Agency to receive award for aiding victim witnesses Director praises staff for going 'extra mile'

April 16, 1997|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,SUN STAFF

Months after being held hostage and watching a man fire three shots at her brother, the woman sobbed uncontrollably while testifying in Carroll County Circuit Court.

Excused from the witness stand, the shaken woman was escorted from the courtroom by a member of the state's attorney's Victim Witness Assistance Unit.

The courtroom appearance is all too familiar in Carroll, but many victims of sexual assault, stalking, domestic violence, child abuse or drunken driving have been helped through similar ordeals by the agency.

The unit is set to receive the Governor's Award of Excellence on Friday, timed to coincide with National Crime Victims' Rights Week.

"We still want to make victims aware of their rights and that we care about them," said Shirley E. Haas, director of the Victim Witness Assistance Unit.

Such recognition is welcome, but Haas prefers to praise her staff -- the paid and volunteer members who, she said, "go the extra mile" every day.

A pair of interns from Western Maryland College, for example, recently went a couple of extra miles.

Laura Everhart, 22, of Glen Rock, Pa., and Laura Staub, 21, of Westminster, work for Haas two days a week as part of the field training required of students majoring in social work.

Everhart and Staub recently learned of five children -- victims of abuse in two families -- who needed clothing.

The students obtained vouchers from a private human services agency and solicited donations to buy clothes for the children.

"We went shopping for two or three hours at the Mission Store and Shepherd's Staff in Westminster to buy several outfits for each child," Staub said.

"Victims often feel alone and not so good about themselves," said Everhart. "We just wanted these families to know people do care."

Haas said her unit's interns and volunteers -- eight in all -- are "caring, understanding and active."

The county also is fortunate to have other agencies helping, Haas said. Family and Children's Services, the Rape Crisis PTC Center and the CASA (Child Abuse/Sexual Assault) unit all provide services, she said.

State police Sgt. Andrew Mosko, who heads CASA's investigative unit, said 275 child abuse and sexual assault cases were investigated last year, up from 250 in 1995. The county Department of Social Services received 1,168 reports of child abuse or sexual assault in 1995, the latest year for which statistics were available.

The number of family violence cases also has increased, nearly doubling between 1990 and 1995. In 1995, the Victim Witness Assistance Unit opened 410 new cases, according to statistics compiled by the office of the state's attorney for Carroll County, Mosko said.

Pub Date: 4/16/97

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