Writing the Next Chapter of NCVLI’s Board of Directors
Helene Davis joined the NCVLI Board of Directors in 2002 and served as President from 2012 to June 2020. Jennifer Storm joined NCVLI’s Board of Directors in 2014 and was voted in as the new NCVLI Board President this June. NCVLI was able to catch up with both of these incredible women as they reflected on their time with NCVLI and their hopes for victims’ rights moving forward.
Reflecting on the experience of being Board President as well as being a Director generally, former President Helene Davis noted that:
“[M]y greatest value to NCVLI has always been that I am not a lawyer but rather a Survivor/Victim Advocate. I feel my advocacy work changed the filter through which I see and hear things which allows me (in some cases) to offer a different perspective. I also developed a strong working relationship with all staff.”
One of Helene’s sources of continuing pride is what NCVLI has accomplished working with the Military. A second source, NCVLI’s annual Crime Victim Law Conference. She remembers two years ago, when she was “over the moon” as she “witnessed people from all over the country, in very impromptu meetings sit and share their experiences; what was or was not working, pitfalls, strengths, etc.” The collaboration and resource-sharing in these moments, she expressed, is foundational to NCVLI’s work and growth as an organization.
Not all of Helene’s highlights of her time as President and general Board service have been external. “NCVLI helped make me a stronger more confident person,” she declared.
Incoming President Jennifer Storm shared her own experience and how it shaped her desire to participate as fully as possible in the NCVLI Board. The second-term Commonwealth Victim Advocate for Pennsylvania uses her ten years of leadership experience as a former executive director for a nonprofit organization to empathize with and support NCVLI as it navigates the complex national landscape. She noted, “I hope that through that experience I can be a great advocate for NCVLI staff…I’ve done it all, including experience in grants and fundraising.”
Change and Growth
When asked about how NCVLI has grown and changed since Helene first joined the Board as a Director, she responded, “I don’t think NCVLI has so much changed as grown. From the time we completed the first Mission Statement the work has always been “victim-centered”. This remains true today. The main difference has been in NCVLI’s growth and expanded inclusion of that work from the Clinics to Vision 21 to our Rural Project and Post-Conviction work.”
She went on, “Public awareness has also grown. I remember the first Conference I attended had about 60 people and last year we had more than 400. We also continue to have more advocates at the table.”
Jennifer noticed a big change in her own Pennsylvania community since joining the NCVLI Board of Directors in 2014. “I was passionate about victims’ services when I came into the field [of victim advocacy],” she remembers, “but I didn’t get passionate about victims’ rights until meeting [NCVLI Executive Director] Meg Garvin.”
“We need victim services, but victims’ rights are critical as well to this work.”
There had been a lack of enforcement of victims’ rights in Pennsylvania according to Jennifer. As a result of joining NCVLI in the push to bring more awareness and enforcement of victims’ rights, Jennifer was able to see a new constitutional amendment – Marsy’s Law – pass for victims in Pennsylvania, and attributes the law’s passing to a fortunate meeting with a victims’ rights professional at an NCVLI event. Helene echoed this idea, noting that a highlight of NCVLI’s growth is its continued assistance and support of states as they continue to develop versions of constitutionalized victims’ rights across the country.
When it comes to anticipated challenges and opportunities for the future of victims’ rights, both women considered a variety of issues. Nationally, Helene believes NCVLI will face the same challenges as most organizations, navigating the move for societal change currently taking place worldwide. “I believe it will be important for NCVLI to make sure all groups that deal with victims’ rights within the justice system are aware of [NCVLI] as a resource.”
Jennifer pointed to (widely relatable) challenges on a state level. “Unfortunately, Pennsylvania has a lot of high-profile cases but less representation legally for victims,” she said. One area of opportunity she sees lies in the power of growing the existing network of victims’ rights attorneys and victim advocates: “I would like attorneys and advocates in every state to immediately think of NCVLI every time there’s a legal challenge. To the extent that I can be an ambassador for creating that change I want to do that.”
When asked if she had any advice for Jennifer as she starts her term, Helene responded, “I don’t feel [she] will need much advice from me. She has always been a strong, active member of the Board and her leadership abilities has always shown. If I have to suggest something it would be keeping the momentum going on Board projects. And, I believe the current outline for Strategic Planning will help jumpstart that mindset.” On Helene’s leaving her role as President, Jennifer noted, “Helene is leaving huge shoes to fill. She has blazed (and continues to blaze) trails through sharing her story and voice.” Helene is more than ready for a long-overdue visit to family in California, but looks forward to continuing to contribute to and support NCVLI in any way possible as she continues her incredible service as a Board Member.
Jennifer has some exciting plans when it comes to her term: “As a non-attorney, I hope I can speak to other victim advocates about the importance of NCVLI. As Board President and a supporter, I will always put my money where my mouth is,” Jennifer declared. She has pledged to continue donating and encouraging a mindset of financial growth for the Board as NCVLI continues into its 20th year and beyond.