Although she has only been on the job for a month, the new rape crisis coordinator at the prosecuting attorney’s office has hit the ground running in her desire to help victims of sexual abuse.
Sidney Marini began work in the Victim Witness Division of the 11th Judicial District-West Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, which includes Jefferson and Lincoln counties, Oct. 1.
“I love people,” she said. “I’ve got a lot of passion and a lot of desire I hope to bring to the table here.”
Toni Perkins, whose primary job is to deal with the families of homicide victims for the division, filled the role until Marini was hired and said that anytime a rape victim arrives at Jefferson Regional Medical Center, police are called and so is the rape crisis coordinator, who responds to the hospital to offer support for the victim.
“We sit with them while they’re examined and bring a set of scrubs, socks and things like that because their clothes are evidence, and also bring things like lotion and body spray,” Perkins said.
A key part of the job is to keep victims informed all the way through the criminal justice process, whether that means letting them know about court hearings and the like to actually sitting with the victims during a trial and explaining trial procedures.
“We can also explain how they can sign up to get crime victims reparations if they lose work because of court or have out-of-pocket expenses,” Perkins said.
Marini, who previously worked as a dispatcher in Grant County and at the White County Detention Center, said she heard about the opening and applied because she wanted to make a difference. “Sex crimes are not going away so the more we can help the victims, the better the entire community is,” she said.
Statistics from the Pine Bluff Police Department show that there were 40 rapes or attempted rapes during the first nine months of this year, compared to 60 for the same period in 2016. Statistics for Jefferson County were not available. While adult victims are examined at the hospital and interviewed by police or a sheriff’s deputy, depending on where the crime occurred, child victims are taken to the Children’s Advocacy Center in the Donald W. Reynolds Community Service Center for an examination and to be interviewed by a civilian investigator from the Arkansas State Police Crime Against Children and Families Division.
“I’ve observed a lot of cases at CAC because I’m subject to being called there, too,” Marini said. “Christa (Menotti, the director of C.A.C.) is great and has helped me so much since I’ve been here because she has so much knowledge and really cares.”
One of Marini’s goals is to reinstitute the volunteer program for advocates that has in the past year or so gone dormant.
“This is a way for people, primarily ladies who have some time on their hands to give back to the community,” she said. “We’re looking for people who have a lot of compassion and maybe know someone who has been the victim of sexual abuse, or even have been a victim themselves and understand what victims are going through.”
A training session for potential volunteers will be held Nov. 29 at 5:30 p.m. at the Children’s Advocacy Center and those interested should contact Marini at 541-5387. “After that, we’re going to try to set up a schedule for the volunteers,” she said.
In her job, Marini, who will be continuing to work on a criminal justice degree at Southeast Arkansas College in January, works very closely with Deputy Prosecutor Karres Manning, who prosecutes rape and sexual abuse cases. “Karres is one of the most passionate and caring people I’ve ever been around,” Marini said. “Just watching her speak to victims and their families and how she never lets her emotions show is wonderful.”