Samantha Hedge, a Sikeston native, became Scott County's victim advocate Sept. 12 after being hired by Prosecuting Attorney Paul Boyd. "Sam will be a valuable asset to the prosecution team and a good resource for the victims within the county," Boyd said.
"I think it's a very important service - there's so many victims out there that aren't represented and need to be helped, need to be made aware of how the judicial system works and how it can help them," Hedge said.
While Hedge was a homemaker when she accepted the job, she previously worked for private attorney in Rolla and for the Phelps County prosecutor's office.
"I was a criminal secretary - I filed criminal charges and assisted with jury trials and things like that," Hedge said.
Before hearing about the opening, working as a victim advocate "really had never crossed my mind," Hedge said. Once she heard about the position through word of mouth she knew it would be right for her.
"I was wanting to get back into the law enforcement field," she said. "When I heard about this I thought it would be interesting and I really enjoy it. I enjoy helping others. I enjoy getting justice for victims and for others in the community."
As a victim advocate, Hedge will spend a lot of time in courtrooms on behalf of her clients. "I appear in court for them usually every week to get updates on their cases," Hedge said. "I send them either letters or phone calls to let them know what's going on."
Hedge also works with victims at the Network Against Sexual Violence in Cape Girardeau.
"I meet with the victims there, make them feel a bit more comfortable, explain things to them - how things will work," she said. "I have a lot of brochures, things like that I can hand out."
Other duties include helping victims find shelter, private counseling, and other resources available to them.
Hedge said in addition to providing assistance to victims, her work also helps law enforcement.
"I think it also helps with the reporting of crimes if they understand it better and if someone is there for them," she said.
Hedge has already worked with about 30 victims in her first month on the job. Cases have involved a wide range of crimes, "anything from child abuse to sodomy cases, violation of ex partes, domestic assaults, burglaries, forgeries, assault cases in general," she said.
"I'm going to try to help every victim of every crime - that's what my goal is," Hedge said. "I love my job and I hope to be here for a very long time."
In comparing being a victim advocate with her previous jobs in law enforcement, "I enjoy it much better - there's more hands-on with actual people and things like that, than just doing paperwork," Hedge said. "I feel like I'm actually helping people instead of being one of the paper pushers."
A Victims of Crime Act grant through the Missouri Department of Public Safety's victim services funds the position.
The job was originally based out of Circuit Judge David Dolan's office but is now part of the county prosecutor's office.
Describing herself as "happily married with three children," Hedge was born and raised in Sikeston but moved to Rolla in 1997.
"I just moved back this year in February," she said. "My family is here so I get to be closer to my family."