Last summer, when I was straight out of graduate school and job hunting in a new city, I could not have imagined finding a better fit than the Network for Victim Recovery of DC. I had left Boston’s snowy winters and overly intense sports fans for Washington and was in search of an opportunity at a mission-driven organization, ideally one that worked with survivors of sexual violence. Without realizing it at the time, I was looking for NVRDC.
Each and every day people who I am fortunate enough to call colleagues and friends show me what it means to truly advocate for survivor defined justice. These are just a few of that they inspire me.
1. They passionately advocate for their clients
I know that this is something that we hear a lot from nonprofits, especially those in the victim services field. But that doesn’t change the fact that I continue to be inspired by how much people at NVRDC are personally invested in advocating for their clients. Through the long hours and difficult cases, they never lose sight of what’s really important: the people whom they are serving. Watching our case managers and attorneys, I see how committed they are to the process of understanding the unique needs of a client and using that information to tailor an approach specifically designed to most effectively advocate for what that individual wants. More than knowing what forms to fill out or which motions to file, this level of care demonstrates passion for this work that can be difficult to sustain. It’s been four years since NVRDC’s doors first opened, and I still see this passion in our office every day. There is a special culture of empathy and passion that my colleagues consistently embody in their work, and I am genuinely grateful to be around it.
2. They watch out for one another
I knew that I was going to like working at NVRDC when the introduction email announcing my first day on the job included a cute animal gif. That might sound strange, but hear me out. Looking at animal pictures and videos has been my go-to form of self-care for a long time. From hanging this meme next to my computer when I worked at a domestic violence shelter to being known in grad school as the person who brought the baby animal petting zoo to campus, nothing makes me smile more than a good animal video.
When I got that email, I knew that these were people who would understand me. More importantly, they are people who understand what it means to look out for one another. Working in victim services can be challenging, especially when people care as much about their jobs as my colleagues do. That’s why I appreciate how much people look out for one another here. For instance, even though I don’t enjoy being the center of attention I love how the whole office celebrates birthdays. It’s not really about the birthday, although that’s a great excuse to eat delicious homemade treats. Birthday celebrations are a way that we can all show our heartfelt appreciation for one of our colleagues on a day that is just about them. When I got my birthday card, which was signed by the whole staff, I put it up above my desk so it was there whenever I needed it. I’ve noticed that a lot of us do that. And maybe it’s just me, but I know that I can look up at it and be reminded that whatever happens there are people who care about me and will be here when I need them.
3. They see the big picture
Crime victims’ rights are important. I feel like disagreeing with that statement is difficult. Who doesn’t want to protect survivors of crime after they experience something that they did not ask for and had no part in causing? What it means for how we look at changes to society can be more difficult. At NVRDC, I’ve seen people fight day in and day out on behalf of individual victims of crime in the city. I’ve also seen people fight towards institutional changes that would allow our city and our society as a whole to more compassionately and effectively responds to victims of crime.
Take the Sexual Assault Victims’ Rights Amendment Act (SAVRAA) as an example. Thanks to the passage of this legislation, which NVRDC strongly supported, victims of sexual violence now have expanded legal rights, like the right to have a community-based victim advocate present during law enforcement interviews and the right to be informed of their SANE kit results among others. Additionally, SAVRAA has strengthened city-wide responses to sexual violence through the establishment of committees that review and implement continuous improvements to existing policies and procedures. Groups like the Sexual Assault Response Team and the SAVRAA Task Force, both of which NVRDC is a part, take a high level view of how DC responds to victims of sexual violence and look for ways to continually improve the city’s services so that every survivor feels safe and empowered in their recovery.
4. They’re committed to collaboration
When I was first interviewing at NVRDC, one of the things that struck me was that it looked different from any of the other organizations to which I had applied. I didn’t realize it at the time, but that’s because NVRDC was intentionally designed as a comprehensive and holistic advocacy model containing a continuum of case management and legal services. It didn’t look familiar to me because often legal services and case management organizations don’t overlap, so clients need to hop from one to the other. Here, they are intentionally in the same organization because research has shown that wraparound supportive services lead to greater satisfaction with engagement in the justice system, regardless of the outcome of a case.
NVRDC’s commitment collaboration also extends to many aspects of how my colleagues engage with other organizations, whether that is how attorneys co-counsel every pro bono case with volunteer attorneys or it’s how we have built relationships with other service providers like DC Forensic Nurse Examiners to offer the highest level of services to crime victims in our city. We know that with all of the work that needs to be done to advocate for crime victims’ rights in DC, there’s no way that we could do it alone. Collaborative efforts like these will help us reach and effectively serve more clients and ultimately will engender the greatest impact in helping victims of all types of crime achieve justice.
These are just four of many reasons why I love my job and why I am committed to the mission and vision of this place of which I am fortunate to be a part. Happy birthday, NVRDC. Here’s to many more years ahead.
If you would like to contribute to the work that my wonderful colleagues do every day, please visit our donation page to learn how you can contribute to our team.