SOMERVILLE, NJ – Nearly 5,000 victims of crime, physically scarred, mentally scarred, turned to the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office Victim/Witness Unit last year for a shoulder to lean on and professional help recovering from the trauma, piecing their life back together as well as working their way through the system.

April 7-13 2019 is designated as National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, and Somerset County Prosecutor Michael H. Robertson wants to thank those who help victims get back on their feet.

 “National Crime Victims’ Rights Week is important because it raises awareness to crime victims’ rights and services,” Robertson said. “As the County Prosecutor and a former Assistant U.S. Attorney, I have seen countless lives affected by crime. This week is an opportunity to reflect and show victims that they are not alone and their voices are heard.”

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The theme of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week is “Honoring Our Past.  Creating Hope for the Future” and is intended to encourage commemoration, honor, and respect toward the crime victim advocates, allied professionals, and selfless volunteers who work for increased rights for crime victims.

 “The Victim/Witness Unit provides an invaluable service to the crime victims of Somerset County. Their professionalism and dedication to assisting victims makes the often complex process of navigating the legal system less stressful,” said John W. Fodor, chief of detectives in the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office.

The Victim/Witness Unit is being awarded a proclamation from the Somerset County Freeholders at the board’s meeting  April 9.

The Victim/Witness staff is led by Erin Rocchietti, coordinator and staffed by  bi-lingual secretary Ileana  Cosme ; advocate Bobbi Mowery (ret.  Police lieutenant) and  Alex Wick, advocate. There is an opening for a  second advocate.

According to Robinson, Fodor and Bocchietti:

-          The Office of Victim Witness Advocacy, within the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office, was established to ensure that the rights of the crime victims are protected and that the criminal justice system treats crime victims and witnesses with fairness, compassion and respect.

-          The Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office of Victim Witness Advocacy, through its dedicated staff, provides victims with information about the criminal justice process, their rights as crime victims, case status information and support services.

-          The goal of victim witness advocates is to empower survivors of crime and the families of crime victims through supportive efforts to ensure that they are treated with dignity, compassion and respect in the aftermath of a crime. For many citizens, the criminal justice system is something they may have previously only heard about on the news or watched on TV shows.

-            Victims are thrown into this system that exists to ensure the rights of the accused are upheld and the Victim Advocates are liaisons who step in to explain the process, ensure the victim is informed of their rights, provide realistic expectations, and assist the individual in recovering in the aftermath of the crime.  Advocates are contacted by county detective staff during investigations and receive reports of crimes that are investigated by local police.

-           Our contact with the victims begins with the report and continues through the prosecution and post-conviction stages.  We make outreach to victims to provide information about the criminal justice process, their rights as crime victims and other support services. These services are available to help victims cope with the trauma and the aftermath of the victimization and to lessen the inconveniences often associated with participation in the criminal justice process.

-           As the case proceeds, advocates advise victims of the status of their case, answer any questions they may have and act as liaison between the victim and Assistant Prosecutor and the court.  We assist victims in applying for reimbursement for monetary expenses related to victimization (example: funeral costs, medical and mental health counseling) through the New Jersey Victims of Crime Compensation Office.

-            We accompany victims to court and work in tandem with the courthouse staff to ensure victims are free from intimidation when in attendance.  Victims and witnesses of crime are notified of all court proceedings and have the option of receiving these notifications via an online portal.  Somerset County will soon be offering victims with notifications and links to services in a downloadable app, so that victims can choose to be updated in a convenient manner.

Call the Office of Victim Witness Advocacy in the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office at 908-575-3359 to learn how you or someone you know can get the help they need.