Victim’s Advocate rewrites program

DEL NORTE- For the past several years the victim’s advocacy program in Rio Grande County has been close to nonexistent, until recently, when previous dispatcher Courtney Arthur took over. “The people who ran it previously just did it in a different way than I do. Once I took over in February, I knew that there was going to be a lot of work, but in the end, it has been so worth it,” said Arthur.
Arthur graduated from Adams State University in 2015 with a degree in sociology and an emphasis on criminal justice. “This was not the original path I wanted to take. Originally, I wanted to be a police officer but because of medical issues, that path was just not going to work for me. So, I started my career as the Rio Grande County Sheriff Department’s dispatcher. I have been with the county for four, going on five years. In February of this year, Sheriff Don McDonald asked me to take over the victim’s advocate program and I have since made it my goal to make it better,” continued Arthur.
In the past eight months, Arthur has helped with 95 cases here in the county, most of which are domestic violence cases. “I deal mainly with domestic violence and harassment cases. My main goal is to help people struggling with their situations and help make them feel comfortable turning to me for assistance.”
Arthur spent most of her first few months as the new victim’s advocate rearranging how the program functions. One of the first things she did was create a victim’s information packet that includes an explanation of the victim’s rights, a statement from Arthur that gives some personal details about herself and what it is she does for victims, as well as, information for people to use during their time of need including phone numbers to local organizations like Tu-Casa, Inc.
“I work very closely with the people at Tu-Casa and the Children’s Advocate Center. They have grown exponentially over the last few years and have become a wonderful resource for the Valley. I want to remain relatable to my clients. I make sure to dress casually and keep in contact with everyone whether or not they sign a refusal. One of the things that can be difficult in these situations is being intimidated by the people who are actually here to help. I want to remove that intimidation from the process as much as possible.”
When asked how she has been received by both clients and co-workers, Arthur had this to say, “One of my very first calls was down in Monte Vista. I received the call early in the morning and I told the officer that I would be on my way. When I showed up at the scene, the officer couldn’t believe that I was actually there. I have heard that a lot over the last few months and I have received very positive feedback from both clients and officers. Of course, there are some clients that are not as receptive, but I still reach out to them and let them know I am here to help in case they change their minds.”
Arthur’s position with the county is paid by a grant through several organizations and requires her to track trends in cases that she works on. Arthur is not only there to help the victims in a case but for officer support as well. She has handled everything from bullying in local schools to rape, and even, attempted murder. “I spend a lot of time in court as a liaison between the court and clients. I am there to clarify the process and help in every way I can without offering any legal advice. I work closely with the district attorney and the district attorney victim’s advocate. I love my job and consider it a way to remind everyone of the good things in life regardless of the bad that happens every day.”
Arthur is also involved with the local concealed carry classes that take place in both Rio Grande County and South Fork. “I am there to help the officers that teach the program and help make it more relatable for the public that attends. Our next class is Oct. 11 at 5 p.m. at the South Fork Community Center. If anyone would like to sign up or get an application for concealed carry, they can contact me at 657-4000.”
Arthur is continuing training and further certification in several areas of interest that will ultimately help the department offer more supportive services in the future.