October 16, 2009
Victim's advocate to work in Goffstown

GOFFSTOWN - Victims of domestic and dating violence, sexual assault and stalking in Goffstown, Weare, New Boston and Francestown now have someone whose job is devoted to helping them through the criminal justice system.

Gail Fox started in the new victim's advocate position last month.

"There isn't any position like this anywhere near here in the district court level," Fox said. "It's somebody they can call and they don't feel like they're bothering them.

The other day I spent two hours talking to a victim. An officer can't do that, and a prosecutor can't do that."

The one-year regional position was paid for by a grant from the New Hampshire Department of Justice totaling $46,806.95. The towns involved are not obligated to keep and fund the position after the year if no further grant funding is available, Goffstown Police Chief Patrick Sullivan told selectmen when they accepted the grant in July.

Fox, who previously worked nine years as a victim's and witness advocate in Derry, said the position will help both victims and law enforcement.

"It takes the pressure off the officers who really can't spend a lot of time with each victim, even though they'd like to," she said.

It is also a way to make sure victims stay involved with the process, she said.

"It's very hard to do victimless prosecution," she said.

She said she typically contacts victims of crime and helps them through the criminal justice process: she explains the charges, the process, and what may happen in the course of prosecuting a case. She can contact a crisis center for victims as well, which offer a victim confidentiality, something Fox, as a law enforcement agent, cannot.

And the position allows the victims to speak with a friendly, accessible person who has knowledge of how the investigation is going and the typical process.

"When you go from law enforcement to crisis centers, there's that middle piece missing," Fox said.

Fox, who will work out of the Goffstown Police Department across from the district court, said she thinks the position will be especially important for the region, because isolation can add extra danger to domestic violence cases. She said New Boston and Francestown are far from the nearest crisis center in Manchester.

"There has to be something in between," she said. "Some of your most severe cases are isolated victims." 

Much of the work is outreach, Fox said. She said she has been going through reports of calls to the police about domestic violence that did not lead to charges -- and talking to those who called the police to see if they would like to receive information about counseling.

"I've been able to reach out and make contact with a lot of victims who I don't think otherwise would have had the opportunity to seek out some of the services I pointed out to them," she said.

Fox admitted that the work, while very satisfying, can sometimes be draining.

"When I leave work and get in the car and go home, I turn it off, and I focus on my personal life," she said.

She said that in her month in the position, she thinks she has made small steps in the right direction.

"Hopefully we get more accountability for these abusive people," Fox said.




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