Editor’s note: The following is part of a series featuring everyday heroes who are making a difference in the community. If you have an everyday hero to nominate, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
FAIRMONT — Kim Hawkins helps victims of crime and the families of victims on their journey through the court system.
Hawkins, 45, is the victim advocate in the Marion County Victim Assistance Program in the Marion County Prosecuting Attorney’s office.
“We are positioned in the prosecutor’s office to help all victims of any type of crime through the judicial system,” Hawkins said.
Most people who are at the courthouse as a victim have never been there. Hawkins is their
liaison between the prosecuting attorney and the actual judicial process, she said.
She walks victims through the process step by step. She stays with victims through the entire case. She answers their questions. She gives them support. She sets them up with counseling or other services in the community that can help them, Hawkins said.
Most often, Hawkins works with victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. She also works with drug endangered children whose parents are facing drug charges. She has seen a rise in the instances of this in Fairmont. She sees children weekly, Hawkins said.
“I normally bring them in in the beginning and I’m just their friend to talk to and make them comfortable with me, let them talk to me if they have questions,” she said. “That way I can evaluate if I see if there is a need for some kind of counseling or anything like that. If there’s a specific fear that they have, then that’s something I need to work on so they’re not afraid.”
What she does has nothing to do with winning a case, it’s helping victims survive and succeed, she said.
There are differences in the way she handles adults and children. With adults she can be more direct with them. With children she has to come to them in a parental role. Most of the children she works with have not had a good parent, she said.
Being a mom has helped her work with these children. She can get down on their level and help them and understand what they need, she said.
Hawkins has four children of her own, Chelsie, 24, Malachi, 20, Matthew, 18, and Elijah, 13. Being a mother has taught Hawkins understanding a child’s point of view. As a mother, she has learned to love children and she knows that they are innocent. She learned what children should expect in the world as opposed to what has happened to them, Hawkins said.
The national Victims of Crime Act was passed in 1984. The legislation created the Office for Victims of Crime to promote the rights and needs of crime victims.
One of the things this office does is give out grant money to support victim assistance programs in states, according to vwapww.com.
In West Virginia, around 1995, the victim assistance programs were started in the state. It gave counties the chance to write a grant to show a need for victims’ services, Hawkins said.
As a victim advocate, Hawkins writes the grant for Marion County every year.
She is funded 80 percent by the grant and 20 percent by the Marion County Commission through the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, Hawkins said.
In West Virginia, some victim advocates cover more than one county. In some counties the victim advocate works through a private organization like a women’s shelter and not the Prosecutor’s office, Hawkins said.
The Marion County Victim Assistance Program started in 2004. Hawkins has not always worked in this program, she said. Before being a victim advocate, Hawkins worked in the legal system at various places.
She worked for a law firm as a paralegal. Then she worked in the Magistrate Clerk’s Office and then moved to juvenile probation. She left that employment and stayed home with her children for some time. After that she worked part time as an assistant for Patrick Wilson, who was the Marion County Prosecuting Attorney at the time.
While she worked for Wilson, he tried several murder cases. During those cases, Hawkins dealt one-on-one with the families of the murder victims, she said.
“I found my niche,” Hawkins said of working with the victims’ families. “I seem to be able to do that well. I seem to be able to help them, and I really enjoyed that.”
When the position for victim advocate became available, she asked for it and got the job in 2010, she said.
In order to be a victim advocate you need to have a law background, Hawkins said.
“You have to know the system,” she said. “That’s the only way you help people here. You have to be able to answer all those legal questions, all those trial questions they have.”
Working at all the places she has worked has given Hawkins firsthand knowledge of the legal system, she said.
Before she ever worked in the legal system, Hawkins was a Headstart teacher in the early 1990s. In the four years she taught, she developed her passion for children, she said.
What Hawkins likes about her job is helping victims. She likes to help people who have been through trauma, she said.
Hawkins is a survivor of trauma herself. She is also a breast cancer survivor. She had a double mastectomy and has been cancer free for two years, she said.
“That has all trained by mind to be open, to understand people, where they’re coming from,” Hawkins said. “Even if you weren’t a victim of sexual assault, if you’re victim of trauma of any kind, you know how they’re thinking. I get the survivor instinct. You never know how tough you are until you have to be.”
Hawkins was married for 23 years. She got divorced from her husband during her battle with breast cancer.
“That was a very stressful time,” she said. “That helps me do this job. I’m not ashamed of where I come from. I’m not ashamed of what happened to me. I’m not ashamed of how I survived, at all. Have I made some mistakes in life? Absolutely. “
She got married young at 19, and had her first child when she was 22. She stayed in her marriage for 23 years for her children. She and her husband were just not the right fit for each other, Hawkins said.
Through cancer she realized this fact. Not realizing this was holding her back from healing while she had cancer, she said.
After her divorce, she was 41 and was a single mom. Her children and her chemo partner, her sister Barbie Yankie, helped her. Her sister became mom, dad, big sister and protector, Hawkins said.
“She is absolutely my hero,” Hawkins said of her sister.
Hawkins is very close to her great-niece as well. Hawkins’ niece was pregnant while she had cancer and then gave birth. The baby, Hawkins’ great-niece, Arhylah Brumage, was around a lot while she was going through cancer treatment, she said.
“I call her my bestie,” Hawkins said.
Hawkins has a significant other, Fairmont Police Sgt. Sam Murray. She said he is her best friend. He helped her through cancer.
In her job, Hawkins’ helps other people, and that is her favorite part, she said.
“(My favorite part is) showing someone the strength in them to survive—survive and thrive, because it’s possible,” she said.
Email Michelle Dillon at email@example.com.