This is our contribution the trial. The Scots are picking up you know... you know a $100 million of worth of stuff so this is what we're gonna do. Don't discriminate between the victims." So once we were able to find everybody and build a database, which a lot of it was going to different a--attorneys that have represented the families in civil suits, the State Department, FBI, everybody combining the list and then working with the families themselves and said, "Oh well here's a new address for this person."
The other thing was realizing they lived in 46 different states and 21 different countries. How on earth do we get in touch with these people? How do you keep them informed? And I remember one day just I was at a DNA commission meeting out in New Mexico and I was sitting next to Judge Ron Reinstein from Maricopa County. And he was tal--I was telling him about this dilemma and I said you know the only thing I could think of would be to set up a website, a special website for the families where they could log on and get information. Everybody would have access as long as they had a computer or accessed one through a library. And we started talking and he said, "Well you know my daughter Stacey is a Lockerbie scholar at Syracuse University, 235 Syracuse students." And he said "the law school already has a... a Lockerbie trial Website at Syracuse. You ought to talk to the Dean." And he made a phone call and the next thing you knew Syracuse University Law School had taken on the difficult task of developing a Website for this trial, and it was phenomenal. And it was one of the most cost effective things. I think it was $200,000 for basically three years of a Website that had everything from history and archives of the case to daily transcripts of the trial and summaries that the law students would do because sometimes the transcripts could be couple hundred pages for one day. And at the end you know it just had a total archive of the case. There was a... a discussion forum for the families to talk to each other. We could post information. The Scottish prosecutors could post information. And it was a... a very well-- used very effective tool in that case.
Beatty: And even archived it in the end by creating a... a CD...
Turman: CD ROM, yeah.
Beatty: ...that compartmentalized and could be available to every family member as... as sort of a history of their experience.
Turman: As a matter of fact there's a... a museum in Scotland that wants a copy. I had sent them back to OVC of the CD ROM because they want to be... they're doing a whole Lockerbie sort of area in the museum and wanted to have some of the information that O--about what OVC had done for these families. Because it was record... it was really kind of groundbreaking in a lot of ways. Lot of work (laughs).
Beatty: Absolutely. Yeah... it's lot of work. Great. Well... well let me move you on to some... some broader perspectives with regard to the... to the field itself. Now you've been in this for how many years now?
Turman: I've been working for the Justice Department for 12 years.
Beatty: Twelve? But you... you clearly were working in...in allied professions long before that. So, I'd be curious to know, if you could share with us, how things have changed. What did things look like 20, 30 years ago, when you first started. How are they different today? And... sort of show the evolution of of services. I know you've got many different parts of the field. And I'll... I'll leave it to you to decide in what context you want to answer that question (laughs).
Turman: When I was in college at the University of Texas in the '70s, mid-70s and was in school I did an internship with the Austin Police Department. And I can tell you I took that because I was taking some criminal justice courses and an abnormal psych course and it sounded interesting. The police department at that time had nothing. I mean it wasn't even on the radar screen in terms of what you do for the--I mean there were individual police officers who went out of their way to be kind and helpful to victims and to try to get them information or stay in contact with the. But it was very much a personal... a personal choice and style and approach. When I worked with abused children in the mid-1980s there was really nothing there. I mean you worked with Child Protective Services, which was very limited. They had a limited understanding of abuse and neglect. If you think back to Dr. Henry Kemp when he did his first work on child abuse, it wasn't that... that long before that. And even when I was working for Missing Children's program there were victim service programs in place but there were certain issues. For instance I dealt a lot with international and domestic parental kidnaping. And these can be very devastating events.
But there were few services. Most of the victim service programs particularly, unless they were a missing child organization like Vanished Children's Alliance or Child Find or one of those, they didn't recognize parental abduction. They didn't really deal with the impact of that. So to watch a whole network of service providers, particularly I said most of my experience had been before that was with child victims, to see I mean I remember the days of Martin and the Jordan, Minnesota, and the Presidio multiple child abuse cases where they became so controversial. And to see now the number of forensic interview specialists, the sort of scientifically sound approach that they have developed toward interviewing kids, the prevalence of children's advocacy centers around the country-- court school programs for children, none of those things existed. And being working in Dallas when I was in the Missing Children's Program in the early '90s I got to know a police officer named Lieutenant Bill Wall who came in to the Dallas police department and took over the Crimes Against Children Program at the time I left Dallas. So it was interesting getting to know Bill and going back to Dallas and seeing how he turned a small unit in the police department where they used to dump problem officers into a very large and elite and well respected section of the police department. He had been instrumental in working with community and other people to develop a... a model Children's Advocacy Center that just continues to grow. And to go back and see all those things in place when there was really nothing for kids, child victims before and you know the... the progress has just been phenomenal.
