Blair County District Attorney’s office and victim/witness program share state award

There’s no doubt that over the past 10 years, sexual-related crimes have grown two-fold. But here in Blair County, two county offices have been working together to combat the problem, and recently, was recognized for their efforts.
Blair County District Attorney Dave Gorman and Victim/Witness Coordinator Sue Griep traveled to Harrisburg recently to receive the Pennsylvania’s Coalition Against Rape’s Annual Outstanding Service award for assistance and support to victims of sexual assault.
“It’s nice to be recognized for a teamwork effort,” said Griep. “We’ve been working hard to curb this problem, and with both offices chipping at it, I feel we’re making progress.”
Griep is a native of Tyrone, and a 1976 graduate of Tyrone Area High School. She is the daughter of Adelen Price of Tyrone and the late W. Paul Price, former editor of The Daily Herald.
Griep’s first position in a victim/witness capacity came as coordinator of the Clearfield County office. She now heads a staff of four, full-time employees and two part-timers in Blair County.
During PCAR’s annual awards luncheon, Gorman and Griep were presented the award from PCAR Director Delilah Rumberg in coordination with Anna Fleck of Family Services of Blair County. Family Services of Blair County nominated the two offices for the statewide award in the law enforcement category.
Gorman echoed Griep’s comments.
“I consider this award a great honor,” said Gorman. “It recognizes the teamwork and dedication among agencies in our county to assist sexual assault victims. The DA’s Office works closely with Victim/Witness, Family Services, law enforcement and local hospitals in order to alleviate some of the trepidation associated with reporting, evidence collecting and interview.
“With everyone working together, it provides a great support and assistance system for a victim and their family at such a difficult time.”
The nomination petition cites that the District Attorney’s Office and Victim/Witness Office “has accomplished several milestones in the effort to assist and empower victims of sexual assault and sexual abuse.”
The petition states that District Attorney Gorman’s innovativeness to respond to violence against women and children resulted in the creation of a child abuse unit in the DA’s office.
This meant that a specific DA was hired and designated to prosecute perpetrators of all kinds.
“The DA’s Office recognized the emotional benefit to have one designated attorney with whom the victim could build a trusting relationship from the beginning to end of the process,” the nomination read.
This process also meant that the special prosecutor remains on call every day of the year to immediately respond to sexual abuse cases and is “often at the hospital in the middle of the night alongside police, and victim advocates to assure appropriate evidence gathering and to begin a rapport with the victim.”
Another area highlighted in the nomination was the DA’s Office involvement in establishing a SAFE program in Blair County.
This means that the DA’s office has worked on a protocol for handling sexual assault cases to be used by hospitals, victim services, law enforcement and ADAs.
In addition, the nomination states that the Victim/Witness Program has worked tirelessly the past three years to develop and implement service protocol to better acquaint victims with policies and procedures in the court proceedings, helping to ease any uncomfortability associated with an unfamiliar criminal justice system.
“The Victim/Witnes office personnel have been known to go above and beyond the call of duty for sexual assault victims,” the nomination read.
Because of the cooperatives efforts of the DA’s Office and Victim/Witness Program, “it is the victims who have benefited,” the nomination concluded.
“In sexual assault cases, it is important to work together,” said Griep. “Victims are going through so many different types of emotions as well as becomming quickly involved in the criminal justice system. Anything we can do to alleviate their fears and work together with other agencies, makes it an easier road for victims.”
Griep said she hopes the award brings more awareness to the Victim/Witness Program and also shows victims that it’s okay to seek the office when they need help.
“Maybe the sexual assault victims will see this program and that it really does work, making it easier to come forward,” said Griep.
For more information, contact the District Attorney’s Office or Victim/Witness Program 693-3010 or 693-3018.