Typically, the 8th floor of the courthouse is strictly off-limits to the media, but, just this once, News on 6 was given access inside those doors to the Victim Witness Center.
The Tulsa County District Attorney’s Office uses the space to prepare crime victims for trial.
“You find your heroes in the courtroom,” said District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler.
In the Victim Witness Center, advocates empower victims to do just that.
The center’s director, Heather Prater, says “there is no blueprint for a victim, but everyone is treated the same, no matter what, and we take pride in that.”
Kunzweiler says, “you can’t imagine the importance of establishing this center as a safe place.”
Not only does the district attorney use the space to interview victims to prepare for trial, but Prater and her advocates provide resources, including food, clothes, and a place to get away from the hustle and bustle of the courthouse.
“We’re going to tell them the good, the bad, and the ugly,” stated Prater. “A lot of our day is spent giving bad news.”
“This is one service we can do to help out people who didn’t deserve what happened to them,” explained Kunzweiler.
Maybe most importantly, Prater says they’re there to be the calm in the storm for victims and family members whose lives are forever changing.
“They’re doing remarkable work,” said Kunzweiler.
Kunzweiler says victims don’t always want to speak out, they’re sometimes risking their own lives by coming forward. He says that’s why the work of the advocates is so essential to ensuring justice is served.
“To say that we can turn it off when you go home, that’s just not truthful. It does, it affects you,” declared Kunzweiler.
And Prater says “there’s not a day that goes by that I’m not grateful to get to do this work.”