As soon as though we get one issue nailed down there's three others that pop up. But it's and that's what keeps the field I think dynamic. But it is amazing to see you know the same programs there's a wonderful program out in... in Fairfax County at INOVA Hospital. They have a forensic assessment center that started as a small same program. Now they do a lot of victim work there, child and adult. And I've had occasion in the FBI to use that program for some victims for some of our cases and have just been amazingly impressed and proud of where the field has come.
Beatty: Well, my next question may or may not relate to what you were just describing but I'd be interested to know what did you see as the... the greatest challenges as a pioneer in this field? What are the--what... what was it that was sort of standing in the way of...of change or implementing the... the programs that you were involved in?
Turman: Umph. I think instituti--institutionalizing some things. I think getting legislation that... that makes it not just a... a personal choice of someone who's running an agency whether it's public or private but having some parameters that require certain things for victims. And that's I think one of the greatest accomplishments of the field and the movement is to institutionalize some things into law. Funding is definitely an issue. But also I think not the thing that I've learned most I think working with victims is how little I know. I learned a long time ago not to assume that I know what a victim wants, an individual victim or a group of victims. I've learned to ask what people (laughs) want and what's important to them. I've also learned that and it's interesting being someone who you know majored in sociology and works as a social worker to see there are so many people in professions that come into contact with victims in a very large way that they don't have the same training. And I think one of the things OVC did while I was there, and I can't take credit for it 'cause it wasn't my idea -- I think it was Joye Whatley's or somebody's -- was to give a grant to a... an association of social workers and social work school and develop a curriculum. Because I know that there were some studies done that showed that the majority of clients in a case worker's caseload had some form of victimization either current or in their past.
And something like 70 to 80 percent so you know here's a whole profession out there that's been sort of ignored in terms of they haven't quite fit into the victim assistance field as we know it, traditional victim services...
Beatty: But their dealing with the consequences though, right...
Turman: ... but they are dealing with the consequences. And being able to sort of broaden the view to look at all the different professionals who come into contact with victims and try to educate them, get them on the same wavelength, hook them in to victim service providers whether they're in non profit community based organizations or in police forces or prosecutor's office or courts or wherever because we all have, we're part of that net supposedly that we want to create to help victims. And they come in through so many different avenues. And I think that that is one of the greatest challenges is to keep an open mind, not be too tied to the past or our limited way of thinking, and be able to just keep looking at what it is that victims need. You know one of the things that used to frustrate me when I was at the U.S. Attorney's Office in DC and working with victims and trying to get services or mental health for them dealing with insurance companies. And how often we ended up on the phone talking to a caseworker at an insurance company and saying this is a rape victim. She was raped, she was tortured. You know six visits to the Kaiser or whatever community mental health or in... or HMO you know mental person is... isn't gonna cut it. They don't have training to deal with what this person's gone through. And six visits isn't gonna make a significant difference. So how do you reach out and educate people who have an impact on how what kinds of resources victims are able to get is really important?
Beatty: OK. Well, maybe we'll get through this next question. What secrets or tactics or strategies did you find were most effective in causing some of these changes causing, ... the different perspectives and clearing some of the hurtles that stood between victims needs and victim assistance.
Turman: Well as with most things I always have to learn the hard way first and you know I made my share of mistakes. And that is sometimes in not looking carefully at the audience that I was trying to reach or the group I was trying to deal with. We're all very self interested to the same degree. So learning to step back, talk to people, look at their interest in a particular issue or... or their role in dealing with victims and trying to understand from their point of view what it will take to get them to buy into this or to do a certain things for victims to develop a certain program or approach. And I particularly learned that in working with people in the criminal justice system. I'm in the process now of helping to train a hundred and twelve new victim specialists in the FBI, many of them are coming from outside the Bureau, and trying to explain to them you know these are agents that you're dealing with. They are investigators. This is their career. This is what they do. This is the way they look at their case. You have to find a way to prove to them that what you have to offer, what you can teach them, and how you can help them is of benefit not just to the victims but to them. It's gonna make things better for their case. And whether it was the police or a prosecutor, we all have that... we all come at an issue or our jobs from a certain angle. And finding a way to engage somebody and help them to see the benefit of what you're trying to do for victims is I think the only way really to succeed.
