Seton Hall participated in National Crime Victims Rights Week from April 10 to 16 to bring attention to the rights and services available to victims of crime. On Thursday, April 14, Professor John M. Paitakes, from the Criminal Justice Department, and Deborah McGowan, victim witness coordinator for the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office conducted the “Serving Victims – Building Trust –Restoring Hope” presentation in the Walsh Library.
“In the past, victims were given a disservice because they were unaware of the legal steps taken throughout the trial process,” said McGowan. “It is important to connect, respect and tell victims their feelings and opinions matter.”
Deborah McGowan has worked at the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office for more than 25 years. She has a background working with victims of sexual assault, so victim advocacy fits right into her realm of expertise.
Professor Paitakes brings years of experience in the fields of probation, parole and juvenile delinquency including 29 years as a probation officer and 6 years on the New Jersey Parole Board.
“When most people think of crime, their minds go directly to the offender,” said Gabrielle Acquaviva, freshman Criminal Justice major. “This presentation accentuated the importance of victim advocacy in and out of the courtroom, and it exemplified the various ways that victims have a say in the outcome of their case. Every victim has a voice, and the United States criminal justice system recognizes that.”
Her presentation discussed the New Jersey Victim Information Notification Everyday (VINE) Program which was put in place to allow victims of crime to find information about their offender, where they are and if they are in custody or not. This program has allowed victims to gain a peace-of-mind because they can know where their offenders are.
“The presentation was extremely informative and I was actually taken back at how involved victims of crimes actually can be in the criminal justice system,” said Rebecca Starner, senior Criminal Justice major. “I feel that it is extremely important to be educated on victims’ rights. I do not think that the public has any idea of all of the resources and services that are available for victims of crimes due to the fact that there is not a lot of publicity on the topic.”
Categories: Arts and Culture