Supporting Survivors through Civil Legal Services

Navigating legal systems when you have been a victim of crime can be a confusing, isolating, and distressing experience – but it doesn’t have to be. As a staff attorney in PLA’s Family Law Unit, I advise and represent crime victims in Family Court matters such as child custody, Protection from Abuse, support, and divorce. Each one of my clients has been impacted by crime in some way, whether recently or long ago; here in Philadelphia or halfway across the world.

Being the victim of a crime is an individual experience. To honor that reality, I work together with my clients to uncover the best path forward in accordance with their personal goals. With all clients, we discuss safety planning and provide legal information. Based on these tailored discussions, clients may decide that the best way to achieve their goal is through immediate court action, or they may decide to avoid litigation altogether. Some of my clients cooperate with law enforcement and participate in the criminal justice process as victim-witnesses. Whereas others may not have that option or reject the opportunity.

And that’s okay. There is no “Gold Standard” for how a crime victim should behave in the aftermath of a crime. Every victim has a voice, and every victim has a choice. Fortunately, in Pennsylvania there is a network of resources, assistance programs, and service providers throughout the state, dedicated to improving the experiences of crime victims. By leveraging this network, victims are empowered by information, supported by community, and feel confident in the choices they make.

Philadelphia Legal Assistance is proud to be a member of that network, which also includes other legal aid organizations, domestic violence shelters, survivor-led support groups, and so many more. This week, we join with our allies committed to serving crime victims to recognize National Crime Victims’ Rights Week (NCVRW), April 18-24, 2021. This forty-year-old tradition marks a time when victims, survivors, and service providers convene to celebrate achievements, reflect on future goals, and recharge one another’s spirits. The theme this year is, “Support Victims. Build Trust. Engage Communities.”

If you’d like to learn more about Pennsylvania’s resources for crime victims, please join us on April 22, as PLA co-hosts a Facebook Live event with the Pennsylvania Legal Aid Network. The event will feature a panel discussion including myself, Caroline Rivera, a bilingual paralegal in the Family Law Unit, and Marial Quinones, PLAN’s Victims of Crime Project Coordinator. All are welcome!