PORT ANGELES — Four advocates of victims of domestic violence have been honored for their work.
Jessica Hernandez, Port Angeles Food Bank executive director; Michele Devlin, Clallam County chief criminal deputy prosecuting attorney; and Sheriff’s Detectives Brian Knutson and Amy Bundy received Gratitude Awards at the county commissioners’ meeting Tuesday.
Becca Korby, Healthy Families of Clallam County executive director, presented framed certificates to the award recipients.
“This is a small tribute to the excellence of their work, but more importantly, it’s a tribute to their hearts,” Korby told commissioners after they proclaimed April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
The Gratitude Award winners were chosen by a multidisciplinary team including Korby and the Clallam County Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Task Force.
“The four awardees that you saw today are people who will not tolerate mediocrity,” Korby said.
Sexual assault is a “horrible, heinous, violent crime” that is on the rise in Clallam County, Korby said.
Healthy Families, which operates the only nationally accredited children’s advocacy center on the North Olympic Peninsula, served 66 children in the past nine months compared to 47 in the previous year.
“What we at Healthy Families of Clallam County and the prosecutor’s office and law enforcement and Child Protective Services and the mental health communities know is that we are seeing more, hearing more, caring for more and working harder than ever,” Korby said.
“And this cannot be done without the help of some very special people.”
Hernandez received the award for helping victims who “lose everything,” including their ability to secure food, shelter and clothing, Korby said.
“Jessica makes sure that the people we work with, and people that we don’t work with who come in to her, have exactly what they need when they need it and their bellies are full,” Korby said.
Knutson was recognized for his ability to interview children during crime investigations in a “skilled, kind and compassionate way,” Korby said.
“Don’t mess with the babies on Brian’s watch,” she added.
“It’s very, very beautiful to watch this man work.”
Bundy was described as “one tough cookie” who goes the extra mile to take care of sexual assault victims and their children.
“I want her in that dark alley when I’m in trouble,” Korby said.
“This is an extraordinary woman [and] soon-to-be mother. She will be an extraordinary mother.”
Clallam County Sheriff Bill Benedict said his office has fostered a “culture of cooperation” with Healthy Families in recent years.
“We are not successful unless we work with our partners,” Benedict told commissioners.
“I’m very proud of Amy and Brian,” he added.
Devlin was credited for her intellect and for having “turned around what’s happened in the prosecutor’s office,” Korby said.
“This is a bright woman,” Korby said.
“She brings a commitment to understanding justice that has been eye-opening for me. I have been able to disagree with her on occasion, and it’s never not been civilized.”
Said Prosecuting Attorney Mark Nichols: “We relish our opportunity to forge positive relations with all stakeholders within the system, Healthy Families included.”
“My job is to support the people who work for me,” Nichols said.
“They make it easy, frankly. They fight the good fight. When we’re dealing with crimes against children, crimes of a sexual nature, we’re really dealing with a truly insidious category of crimes that are often under-reported, they fly under the radar and I think it’s long past due that they take center stage in the court of public opinion and in the courtroom.”
Korby closed by describing a “very broken” court system.
She challenged audience members to “watch what your elected officials are doing.”
“Go to your courtrooms,” Korby said.
“Find out when there are rape cases and child molestation cases and go watch. You watch what’s happening in your courtrooms. It is inconsistent. It is sometimes a shock, and sometimes I just have no clue what someone’s thinking.”
“The manifestations of sexual abuse on child victims carries into adult survivors of child sexual abuse,” Korby added.
“It changes the fabric of people’s lives. If we as a community are allowing a message to be sent that this is dismissed or less important than a burgled home, we have a problem.
“Watch what’s happening in your courts.”
________Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.