And as I said I stumbled over my feet a few times on that before I learned that lesson. I'm still learning it.
Beatty: Okay. We don't often like to talk about this, but I think it is important for the historical record to talk about some of the challenges that are still out there or even some of the failures that we've had as... as a field or things that you have witnessed firsthand in your work.
Turman: Well as I said I think in my own work some of the failures I've had in... in running a program have been when I've made assumptions about what people needed, particularly about what victims needed and wanted. You know I've designed small things or larger things and thought oh this is a wonderful idea. And then when you try to put it into practice, it's like no. I remember in the U.S. Attorneys Office we had done all these things and we were so sure, you know, the staff that we knew exactly what victims needed and what they should have. And then we actually had a... a university student who came in as a... a... an intern and needed to do a project. So we had her develop a survey. And she conducted in person and phone interviews as well as doing a written survey with a random group of victims who had been through our office. And it was very enlightening (laughs). And as a result there were some things we scrapped and things that we... we changed. And one of the things that we were so sure that victims needed or wanted right away was good mental health. And for the most part we're dealing with homicide families, they're not thinking about that in the first days or weeks or months, you know. A lot of times those issues don't come up until later. People expect to feel bad. They expect to feel grief. They expect to be disoriented and in shock in the early days. And recognizing that what they need is to some degree determined by you know where they are in the process, and that's very individual. So let's see I keep coming back to that but that was a huge lesson to learn was not to assume that I know what they need.
Beatty: Right... to be custom--customer-oriented so to speak since they are the ultimate consumers of what we do.
Beatty: What would you say if you had to pick one, and it's difficult in a long and illustrious career like yours, what would you say is the greatest accomplishment either in your personal career and maybe also as... as a field as well.
Turman: Hmm. That's a hard one. I think I'm very proud of the work that we did in the U.S. Attorneys Office. DC is a very challenging environment -- a lot of crime, a lot of horrific crime, a real dearth of resources. And to, you know, to take that program to be able to take a program with six people and grow it into 26 and it's still growing and the person who took the job after me made wonderful new contributions. The person who's there now is someone I knew and worked with and she's going off and meeting the new challenges of what's there. And to see that that program has survived and continues to grow and thrive in an area of the country that has so little else in... in many ways to offer is a real source of satisfaction to me to know that there are people there who are still making a difference for some of the neediest victims in... in this country, you know who live in the shadow of the Capitol but who are often very forgotten. So and that, you know, that was done really with a team of people and with incredible support from the U.S. Attorney at the time who really put his money where his mouth was and is... was very committed to what we were doing.
Beatty: Again, that was Eric Holder...
Turman: Eric Holder. And that continues now with the new U.S. Attorney Roscoe Howard and the other folks there. It's... it's still a you know sometimes you worry. You do a program and then you... things may you feel like sometimes they don't work as well when you leave. And maybe that's ego or what but it's nice to see that that program is really...
Beatty: What you started is continued and flourished...
Turman: Yeah, is really... is really thriving. And then you know I have to say the I never in my life ever imagined that I would be as an involved or working with terrorism victims and I think that you know a sort of if something I sort of was pushed into in a way. I mean I had no chance but to sort of start to deal with these cases when I was at the U.S. Attorneys Office and I found them challenging in a different sort of way from other... other types of cases I dealt with and I think somewhat timely. Hopefully we've been able to learn some things and put some things into place for terrorism victims that has helped with it helped hopefully with 9/11. And then in my job now in the FBI I continue every week to work with new terrorism victims. They're not big cases like 9/11, but they're Americans who are killed or injured abroad.
And just I you know I learn by doing. You know work with each victim and from figuring out how to get a body back to the United States which isn't that easy particularly when you're looking at a third world (laughing) airline. I mean it's... it's a real challenge. But that's an issue that has sort of has its moment. It won't be you know the issue in the moment... of the moment in the future. There'll be something else.
Beatty: Blaze that trail so we know how to do it. But you were inventing a lot of it as the demand requires.
