HARRISBURG, PA. (WHTM) – Founded 35 years ago, the Victim Witness Assistance Program helps victims navigate the court system at what is often the most difficult time of their lives.
A celebration was held Friday to mark the milestone, honoring the work that’s been done and the work that’s yet to come.
Rosanne Eastman knows firsthand what the program means to victims; two years ago, her husband of 41 years took his own life.
“She spent five hours with me in the emergency room, holding my hand, getting me to come back to life more or less,” Eastman said. “I don’t know where I would be without her, or without the program that sent someone.”
She’s talking about her victim advocate, Jessica, who helped with attorneys, counseling and even the funeral.
“She connected me with people, going in the future, what I could do to take care of myself,” Eastman said. “She was just there for me, that’s what I called her. She was my angel when I needed it.”
That message is at the heart of Victim Witness’ mission.
“We for 35 years now have been embedded in the Dauphin County judicial system,” executive director Amy Rosenberry said.
She says their 18 advocates keep victims updated on hearings, investigations and even provide help for services like counseling, anything to bring back a sense of normalcy.
“We’re able to be that liaison and assist them and get them the information that they need, to make them feel safe,” said Rosenberry.
Common Pleas Court Judge William Tully remembers when a group of young Dauphin County Bar Association lawyers started the program as a simple project.
“It’s kind of grown into a major organization that really protects victims rights, represents, advocates,” Tully said.
Tully says making sure a victim’s “bill of rights” is followed, is a top concern.
“This organization actually facilitates that process, allows for victim witness impact statements to be available prior to trial,” Tully said.
You can find out more about the Victim Witness program here.