My internship at the San Francisco District Attorney in Victim Services has come to end. It was a bittersweet day because I have made connections with the advocates that I worked with this summer. The advocates showed me what they go through on a typical day. They give support to victims while caring for their safety. The task I would do on a daily basis was explaining the California Victims of Violent Crime Compensation program to our Spanish-speaking clients and process. It would be difficult for them to understand because all the paper works was in English. Some of these Spanish-speaking clients would just come in to comprehend their claims and what steps they needed to take. This made me realize that there are not enough resources for the Latino community. It’s very difficult for them to try to read their information and understand court while it is being conducted in English.
I was working on reviewing U-visa for undocumented immigrants who have been a victim of a violent crime. It was interesting seeing the qualifications that are needed for this process and the forms that need to be filled out. One main question that is asked for this is: Was the victim cooperative? With the prosecutor? With the advocate? Most of them were cooperative in the case, which made it easier for my supervisor to sign their visas. For others we needed to see more into their case and see what really occurred during court. I am glad I worked with this because it made me learn on how the process is really about and the requirements that are needed. Especially with my interest in immigration and the obstacles that immigrants have to constantly face. There were many stories that immigrants have come to San Francisco and less than a month are assaulted and become victims.
With my time at Victim Services, I want to see more of how the criminal justice system is seen from multiple sides. It’s not just the prosecutor and defense attorney but the victim as well. At times the victim’s story goes unseen. While at Brandeis I want other student to see the truth within social justice. We need to focus on not only what happens at Brandeis, but in the outside world as well. There are so many tragedies that are occurring in San Francisco and all around the United States. Sometimes the blame gets put on the victim for being a minority and being at the wrong place at the wrong time. There still needs to be justice for the victim’s families. I want to see changes and any small differences that I can do by educating these communities to protect them.
I intend to apply to be an intern in other district attorney’s offices with Victim Services in other states such as Massachusetts to see for myself how their process works in the criminal justice system. It’s great to learn from other locations and see what is working and what can be improved. I would like to see how other counties deal with violence in their communities and how their victims are being represented. We also visited a jail during my summer but did not have an extensive amount of time and I would like to learn more about how the prison system works.
Advice that I would give to anyone who works at Victim Services at the San Francisco District Attorney’s office is to be able to deal with anything and anyone who comes in. Some of are clients has suffered Posttraumatic Stress Disorder due to the incident that occurred to them which is understandable. However, we had to act quickly and help those and anyone who came in. It is very rewarding because it was great knowing that I could help someone calm down and relax to understand the support that they need. The same is with the criminal justice system because there can’t be preconceived notations about the incident until everything is laid out and explained.
Some of my ideals have been challenged because at times there are discrepancies between the victim and the prosecutor. At times the victim story changes due to how long ago was the incident and difficult to remember. Then the prosecutor feels that the victim might be lying to them or trying to protect others. The next question is whom do we believe? Is it the police officers that respond and write the police report, the victim, the defendant, and the witness? This occurs in many cases that are taken to court and makes it more complicated to resolve. I have learned that it is critical to take the time to listen to the victim’s story and what happened to them so they can trust you and that will make it easier for them to cooperate with you. It is going to help me personally to stop and listen to what people have to say because it is vital to anyone that you want to help and see him or her succeed.