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Thursday, Sep. 1, 2016

First victim advocate faces many challenges

Thursday, April 10, 2003

Patty Moody
NEW MADRID - Brutally beaten by his attacker, the man was unable to hold a job since the assault. The bills were piling up, his case had yet to go to court and now, he had received a notice his electricity was being turned off.

He felt like he was a victim all over again.

Fortunately for him, New Madrid County has a victim advocate. Patty Moody went to work to find him assistance to keep the lights on at his home and his hopes for justice alive.

Moody explained this is just one of the challenges she has faced as New Madrid County's first victim advocate. Yet each challenge, she continued, is one she enjoys and she believes will help the judicial system work more smoothly.

Previously Moody worked in the New Madrid County Associate Court office, serving 16 years as a deputy clerk. It was here she learned about victim advocacy and approached then prosecutor H. Riley Bock about starting the program locally.

With the assistance of Michelle Terrell at the New Madrid County Resource Center, a grant was obtained from the Missouri Department of Public Safety to establish the office for the county.

A native of New Madrid County, Moody was familiar with many of the services available to those in need. Yet, she said when she began her job in mid-October, she found she had even more to learn.

"I already knew the court proceeding, what would take place, how it works and who is in involved," she said. "Now I find I spend a lot of my day on the phone - finding help, finding doctors, finding a safe place for victims who are afraid to go home."

Moody receives violent crime reports from the sheriff's department and the various police departments in the county. She is also on call so if officers believe she is needed they can request assistance for a victim.

While each case is different, Moody said, she will often first sit down with the victim and explain what they can expect. "I walk the victim through the court process," she explained. "So many people don't have a clue. They don't realize it takes time to go through the court system."

As the liaison between the prosecutor's office and the victim, Moody keeps the victim apprised of court appearances made by the defendant. "The prosecutor is so busy prosecuting cases, I try to help with the relationship between the prosecutor and the victim. Too often the victim has no idea what is going on in his case."

New Madrid County Prosecuting Attorney Lewis Recker said the education role filled by the Moody benefits his office as well as the victim. "She has the time to educate victims about the part they will play in the legal process. Also a lot of times victims are forgotten in the process - the big splash is on the criminals and the prosecution of the case. She is someone who can get closer to the victim, point them in the direction of services they might need while we're busy in the legal framework. I'm very enthusiastic about the program."

Moody has worked with several victims of domestic violence as well. "I sat down and went through the complaint process with them and sat in on the interview process at the sheriff's department."

Sometimes, she continued, all the victim wants is someone to talk to. "This has taught me a lot," she said. "I never thought how much a crime affects a victim - at the time it occurs and later."

Not only does a crime impact the victim, Moody said it can impact the entire family

"The domino effect of criminal victimization is tremendous," she said. "The physical, emotional and financial devastation a victim suffers has repercussions that touch us all - in our homes, our neighborhoods, our schools, in our workplaces and beyond."

In addition to her on-the-job learning, Moody has attended several regional training programs. Most recently she took part in a week-long Missouri Victim's Assistance Conference in Jefferson City.

All this has taught her a new appreciation for life, Moody said. "You can never take anything for granted," she added. "The man who was hurt by the assault - one day he was fine, now he has no source of income. You never know what could happen."

And she said it has given her a real appreciation for her family. The daughter of Maxine Goodman of Portageville and the late Bill Goodman, she and her husband, Jerry, have two sons, Matt, 15, and Aaron, 10.

As the word gets out about the county's victim's advocate service in the county, Moody said she hopes people will know that she is there if needed.

"I'm really, really glad to be able to help people," said Moody. "It is good to know that you are making a difference in a wrong that was made."