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National Crime Victim Law Institute

2019 Voices for Justice Reception Keynote Speaker: Carol L. Hepburn

March 01, 2019

Carol L. Hepburn is a Seattle-based attorney with Savage Law Firm. Carol was the Keynote Speaker for NCVLI’s 5th Annual Voices for Justice Reception, where she spoke on her work as a child abuse image exploitation prosecutor.

Since 2008 Carol has represented victims of child abuse image exploitation crimes in criminal restitution proceedings and civil actions in the United States and Canada. Currently, she is one of only a handful lawyers who are representing these victims. She is a member of the team whose efforts resulted in the passage of Amy, Vicky, and Andy Child Pornography Assistance Act of 2018 and which brought the case of Paroline v. United States to the US Supreme Court, resulting in the first case ever in which a crime victim was accorded separate standing as a party before the Supreme Court. 

What is the most rewarding thing you’ve accomplished in your personal or professional life?

Raising a son who is thoughtful and kind and working to help other people. I think that parenting is one of the most important jobs there is; it has far reaching consequences for both individuals and society.  And for those who don’t parent directly, helping a child is never a waste of time. 

If you could change one thing about the current victims’ rights environment, be it legal, political, public recognition, victim social/psychological services, etc., what would it be?

I would speed up our current movement to equalize rights between the victims and the offenders to make a more level playing field.  There is a saying—”Nothing about us without us.”  Victims would be better served with the opportunity to have input in major decisions during the course of a criminal case.  We are still too often seeing cases like the Epstein case out of Florida in which a decision not to prosecute was made and the victims had no input. [Editor’s Note: This interview took place prior to the Epstein decision announced in late February.] 

What would you most like NCVLI or the victims’ rights movement to accomplish in the next five years? 20 years?

Public education and peer support  are large pieces which will drive progress.  If we can provide access to information about what current rights are in an easily accessible manner for victims, so that when they are ready they can find the information they need, and let them know that there are attorneys and victims advocates available to help them, hopefully more will pursue the rights currently available and then more voices will come forward and we can push further for more parity.  I am not saying that it should be mandated that victims participate in the criminal justice system, but rather that they should be advised of the opportunity – including the right to decline to participate, or to participate at whatever level the victim wishes to (so no requirement that they participate, nor an expectation that they must participate, but a recognition that they may wish to participate, and then facilitation of participation at whatever level the victims wants and/or is able to).   Most of the cases I deal with result in a large shame factor for the victim. If we could facilitate more peer support groups there will be reinforcement for coming forward and claiming what is rightfully theirs.  

Another thing I would like to see happen in the next five years is to add some teeth to the Crime Victims’ Rights Act. One such change would be making any outcome of a hearing which proceeds without reasonable and effective notice to the victim to be presumptively reversible.  This would give the court, the prosecutor, and even the defendant a stake in making sure that the victim has the opportunity to be heard.  There was a front page article on the Washington Post that illustrates this perfectly and is a great example of a victim making her voice heard.