30 March 2015
Each file folder on Sherry Stader’s desk holds documents that tell the story of a member of this community whose life has been changed forever. Each folder represents the victim of a crime who is currently navigating the criminal justice system in Fluvanna with her assistance.
In 2014 alone, Stader, the director of Fluvanna’s Victim/Witness Assistance Program helped 174 victims find their voice, find the courage to appear in court, and find their way through the sometimes labyrinthine halls of justice.
“The goal of the Victim/Witness Assistance Program,” said Stader, “is both to ensure participation in the criminal justice system, and to be certain that the victims and witnesses are treated with dignity and fairness and respect throughout the process. Without the victims and witnesses coming to court,” she pointed out, “the prosecutors can’t do their jobs.”
“In my job,” said Stader, “I provide information on rights of victims…I accompany them to court, assist with Victim Impact Statements, assist with obtaining protective orders, and provide referrals to community resources and counseling, when necessary,” Stader said. “I assist with Criminal Injuries Compensation Fund applications and keep victims advised of the status of their case; explain court procedures; obtain restitution information and monitor those payments. If the victims need social services, mental health counseling, or other resources that are available at non-profit organizations or government agencies, I give them referrals. Basically, whatever they need,” she said, “I try to help them.”
“No one wants to be a victim,” she said, “no one asks for that; but, it happens – and then, fortunately, there are people who can help them,” Stader added, “the advocates.” Advocates like Stader herself, and also the ones at the non-profit organizations and agencies that Stader often refers victims to for assistance.