`Selfless' Counselor Of Victims And Witnesses Honored For 14 Years Of Compassion

County Center's Director Helps People Confront `Horrendous Situations'

April 29, 1997|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

After 14 years of counseling and cajoling crime victims, Maureen Gillmer is getting credit for it.

Gillmer, director of Anne Arundel County's Victim-Witness Assistance Center, works with the state's attorney's office to comfort and keep track of witnesses who must testify in court.

Gillmer, 52, of Crownsville was recently awarded the Henry Gleim Memorial Award by the state Board of Victim Services and the Governor's Office of Crime Control and Prevention.

"She's just an incredibly selfless person," said Ginny Mahoney, former head of the victim witness program in the U.S. attorney's office, who presented the award April 18 at Snyder's Willow Grove restaurant.

Gillmer, a mother of two and a former elementary school teacher, staffed a crisis hot line and counseled drug abusers at a center in Virginia Beach, Va., before she moved to Anne Arundel County in 1980. She has a degree in psychology from Old Dominion University.

Warren B. Duckett, then state's attorney hired Gillmer as a victim-witness advocate in 1983. She has been director since 1988, overseeing a $350,000 budget and a staff of eight advocates and four clerks.

She also has her own caseload of witnesses.

Her job includes encouraging rape victims to tell their stories to juries, working with sexually abused children who must testify against their fathers and comforting family members who come to court and hear -- often for the first time -- how their relatives were shot, strangled or stabbed to death.

"It's a very demanding job, and we couldn't do our jobs without her and her staff," said State's Attorney Frank R. Weathersbee.

Gillmer has been shouted at and called names. She has cried at the outcome of more than one criminal case.

The reward, she said, has been seeing how the people she has worked with are able to rise to the occasion.

"It's amazing, seeing how people can pull out of themselves some personal way of coping with the most horrendous situations imaginable," she said.

Usually, those situations are homicides, she said.

"The grief is so profound with a homicide, and the loss is so inconsolable. There just isn't anything that anybody can say to make it OK in a case like that."

Those who have worked with Gillmer, however, say she has made it much easier for them.

Melanie Thompson of Glen Burnie, who started a homicide survivors group after her son was shot to death in 1994, said Gillmer comes on her own time to the group's monthly meetings.

"She and the rest of her people just pour their hearts into what they do," Thompson said.

Pub Date: 4/29/97

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