January 07, 2020

Project Partner Profile: South Carolina Victim Assistance Network (SCVAN)

Sarah Ford has served as Legal Director at the South Carolina Victim Assistance Network since 2017 where she leads a team of attorneys and advocates to provide direct legal services to South Carolina crime victims. Prior to joining SCVAN, Sarah served as a prosecutor with the First Circuit Office of the Solicitor where she focused on crimes against women and children. She routinely lectures on victims’ rights issues across South Carolina, including Domestic Violence, Victims’ Rights Enforcement, and Navigating the Criminal Process.

Katie Coleman is a Senior Staff Attorney with the South Carolina Victim Assistance Network. Katie leads SCVAN’s Reaching Rural project using technology to increase access to legal services in the underserved communities of the Lowcountry of South Carolina. She provides direct legal representation in a variety of courts in addition to outreach, technical assistance, education, and referrals. Prior to joining SCVAN, she worked at The Bleecker Law Firm in Charleston, South Carolina where she practiced complex family law.

How did SCVAN get involved with NCVLI?

SCVAN’s legal department received an NCVLI Rural Access sub grant that uses technology to increase legal access to crime survivors in South Carolina’s Lowcountry.

What surprised you most or was a lesson learned in your work?

In addition to survivors, it is important that victim advocates, law enforcement, and other victim service providers have sufficient support, resources, and encouragement to be able to fulfill their crucial role in the survivor justice process. Also, the warm reception we received by members of our rural communities has been surprising and humbling considering that we are new to their area, they face unique challenges compared to neighboring counties and the rest of the state, and they’ve been let down by the system and others in the past. Learning that we can best serve them by listening carefully to what their different needs are and respecting their request that they contribute input and be accountable in the incorporation of services to their community has sharpened our perspective and improved the ways we conduct outreach from our other legal offices.

Tell us about a recent success or deliverable your clinic has achieved.

Following approval, we will be launching our new legal department website that will give survivors, victim service providers, and the general public comprehensive information about victims’ rights, our services and processes, and local resources. Our website will include opportunities to get involved and news about SCVAN, community partners, and victims’ rights. There is a need for a consolidation of resources, especially for our rural communities, and we are thrilled to launch this piece of our project. Our forthcoming attorney portal will enable volunteer attorneys to access templates and education at their own convenience so they are supported in their efforts to serve survivors in a variety of legal capacities.

What motivates you to do the work you di with victims’ rights in your community?

The strength survivors display by coming forward and sharing their stories with us is a huge motivation. They entrust us with very intimate details of their lives and we are honored to serve them in any way we can, regardless of whether they want to report to law enforcement or seek redress through the legal system. The hard work, courage, and quiet resilience of a lot of our colleagues in the victim services field also keep us focused on the importance of everyone’s contributions to the fight for survivors’ rights.

Why should other individuals/clinics/organizations interested in victims’ rights get involved with NCVLI?

NCVLI is a rock for survivors and those who serve them. Every request for assistance is important. They celebrate our victories and champion us through the challenges. Their accessibility, dedication, and passion shine through in all they do. They definitely make sure we feel the love even though we are all the way across the country in South Carolina! The amount of work NCVLI accomplishes on a national level with such a compact team is a testament to how amazing they are.

To learn more about the Rural Access Project, click here.