Turman: Yeah. And now we're doing that with a lot of cyber sort of stuff. I get agents and different specialists who call me with really difficult questions about who's a victim in a... in some of these huge computer intrusion cases or fraud cases. And how do you... what are their rights? And how do you notify them? And how do you do these things? How do you fulfill the requirement of the law for the rights of these victims and do it in a way that is feasible?
Beatty: Absolutely. What.. if I can venture just a little further down this line, would you say is the greatest accomplishment of the movement generally? Or what do you think is the best sign that maybe we're making progress as a field in the movement?
Turman: Well two things. As I mentioned earlier I think the fact that so much of... we've moved from a victims rights' movement to a field. That is in itself is a huge accomplishment. Programs are institutionalized, funding is institutionalized. Not that there couldn't be more and better im... improvements made but we really have become a... a field. And you look at the number of universities that are starting programs to train people professionally on victim assistance. I think there's always gonna be an awareness that there's a role for all kinds of people including victims themselves who may not go into this as a profession but have a crucially important role to play. But I think those... those things to me are... are what, to show us that it's not just a flash in the pan movement. This is here to stay and it's become a part of the fabric of our country. And hopefully internationally there're a lot of other countries that look to us for as a model for how to do victim assistance.
Beatty: Thank you. Stop right there. (Change tape)
Beatty: What would you say is needed today to continue the..the growth and professionalism of our field?
Turman: I think more opportunities for training different levels of training and I think OVC really and a lot of other organizations have really started that way through the national victim assistance academy and other kinds of training. The state academies I thought some of the greatest ideas to sort of take those academies and sort of disseminate them out to the state and local level. I think some standardization of at least some professional standards. Ethics I think that's all kind of moved that way in the past few years. But I think just to continue the professional growth not being afraid of new issues. Somebody's got to stay sort of on the cutting edge of things. And one of the things that I always felt was so important at OVC was I'd... I'd go around and talk to people and realize that there were folks in all kinds of programs all around the country dealing with the same kinds of issues, asking the same kinds of questions. You know who's doing this already? You know can we get information about what these people are doing or how they've addressed this issue? And I always thought that was one of the most important roles for OVC was to help collect that information on best practices, model programs, whatever. And then get it in a format to people in a... in a form that's useable that they can understand and replicate or plug in to their own... their own program or agency.
There's just so much going on around the country and most people just you don't have the ability to call around and find out what everybody's doing. So the ability to help people not have to reinvent the wheel or the flat tire, get that information out there, get the training out there, and continue to hold people to a high standard of what they do for victims.
Beatty: If you had a new professional who's just coming into this field, whether it be someone who has a full time job or even a volunteer who's seeking to provide assistance within the field, what advice would you give them?
Turman: Oh. Listen and learn would be one of the first ones but I'm doing this now with a... a lot of our new victim specialists. Some are coming from different backgrounds, some are clinicians, some have worked in victim services programs but one of the things I'm always telling them to do, we have a new group of trainees coming in tomorrow, is when you get to your office make a point of going around meeting with supervisors, meeting with the different squads. Don't tell them what you're gonna do. Sit down with them. Find out what kinds of victims they're working with, what their issues are, what their complaints have been about the program in the past. Listen and learn, ask what they need, meet with victims when you can and then try to build your program from there in your approach. But always you know always go in and listen and find out what their issues are and figure out how to make that work. It's easier to educate people, it's easier to engage them and bring them around to where you want them if you come at them with an attitude of you know I'm here to help you. And unfortunately for most victim service folks whether they're new or veterans or whatever we're often in the position of having to prove the value of our services to folks, to prove that it's worth it to invest the money in the staff in this kind of work. And of course the best proof of that is to have a satisfied victim. To have a victim who can say this helped me, this made a difference.
Beatty: You've worn a lot of different hats in your career and I'd be interested to know on a slightly more personal level what has kept you motivated? What has caused you to want to continue to do this work and constantly take on the... the new almost impossible challenges that you have done during the course of your career?
