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Workshop on victim rights enlightens local advocates


Photo By: Courtesy of Chris Wilson
Photo Courtesy Of Chris Wilson

Garvin

Former Los Altos resident and St. Francis High School graduate Meg Garvin returned to the area with a mission and a message.

Executive director of the nonprofit National Crime Victim Law Institute (NCVLI), based at Lewis & Clark University in Portland, Ore., Garvin and her colleague, Rebecca S.T. Khalil, staff attorney and director of Safeguarding Child-Victims’ Rights, presented “ABC’s of Representing Victims of Crime” at Stanford University Law School June 29.

The daylong workshop provided practical training for local advocates, including Los Altos resident Ruth Patrick, who founded the Women-of-Means Escape Network, Silicon Valley (see Town Crier, “New nonprofit supports domestic violence victims in Los Altos,” July 4).

According to Patrick, the workshop provided practical information and valuable resources useful to her organization’s goal of protecting local victims of domestic violence.

The NCVLI attorneys began with a summary of the history of victims’ rights legislation in the U.S. with an emphasis on California law and the evolution of awareness and application of existing laws through specific cases. The presentation also touched on the psychological and emotional needs of victims, which the speakers said had been neglected in the legal system.

The good news: Since California added the Victims’ Bill of Rights to its Constitution in 1982 and followed in 2008 with Proposition 8, known as Marsy’s Law, it has moved into the forefront of the national movement to protect victims.

The bad news: Implementation is slow and scattered. It takes time to promulgate rights so that law enforcement informs victims of their rights immediately, as the Miranda rights are read at arrests; lawyers learn to invoke the provisions; judges, unaccustomed to the new protections, implement them; prosecutors, most unschooled in the rights of victims, begin to cooperate with victims’ advocates rather than restrict representation; and victims, though often reluctant to come forward and ignorant of their rights, exercise them.

“Passage is primary; usage is work. Judges, law- enforcement officers, lawyers, jurors and advocates need education and awareness, hence, the workshops,” Garvin said.

According to Garvin, that is the environment NCVLI is working to penetrate through a three-pronged attack: legal advocacy, training and education, and public policy.

For more information, visit www.ncvli.org.

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