By Kelly O’Connor, MCEDV Systems Advocacy Director
The second cohort of victim services professionals completed the Maine Victim Assistance Academy (MVAA) after attending the Fall 2023 MVAA Closing Summit in Auburn on December 4th and 5th.
This year, participants included:
- Victim Witness Advocates representing eight different prosecutors’ offices, one tribal court, and the U.S. Attorney’s office.
- Systems based advocates from the Deptartment of Corrections.
- Community based advocates representing six domestic violence resource centers, four sexual assault support centers, one elder abuse services organization, and two tribal domestic violence and sexual assault advocacy centers.
Individually, they spent over 40 hours on this effort, completing core blocks of learning spread over a three-month period. It is a massive commitment – and we are so proud of all they have accomplished.
The purpose of this Academy is to provide training to promote the necessity of a coordinated community response to victims of crime in Maine . The Academy seeks to create space and opportunity for victim services professionals to develop long-lasting relationships and colleagueship that is sustaining for them as professionals, and for those they serve. We have already heard examples from trainees who have been collaborating in the field differently because of participating in this Academy – many of them say they feel less alone and more integrated. For example, one participating DV advocate had this to share:
“Since [attending] the MVAA, partnership with VWAs has increase so much, [including] texting and emailing about mutual clients. [The VWA and I] sat together with a client while she read her impact statement. It was incredible, [the Justice] overturned the plea and said it was insufficient after listening to her story.”
More than anything, we hope this Academy has given participants the space to walk beside one another in an intentional way. These connections are more important than ever. The arc of victim services throughout history is long. This work is valued. The advocates are valued. And they are are needed.