BELTON — Jill McAfee gets to know victims on a personal level when they are comfortable enough to open up about their pain. Since her job requires her to sometimes sit through graphic trials, McAfee reminds herself what she’s been doing for nearly 30 years is a calling.
“There’s no way you could do this for 29 years without being where you’re supposed to be,” said McAfee, a victims and witness coordinator for the Bell County District Attorney’s office. “Anytime I get to a point where I think, ‘That’s it, I can’t take any more ugly, I can’t take any more pain,’ God gives me grace.”
As a reporter, I get a glimpse of murder, rape, burglaries, thefts and other injustices every once in a while. But calling an officer for facts surrounding an incident or asking a source to open up about their pain and loss doesn’t compare to the victims coordinators, who juggle multiple heartbreaking cases daily.
When I spoke recently with the district attorney’s two victims coordinators, McAfee and Dana Bettger, it was obvious their hearts are compassionate enough to bear the weight and burden of helping victims carry their pain.
While District Attorney Henry Garza seeks legal justice, he said a larger component of his office’s work also goes toward caring for people during a time when their lives are shattered.
“We deal with people in transition. When a crime happens to somebody, rarely is it the case that they have asked for anybody to commit something against them,” Garza said. “Even if it’s someone who hasn’t lost a loved one from a crime, we deal with some very complex emotions with people.”
Luckily, I haven’t experienced any injustice that requires legal measures. If I do, living in Bell County comforts me knowing the district attorney continues to put his “victims” emotional and mental health first, even after justice is served.
“I don’t think of them as victims,” Garza said. “I think of them as people who have found themselves in a position of either being hurt, shamed, embarrassed, mistreated or abused — who something has been taken from them; from the security and trust they once had.”