Gwen Williams (left), victims’ right advocate for Thomas County, and her intern, Brittany K. Thomas (second from left) chat with TU students Ashley White and Chelsea Dolan in Dr. Steve DePaola’s ‘Psychology of Relationships’ class on Thursday, Oct. 17.
Victims’ rights advocate shares about domestic violence with TU students
Every day Gwen Williams sees the effects of domestic violence.
As the victims’ rights advocate for Thomas County, Williams’ job is to help crime victims find the help they need and know what’s happening to the people who committed those crimes. Williams, a 2008 TU Social Work graduate, returned to her alma mater to speak about domestic violence to students in Dr. Steve DePaola’s “Pscyhology of Relationships” class. Joining her was Brittany K. Thomas, a TU Social Work student interning with Williams.
Thomas explained that the role of the victims’ rights advocate is to make sure that victims understand their rights to be notified in each stage of the legal process by phone or letter, to be notified if the perpetrator is released, escaped or rearrested. The victims’ rights advocate also refers victims to other agencies when needed, provides orientation to the courtroom setting, and helps victims obtain restitution for the crime or compensation for out-of-pocket expenses.
“I advocate for all victims of crimes from property theft to murder,” Williams said.
She began working at the victims’ rights advocate in the district attorney’s office eight years ago. In her role, Williams must advocate for the victim of any crime, although most of her cases involve domestic violence.
During my time as the victims’ rights advocate, there have been seven murders in Thomas County,” Williams said. “All of them were domestic violence related.”
She went on to explain that when it comes to domestic violence, Georgia ranks 12th in the nation for women dying at the hands of men. South Carolina is ranked number one.
“In a lot of domestic violence cases, if a women is getting beaten, the children are getting it, too,” Williams said to the students. “If you see it, say something. Speak out against it.”
She was also quick to point out that while most domestic violence cases involve women as the victims, there are also cases in which the woman is the batterer.
Williams explained that her job is to be there for the victims and how that provides them with reassurance and confidence.
“When people know there’s someone fighting for them in their corner, that means a lot,” Williams said. “Victim rights have come a very long way, but we still have a really long way to go.”