Understanding the role of Victim Advocates

ROCKFORD (WIFR) -- In what can be one of the worst times in a person’s life Victim Service Providers come in and give hope, healing, and a shoulder to cry on. We’re getting an inside look at this difficult job through the eyes of a woman who's been doing it for nearly two decades and is now ready to retire.

"It's just knowing how to hold somebody, knowing how to let somebody have their space, to be stern when you need to be," Barb Stone, a Victim Service Provider for Winnebago County, said.

Stone has walked through courtroom doors for the last 18 years, but she's not arguing a case in front of a judge. As a Victim Service Provider she's bringing comfort to those who need it most.

Jennifer Mayborne's father Michael, a Winnebago County Deputy, was killed in the line of duty in the 1970's. For more than a decade Stone went to every parole hearing for Mayborne's killer.

"She knows when to let me get it out of my system, she knows when to make me laugh and make it comical, and she knows when to just let me go, that's just how it has to be," Mayborne said.

Winnebago County has 10 victim advocates who walk others through the court process while also helping prosecutors.

"They're a tremendous help to those in the office. Assistant State's Attorneys rely on the victim service providers to do so much work, witness notification as just as an example, a very valuable part of the preparation process," Winnebago County State’s Attorney Joe Brucato, said.

Stone and other advocates aren't just in the courtroom. Twelve years ago she founded the Homicide Survivors Support Group. Each April the members host the homicide memorial. She calls those her most amazing accomplishments.

Stone has also encouraged others to give back.

"She pointed us in a direction to pull some of our energy and pull some of our grief into speaking to DUI offenders," Kelly Krenzer, a Victim Advocate for Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists, said.

After losing her son Christopher to a drunk driver Krenzer became an advocate for AAIM. She says she doesn't know where she would be without Stone.

"There are no words as victims we can express to her for all that she's given to us," Krenzer said.

"It has touched my life. I feel blessed to have been able to have helped the victims of this community," Stone said, looking back on her 18 year career. She’s retiring on Friday.