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National Crime Victim Law Institute

NCVLI Staff Spotlight: Bernette Jenkins-Pleas

October 09, 2017

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Bernette Jenkins-Pleas joined NCVLI in 2016 as an Administrative Assistant. Click here to read Bernette’s bio or read on to learn more about Bernette in her own words.

What one thing has surprised you or have you learned about victims’ rights since you started your board service?

The victims’ rights movement was not something I was aware of prior to coming to work at NCVLI. In criminal cases I wrongly assumed law enforcement, prosecutors and state attorneys general all worked for the victims of crime. But when I learned the background story behind the murder of Marsy Nicholas and the Marsy’s Law movement I was surprised that not only was what the Nicholas’ family experienced not a rare exception to the rule, but that in the nearly 35 years since Marsy was slain, victims are still not being notified, the privacy of victims is still not being respected and so on. I field requests from crime victims from across the globe who have had their lives totally upended at every level because of a crime and are desperately looking for assistance in the aftermath. It was shocking to learn that some states lack even the most basic crime victim assistance resources for victims and surviving family members, let alone statutory protections.

As an organization what is NCVLI’s greatest strength?

NCVLI’s strength is the compassion of the people involved. People from all walks of life and area of the system contribute in so many ways to keep NCVLI an effective and relevant organization–survivors of crime who have the courage to share their stories, NCVLI’s staff and leadership who diligently perform day-to-day operations, the countless contributors and volunteers who keep us running, and of course the advocates and attorneys who work directly with victims–all are doing their part to advance victims’ rights.

If you could choose any 4 people in the world (now living) to serve on NCVLI’s Staff, who would they be and why?

The dream team would be: Singer Jennifer Hudson who survived the murder of her mom, brother and nephew. Rep. Joaquin Castro of Texas for his work to fund programs to reduce campus sexual assault and domestic violence. Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut, because he continues to unrelentingly amplify the voices of the victims of the Sandy Hook shooting. Film director Ava Duvernay because she has a gift for breathing life into untold stories of fictional and real-life victims and advocates into work she brings to the screen.

What has been the most rewarding thing you have done in your personal life?

Parenting two amazing teen daughters with my husband is both the most rewarding thing I’ve done and the accomplishment I’m most proud of.

What would you most like NCVLI or the victims’ rights movement to accomplish in the next five years? Twenty years?

Upholding the rights of victims to fairness, voice and dignity is possible, but I suspect many people do not know how important victims’ rights are until they find themselves in the wake of an unthinkable tragedy. I hope that within five years that instead of being a term of art for victim advocates and attorneys the phrase “Victims’ Rights” will be as much of a household phrase as “Miranda Rights.” By 2037 I hope that each county in the nation has services in place to support and empower every survivor of crime to explore their rights and options. One person cannot do everything to make that happen, but every person can do one thing to make it happen. One person could: Contribute time or money to a victim assistance organization; Tell someone what they know about the movement; Follow a victim/survivor empowerment organization on social media.