MDT Highlight – Law Enforcement Victim Advocates
October 12, 2023
As the child advocacy center for the Cape & Islands we respond to cases involving child sexual abuse, severe physical abuse, witness to domestic violence and sexual exploitation of children. Children come to us to talk about their experiences in full detail in a child-friendly and trauma informed manner. We provide these forensic interview services in partnership with our multidisciplinary team made of up law enforcement, child protection, medical and mental health, and prosecution to provide a comprehensive and trauma-informed approach to working with children. However, for some children there may need to be an initial conversation with law enforcement to begin this process, and for adults this type of service does not exist.
Talking about any traumatic experience is incredibly difficult, however, sexual, or intimate partner violence carries an incredible weight of difficulty. Taboo, shame, blame, confusion, betrayal, and anger are just some of the feelings victims of crime may experience in such an overwhelming way that it is nearly impossible to talk about it or ask for help. This is why some regional law enforcement agencies have hired those with specialized roles to talk with and support victims of sexual and domestic violence. Across the Cape, there are several individuals who serve as Victim Service Specialists, or Victim Advocates. While they aren’t members of the investigative team, they serve with incredible honor and integrity to support victims of crime in their roles. Children’s Cove and advocates often work in tandem to provide services and coordination of care to children and their non-offending families when responding to cases in their jurisdiction.
This month we wanted to highlight some of these incredible advocates for the work they do to support our community.
Kathleen Pedini, Victim Services Coordinator, Dennis Police Department
Kathleen “Kathy” Pedini has lived and worked on the Cape for the last 35 years. Kathy loves her home in the town of Dennis, and she believes the community is what makes it more beautiful than the land itself. Raising her family, her involvement in the local school districts and their sports programs, and off-roading at Chapin beach is why she has dedicated the last nine years of her career to the Dennis Police Department.
An active member in the Community Crisis Intervention Team and Mental Health Task Force, Kathy provides follow-up contact to victims of domestic and sexual violence, as well as other crimes. Kathy provides the immediate support often needed following the team’s report, maintains communication and updates those she supports throughout the investigation. Whether it is an immediate and short-term crisis, or more long-term support, which is needed, Kathy assists each person she works with in navigating the local services which can assist them.
When asked what she enjoys about her work, Kathy states “I love a lot about my job, including the opportunity to help others through difficult situations, meeting and partnering with the community, and making a positive impact.”
What Kathy considers a success in her work: “I guess success to me is making someone feel valued, supported, and heard. I want people in the community to know we care and are there for them; they are not alone.”
Annie Catalano, Victim Services Specialist/Advocate, Yarmouth Police Department
Annie moved to the Cape in 2014 and started her work in the field of Victim Services at Independence House. In 2018, Annie was hired as the first Victim Advocate at the Yarmouth Police Department under their Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) STOP Grant. In her role, Annie connects victims with safety and support options, builds strong relationships within the community, created a Special Victims Unit, and developed a strong partnership connecting substance use disorder services with those in need. Annie sits on the Cape & Islands Domestic Violence High Risk Task Force, Cape Cod Elder Abuse Coalition, the Enough Abuse Campaign, and she Co-Chairs the Yarmouth Substance Awareness Committee and in 2020,became certified through the National Advocate Credentialing Program.
In her work, Annie utilizes a trauma-informed and victim-centered approach and provides follow-up on all reports of domestic and sexual violence that come through the Yarmouth Police Department. In addition to assessing for safety and other needs, she will accompany victims during interviews with detectives, meet with families at Children’s Cove during a forensic interview, and accompany victims to court when appropriate.
When asked what she enjoys about her work Annie, says “I love to speak to members of the community about our Special Victims Unit and how we can support people, as well as, provide training about domestic and sexual violence, elder abuse, and child sexual abuse. I love to empower victims of violence and watch them find their inner strengths that lead them to thrive.”
What Annie considers a success in her work: “If a victim feels safe, has the best supports in place, and feels empowered to advocate for what they need in the future. That is a success to me.”
