Refuge House Video Series

Just as I was completing my predoctoral psychology internship at Vanderbilt University, where I had created a unique rotation experience, as a Victim Advocate in the Metro Police Department, in Nashville, I found a job opportunity in Tallahassee, Florida, to develop, from scratch, a Victim Witness Assistance Unit in the State Attorney's Office, 2nd Judicial Circuit.  To my delight, I was hired, after the State Attorney's Chief Investigator flew to Nashville to interview me.  What followed (1977-1979)  became the cornerstone of my career.  
 
Given a desk phone and a bulky phone book, on September 1, 1977,  I began my job by calling all of the social services in the community and building a referral system for all of the plaintiffs and their families who would be coming to my door for guidance on how to navigate the Criminal Justice System. I also called both the Leon County Sheriff's Office and the Tallahassee Police Department to schedule times at which I could meet with the officers, to talk to them about the services that I would be providing victims and witnesses of violent crimes, and to let them know that I would be available, on a 24-7 basis, to come to crime scenes, as well as to the hospital, to assist the officers in talking with the crime victims.  In addition, I conducted stress management sessions with the officers to help them more effectively manage the stresses in their own lives and did training with the officers on how they could professionally conduct victim interviews.  As I became more familiar with the community and well known among law enforcement and the social service agencies, I realized that a shelter for the survivors of domestic violence was very much needed in the community.  
 
In November 1977, I met with three other women in Tallahassee to plan to set up such a shelter. This shelter, which we named Refuge House, opened in early 1978 and I was elected as the first Board President.  I also began to network with the Directors of Victim-Witness Assistance Units throughout the state and created a statewide Victim-Witness Directors' Network, of which I was the first Chair.  When Ted Bundy murdered two young women and assaulted a third and fourth woman at the Chi Omega sorority house on the Florida State University campus and assaulted a fifth woman at her off-campus apartment in Tallahassee, on January 15th, 1978, I became integrally involved with the case, helping both law enforcement and the chief prosecuting attorney for the state.  To disseminate information about the work that we were doing in the State Attorney's Office, I spoke throughout the state in many forums, including meetings of the Kiwanis Club and Altrusa Club, the state Medical Examiners' Association and the Florida Prosecuting Attorneys' Association.  I also spoke regularly to the public, on daily news magazine television shows and in other media outlets, explaining the importance of the role of the crime victim and witness in the Criminal Justice System and the psychological needs of the traumatized crime victim and witnesses to violent crimes, including those caught in the terrifying web of domestic violence.
In April 2021, as I reviewed my career during my campaign for APA President-elect, I became excited about the prospect of talking with the immediate past Executive Director, the current Executive Director of Refuge House, and an Assistant Director/Principal Staff of Refuge House; the current 2nd Judicial Circuit State Attorney; and a counselor/advocate in the Victim-Witness Assistance Unit in the 2nd Judicial Circuit State Attorney's Office, to review the history of these entities and to explore the current work that is being done at Refuge House and in the State Attorney's Office to support the courageous violent crime victims and witnesses who make a decision to testify before the court.
 
The interview clips that we are posting are excerpts from this fascinating conversation.

Championing the Rights of Survivors of Domestic Violence, Sex Trafficking, Sexual Assault: A Community Works Together in Effective Advocacy

In order of appearance on screen

Top row, left to right

 

Beth N. Rom-Rymer, Ph.D.

Founding Director, Victim Witness Assistance Unit, 2nd Judicial Circuit, Tallahassee, Florida (1977-1979)

Co-Founder, First Director, Board of Directors, Refuge House (1978-1979)

 

Shan Pompey, RCSWI, MSW

Assistant Director, Refuge House (2005-Present) 

 

Meg Baldwin, JD

Former Executive Director, Refuge House (2005-2020)

 

Bottom row, left to right

 

Lauren Tomberlin

Victim Advocate, Victim Witness Assistance Unit, 2nd Judicial Circuit, Florida (2003 - Present)

 

Jack Campbell

State Attorney, 2nd Judicial Circuit, Florida (2017- Present) 

 

Emily Mitchem

Executive Director, Refuge House (2020-Present) 

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A brief first-hand description of Dr. Beth Rom-Rymer’s work on the Ted Bundy case.

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A conversation about how Dr. Rom-Rymer began the Victim-Witness Unit in the Stare Attorney’s Office, with the current State Attorney, Jack Campbell, talking about his perspective, more than 40 years after Dr. Rom-Rymer had opened the Unit.

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Meg Baldwin, JD, the immediate past Executive Director of Refuge House,  in conversation with Dr. Rom-Rymer about the importance that psychological research on trauma has on the practice of trauma work with individuals who have been deeply scarred by egregious domestic violence.

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Meg, Jack, and Beth discuss the overwhelming number of sex abuse/sex trafficking cases with which Refuge House works, today.  There is shared astonishment that, even in the relatively small community of Tallahassee, there are very serious and very dramatic cases of sexual abuse, that, if it weren’t for organizations like Refuge House and the State’Attorney’s Victim Witness Assistance Unit, the crime victims’ voices would not be heard and the victims, themselves, would not have access to treatment services.

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Shan Pompey, RCSWI, MSW, Assistant Director of Refuge House, talks with Meg and Beth about her expertise as a counselor and advocate for survivors of domestic violence.

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Shan, Meg, and Beth talk about the importance of Refuge House staff’s longevity at Refuge House because clients, while no longer living at Refuge House, continue to rely on trusted Refuge House staff for support throughout the year, and particularly during the holiday season.

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Lauren Tomberlin, Victim Advocate for the Victim Witness Assistance Unit, talks about her important and far-reaching work in the rural northern Florida counties of Gadsden and Liberty.

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Emily Mitchem, the current Refuge House Executive Director, talks about the focus of her work and her vision for her tenure at Refuge House.

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The survivors are the most important part of the victim advocacy system, Meg Baldwin emphasizes.  With great courage and boldness, they push through their experiences to give voice to their trauma so that others can be helped to leave their trauma behind. Dr. Rom-Rymer affirms that all of those who work in the victim witness advocacy system have “heart” and an enduring commitment to make positive changes in the lives of those who have been victimized.

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