Turman: My parents would say it's because I was an arbitrary and willful child (laughs). No I think it's-- I'm one of these people you know it... it can break your heart and I've had my heart broken working with whether it was a... a... a child abuse victim or family of a homicide victim or a rape victim, domestic violence victim who couldn't find a way out, you know sitting with a group, a families of terrorism victims who knew their loved ones died in one of the mos--worst possible ways. And the way I keep going is I look for ways to help. I just--I get busy. I don't get depressed about it. I think this is important. Somebody's got to stand up for these people, and I try to find a way to make it better. Try to find a way to help whether it's and it usually something's just very practical. It's just, you know, how do I get from here to here. You know how do I help them get this. And I find it very satisfying work. It's very difficult and sometimes it can be very isolating because a lot of people in our world don't (laughs) really want to know about this stuff.
And it can be a real killer for dinner party conversation. You know I remember going to a... a dinner party with a date one time. And it was there were investment bankers and lobbyists and all this stuff. And we were at a table and we said well you know how was your day or what did you do today? And I said, "Do I tell them that I went to the autopsy of a two-year-old that had been beaten to death with a shoe? I mean what do I (laughing) tell them?" You know as and my date was sitting there going, "Shh, don't tell." (laughs) So it... it is it's, I think when you choose to do this work and you know, I don't know whether I backed into it or not, sometimes I think you know what we end up doing is really what's at the bottom of our hearts, whether we sometimes recognize that or not. But it's a field that I've chosen to invest most of my career in and would like to stay in because I think I can make a difference. I'm tenacious enough to sort of stick with something and try to make it work. And.
Beatty: What would you say is your greatest fear for the victim's field at this point in the revolution?
Turman: I think that we've become if we become too territorial or we become too tied to what we've always done. I think a... a willingness to sort of open the fold up a little bit, like I said look at some of the folks that are out there who are coming in tie--contact with victims and figure out how we can work together. I think if we become too insular or we look too back too much you know we're tied to the past instead of looking ahead to the future and being able and capable to meet new challenges, I think that would... that would be the death of the field to do that. I don't think that's where the field's going. I think it's... it's very viable and very alive because people haven't done that. And unfortunately I don't' think we'll ever be put out of business by you know no more crime. That doesn't seem to be... to be happening.
Beatty: Well now here's the big open-ended closing question (laughs) at least at the end of my list. What do you see as the... the future. What's your vision for the field down the road?
Turman: I think as I mentioned before it's... it's been fun to and exciting to see assistance to victims, recognition of the needs of victims become part of the fabric of our community and our life in America. It's, you know sometimes I think we're in danger of overplaying our hand particularly the shows you know some of the TV shows and stuff that seem to focus on some of the wrong issues around victims. But you know my vision is to see that... that the services are there regardless of-- as... as the folks out in Denver say no matter which door people... a victim goes in, there's something there. There are connections. We recognize that there's more than enough work for all of us. And we ought to be binding together to see you know how we can... we can strengthen that fabric of victim services for people so that folks don't fall through the cracks. That's gonna always be the challenge because there are new crimes and there are new issues and new priorities that come up that take funding from this issue and give it to another.
But my vision is that this just continues to grow until it's just... it's a part of what we are and it's not something that's new or controversial. It's just a part of the way we take care of people. And you know victims are... are an important part of our community. And you know the better job we do taking care of them, the healthier our communities are gonna be.
Beatty: Is there anything else that I haven't raised or prompted out by my questions here that you would like to share with posterity?
Turman: You know, it I think the one thing that you know when I think... when I went to OVC in 1998, I said I thought it was for you know I didn't even take my boxes and when I went over the first time. It was exciting to me because to me the pinnacle sort of working in the government and working with particularly in the Federal level of victims assistance and OVC and I had worked with OVC staff going back to 1991 when I joined Juvenile Justice Office with Missing Children's Program. I worked with people like Sue Shriner and Martie Speights and Susan Laurence and other folks who I got to know this or I got to know Jane... Jane Burnley. And I've always had a tremendous level of respect for the office, for its mission to the people. It's a very small, it's always been a very small office. But they've done a lot.
And they're a very important part of the Justice Department. And I was always so proud to work with them and then to be able to leave the office for a short period of time. And they really are OVC is the people, the staff who are there. Some have been there, like Carolyn Hightower, for a long time. And other new folks who come in and every... everybody leaves their mark and makes their contribution. But it... it's a wonderful organization to be a part of.
Beatty: Truly a flagship of our field.
Beatty: Thank you very much, Kathryn.
Turman: Oh, you're welcome.
Beatty: I appreciate your insights.
Turman: My pleasure, pleasure (laughs)
|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.|