Shelby Ray, Victim Services Specialist/Advocate, Yarmouth Police Department
Shelby joined the Yarmouth Police Department (YPD) in November of 2022 after previously having worked as a Victim Witness Assistant at the Cape & Islands District Attorney’s Office (DA). Starting with the DA’s office in 2014, after receiving a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice from Bridgewater State University, Shelby worked in Barnstable and Nantucket counties and assisted a multitude of victims through the prosecution process in District and Superior Courts. Hired to YPD following an application through the COVID-19 Sexual and Domestic Violence Trust Fund Grant for Public Safety, Shelby serves as a part of the department’s Special Victims Unit. Working with Annie as part of the YPD’s Special Victims Unit, Shelby serves as a liaison between victims of domestic violence and sexual assault and the police department. While working with the officers and detectives, Shelby directly supports victims through the process of reporting a crime. Following this, Shelby can assist victims with restraining orders, safety planning, court accompaniment, interview accompaniment, and referrals for counseling, financial and legal support and more.
Having grown up here on Cape Cod and continuing to live here, Shelby realized the importance of working to expand crucial services locally that can help better the quality of life of survivors in our area. By being able to provide advocacy and support to those who need it, there’s a stronger likelihood that a victim will have a more positive outcome.
What Shelby considers a “success” in her work: “Whether it’s helping someone once, or helping someone for years, after they’ve experienced a traumatic event, simply being able to be there to provide guidance and support during what could be the worst time of their life, can make a world of difference to someone.”
Tara B. Carline, Victim/Witness Advocate, Mashpee Police Department
Tara received a bachelor’s degree with a concentration in Communication and Criminal Justice from the University of New Hampshire before eventually becoming a Police Officer in New Hampshire. After moving to the Cape in 2007, Tara joined the Mashpee Police Department as a Victim/Witness Advocate and has been a member of the Mashpee Police Community Services Unit since its inception in 2016. In addition, the MPD School Resource Officer and Tara are co-handlers to the first Police Comfort Dog on Cape Cod, K9 Cali.
Tara’s role includes supporting survivors of domestic and sexual violence by providing crisis intervention, safety planning, support services and resources that would otherwise not be easily accessible. Tara also provides critical outreach in cases involving mental health, substance use as well as incidents involving those with juveniles and the elderly. Tara also provides training, education, and advocacy within the community. Tara finds that her work provides a sense of empowerment that can help change the course of someone’s life in a meaningful way. She hopes to make a difference in assisting people at risk by providing them with options that ultimately lead to a better situation.
What Tara considers a “success” in her work: “I would say that through my work at the Mashpee Police Department, I have been able to educate and promote change in the way people view domestic violence, substance use and behavioral health. This position has allowed me to be that constant sounding board and informational tool for survivors and others at risk.”
Jessica Jay, Victim Services Specialist Assigned to Prosecution Unit, Barnstable Police Department
Jessica grew up on Cape Cod and went to the University of Maryland, College Park, where she earned her undergraduate degree, double majoring in Criminology and Psychology. After college Jessica worked for Gosnold Behavioral Health at the Emerson House before returning to school and earning a Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice from Northeastern University in 2008. Following her graduation, Jessica worked for 2 years for the Cape & Island’s District Attorney’s Office as a Victim Witness Assistant, working primarily in the Orleans District Court on domestic violence cases. Jessica started working for the Barnstable Police Department in 2010 as a civilian police advocate.
Jessica states her role has evolved over the 13 years she has been with the department, but her focus has always been on victims/survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. Jessica provides follow-up on all incidents of domestic violence reported to the Department and works with sexual assault investigators to support victims. She provides support and information to victims that report to the department, or are thinking of reporting, by providing information about the law enforcement and court process, and resources. Jessica also oversees all the Barnstable Police Departments Orders of Protection, assists the Prosecution Unit run, and supports teaching about domestic violence and sexual assault for the MPTC to the recruits at the Plymouth Police Academy.
Jessica recognizes that for victims and survivors of crime, the criminal justice system can be confusing, intimidating, and unfair at times, especially when they had no choice in becoming part of it. Jessica works hard to meet with victims and survivors as a source of information, humanity, and compassion to help them navigate this process.
What Jessica considers a “success” in her work: “Witnessing someone’s resilience guide them to a place where they feel safe, inside and out.”
The team at Children’s Cove appreciates all the work each of these incredible advocates do to support victims of crime in our community. Their help assisting us with supportive services for child and families is invaluable, and we thank each of them for all they do!