The Union County prosecutor's office recently was awarded a $136,557 grant from the Ohio Attorney General's Office to fund its Victims of Crime Assistance program for 2012.

The Union County prosecutor's office recently was awarded a $136,557 grant from the Ohio Attorney General's Office to fund its Victims of Crime Assistance program for 2012.

Most of the money will be spent on the salaries of three full-time and one part-time positions of crime-survivor advocates, according to prosecutor David Phillips.

The advocates assist survivors of crimes ranging from sexual assault, domestic violence and rape to burglary, menacing and elder abuse, Phillips said.

"We provide advocates to all victims of crime in Union County and in every court, in the municipal, common pleas and juvenile courts," he said.

Advocate Idella Feeley said her team is with a crime survivor "from the start of the proceedings to the finish, every step of the process. If the survivor wants a safety plan (in the case of domestic violence) or is looking to secure restitution, then we'll help them."

The advocates work with adults and children to reduce the trauma involved in having survived a crime and having to endure often intimidating and time-consuming legal proceedings.

"Two of our advocates worked with five children recently on a trial that lasted for a month," Phillips said. "Actually, there were two trials: The first one was two weeks long and the second a month long. And our advocates were by the children's side the entire time."

Funds for the Victims of Crime Assistance program have been provided by the federal government and disbursed by the state since the passage of the Victims of Crime Act in 1984.

A decade later, Ohio amended its constitution to accord victims of criminal offenses "fairness, dignity and respect in the criminal justice process" as well as "reasonable and appropriate notice, information, access and protection and to a meaningful role in the process."

Phillips said "notice, information and access" means survivors of crime "will be notified when a perpetrator has a parole hearing, is going to be moved from one facility to another or is about to be released."

Advocates are prepared for their jobs at the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy.

"What I learned just recently is that you really have to come to the advocate's job with a strong sense of compassion and empathy in place before you start your job. You can learn all the rest," Feeley said.

Phillips' office began administering the VOCA program on Oct. 1, 1999.

In addition to paying for the salaries of the advocates, the VOCA grant allows the prosecutor's office to conduct outreach to survivors of crime.

"The most recent thing we've done is put together a resource guide that we distribute to all survivors of crime," Feeley said.

The guide includes a booklet, "Picking Up the Pieces: Helping Crime Victims Rebuild Their Lives," produced by Attorney General Mike DeWine, as well as the pamphlet "About Crime Victims" and a "Safety Plan for Victims of Domestic Violence," both created by Phillips' office.

For more information, call the VOCA office at (937) 645-4160.