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Dispatches from Fellows in the Crime Victims Advocacy Program in Commemoration of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week

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In observance of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, Equal Justice Works spoke to three Fellows in the inaugural cohort of the Crime Victims Advocacy Program (CVAP). The 2024 event asks us to consider how we can help crime victimssomething that Fellows in our Crime Victims Advocacy Program do every day. 2023 Fellows Holly T. Bird, Eugenia Kim, and Claudia V. Torres Patino shared their work advocating for survivors of crime and what they are learning and looking forward to in their projects. Read their dispatches below. 

Headshot of Holly T. Bird
Photo of Holly T. Bird

Holly T. Bird, Michigan Indian Legal Services

At Michigan Indian Legal Services, I provide legal assistance through the state Tribal courts for victims of crime, with a focus on providing aid to survivors of domestic violence.

On a day-to-day basis during my Fellowship, I check in with my clients, using trauma-informed language and skills, as to their legal needs as well as social needs. Then I work to resolve their legal issues, which are varied and may include but are not limited to: divorce, custody, personal protection orders, financial abuse, child welfare, property destruction, and human trafficking.

Working as a CVAP attorney has helped me to develop more compassion for my clients. I have found different parts of tribal and, at times, county or state law, to protect or advocate for their rights as victims/survivors. I am also working on a model Tribal Victims Rights Code, which is challenging and interesting as it involves putting together laws to cover 12 different Tribal nations—taking into consideration their own culture, existing laws, and practices.

I am excited by being able to help with each case that I have, knowing that I am providing these services to my community that often go unheard or unacknowledged. This is what continues to drive my work for the future.

Working as a CVAP attorney has helped me to develop more compassion for my clients. I have found different parts of tribal and, at times, county or state law, to protect or advocate for their rights as victims/survivors.

Holly T. Bird /
2023 Fellow in the Crime Victims Advocacy Program

 

Headshot of Claudia V. Torres Patino
Photo of Claudia V. Torres Patino

Claudia V. Torres Patino, Greater Boston Legal Services 

At Greater Boston Legal Services (GBLS), I represent black, indigenous, and other people of color (BIPOC) low-income and undocumented workers who have fallen victim to various workplace injustices, including wage theft, sexual assault, labor trafficking, and discrimination. The primary aim of my Fellowship is to enhance accessibility to legal services for these populations. 

During a day in my Fellowship, I spend most of my time writing legal documents like demand letters, complaints and motions. But beyond that, I often feel like a social worker. I spend a lot of time talking to people, helping them out, and guiding them through the maze of U.S. laws, healthcare, housing, and immigration. I focus on understanding what each person needs and giving them the support they require to sort things out. 

As an immigrant, I’m feeling a newfound sense of belonging and community, not just among my fellow attorneys, but also with the people we help. It’s rewarding to see the positive effects of my Fellowship as our team effectively represents more BIPOC and immigrant workers. I’m grateful for my colleagues at GBLS, as well as the support from Equal Justice Works and the National Crime Victim Law Institute (NCVLI) because, through their guidance, I’ve learned the importance of listening without judgment and meeting our clients wherever they may be in their journey. 

Looking forward, I strongly believe that we need to advocate for better interpretation and accessibility services in labor agencies. I’m currently learning how to advocate for these improvements and am eager to continue this work. I’m becoming more aware of how immigration and employment law intersect, emphasizing the importance of immigration relief for individuals seeking to enforce their rights in the workplace. I’m thrilled to continue leveraging new legal developments, such as labor-based deferred action, to empower more individuals to speak up and report unscrupulous employers. 

Looking forward, I strongly believe that we need to advocate for better interpretation and accessibility services in labor agencies. I'm currently learning how to advocate for these improvements and am eager to continue this work.

Claudia V. Torres Patino /
2023 Fellow in the Crime Victims Advocacy Program

Equal Justice Works LogomarkEugenia Kim, Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles (LAFLA) 

At the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, I provide trauma-informed, victim-centered, and language access-focused legal assistance to underserved Asian and Pacific Islander (API) communities. 

I typically work with clients on a daily basis by communicating, checking in, or meeting with them in person depending on what works best for them. It’s important for me to keep in mind any individualized needs or sensitive situations, such as language access, disabilities, or domestic violence. Working with a client can look different depending on our goal: we might want to continue our progress on their case by getting answers to our questions or taking their story or declaration; we may also want to get more information about a new issue that a client has identified that we may also be able to help with. 

Through my project, I have learned that when a client is a survivor of crime, they oftentimes must confront multiple issues that arose due to their victimization. Many times, the issues that my clients face can end up affecting different aspects of their lives—including their family, immigration status, employment, housing, and their physical and mental health. I have realized how unexpectedly these issues can arise, and how crime survivors benefit from any continued assistance that we provide in order to avoid being further victimized. 

Moving forward, I would like to continue learning more about victim’s advocacy and how to best help clients navigate the criminal justice system. I would also like to learn more about how to effectively assist clients who are survivors of crime, especially those with language needs, in their communications with law enforcement, prosecution, and other entities. 

Through my project, I have learned that when a client is a survivor of crime, they oftentimes must confront multiple issues that arose due to their victimization. Many times, the issues that my clients face can end up affecting different aspects of their lives—including their family, immigration status, employment, housing, and their physical and mental health.

Eugenia Kim /
2023 Fellow in the Crime Victims Advocacy Program

To learn more about Fellows in our Crime Victims Advocacy Program, click here.

This program is supported by an award under 15POVC-22-GK-01116-NONF, awarded by the Office for Victims of Crime, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this document are those of the contributors and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice. 

Learn more about becoming an Equal Justice Works Fellow