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Dr. Latz Guides Future Victim Advocates

Dr. Kathy Latz has been on the frontline of victim services at women's shelters and rape crisis centers.

At the Montgomery County Women’s Center, Dr. Kathy Latz was involved in all facets of service delivery for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.

In her tenure as an advocate/administrator, she served on the agency’s speaker’s bureau and cultivated collegial relationships with other non-profits. She trained staff, volunteers, board members, students, educators, and practitioners. She also testified as an expert witness in criminal trials.

At both the agency’s emergency shelter and its two-year transitional housing program, she provided case management assistance to women who were formerly battered. She helped them with Crime Victims’ Compensation (CVC) applications, VINE (Victim Information and Notification Every day) registration, and enrollment in the Address Confidentiality Program (ACP). She accompanied clients to court, provided them with resume-writing assistance, and helped them to identify housing and employment leads.

Dr. Latz provided medical accompaniment to sexual assault victims receiving forensic exams and facilitated educational support groups at the shelter. Some of her clients were immigrant victims, seeking either U-Visa or VAWA (Violence Against Women Act) relief. She connected them with immigration attorneys, secured translators for their case management sessions, and provided them with advocacy tailored to their specialized needs.

Later as a manager, she expanded the programs to include more holistic services (ex. yoga, a book club, and children’s safety planning, etc.) by capitalizing on the various skillsets of her staff.

Dr. Latz is bringing her wealth of experience to the new Victim Services Management program, which is scheduled to make its debut in the College this fall. As a Clinical Assistant Professor, Dr. Latz will teach courses combining cutting-edge research with the more practical aspects of service delivery.

“I loved working with clients. Although emotionally-taxing at times, it was also rewarding when they were able to achieve a violence-free lifestyle. I am equally passionate about teaching and the prospect of mentoring future advocates,” said Dr. Latz.

Formerly a victim of domestic violence at the hands of an ex-boyfriend, Dr. Latz reflects on her own experience, which predated the passage of stalking laws. “He left blood-stained notes in my mailbox. He also called me and threatened to kill me and cut my face. My father pleaded with police to arrest him but was told that they couldn’t intervene unless he stabbed me. I didn’t have an advocate at the time and I was afraid.

"I realized I was being ‘stalked’ while reading about a woman in a neighboring town. It was tragic; her husband killed her after a judge reduced his bond. Her little boy, Max, was only two at the time of her murder.”

Dr. Latz dedicated her doctoral dissertation to the woman’s memory.

She also credits two well-known advocates with influencing the trajectory of her career: Margaret Byrne, Attorney and Director of the Illinois Clemency Project for Battered Women and the late Nancy Harrington, who built the Montgomery County Women’s Center from the ground up.

“Harrington worked tirelessly to improve services for victims in the heyday of the Battered Women’s Movement. The impact of her contributions is still being felt,” said Dr. Latz.

Byrne, on the other hand, provided supervision to Dr. Latz during an internship in the 1990s and taught her to view family violence as a violation of one’s human rights. Byrne’s advocacy through the Clemency Project led to the release of several abuse victims who were wrongfully imprisoned for acting in self-defense.

Dr. Latz is passionate about advocacy work and has a love and respect for the clients she served. Implementing wrap-around services at the shelter was a concept she borrowed from Chicago, Illinois. While completing her doctoral degree, she was employed as a research assistant on an NIJ-sponsored court services evaluation, which investigated the efficacy of the Target Abuser Call (TAC). A multidisciplinary team, TAC was comprised of Assistant State’s Attorneys and various Chicagoland service providers to afford more comprehensive assistance to victims in court (ex. shelter referrals and consultation on divorce and custody matters, etc.). “Much like the TAC team, my goal was to provide more comprehensive programming,” said Dr. Latz.

As she was promoted through the ranks at the shelter, Dr. Latz acquired more administrative skills. But, she never forgot her roots. “I always kept my hand in direct services. That’s where my heart was,” she said.

Dr. Latz continues to marvel at the successes of the clients she encountered while working in the field. Some are self-sufficient, with college degrees, and are really thriving. “Despite their own, remarkable strengths, they are often the first to acknowledge the frontline advocates who helped them achieve their potential,” she said.

The significance of advocacy work is reiterated throughout Dr. Latz’s lectures and her Victim Services Management curriculum is no exception. This master’s-level degree program is available to students exclusively online and is designed for individuals both with and without experience. Program graduates will be better prepared to work in all areas of the discipline, including direct services provision, policy work, and organizational management.

In addition to critically examining the history of the Victims’ Rights Movement, the coursework will explore victimization trends, current controversies in the field, best practices, and laws governing victim service delivery. Students will experiment with writing grants and designing their own, mock programs -- complete with policies, rules, and amenities, or service components. Introductory coursework will familiarize students with the range of resources available to victims, while upper division classes will focus on management and specialty electives (ex. human trafficking, and advanced topics in family violence, etc.).

“Relatively few universities are currently offering advanced coursework in this area. Being recognized as one of the few is really exciting,” said Dr. Latz.

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