MOUNT GILEAD — Morrow County Commissioners thanked Rose Machesky at their July 8 meeting with a proclamation for her 25 years of service in the county’s Victim Witness program. After less than a week away, Machesky already misses her work as Victim Advocate.
“I loved every minute of my work,” Machesky said. “We are here to help the victim through every facet of the crime against them.”
Sometimes work affected her emotionally and she found herself in tears listening to victims’ stories. As an advocate for victims she went with them and helped them through court hearings, heard them vent about their situation and kept in touch to notify them when the offender was leaving prison.
“We are a voice for a victim in any crime,” Machesky said.
The biggest number of crimes in county court is for domestic violence, which is a misdemeanor. Machesky said she saw the crimes be repeated many times and then go to common pleas court as felonies. She has worked with judges Dean Curl, Howard Hall, Robert Hickson, Tom Elkin, Lee McClelland and Jenifer Burnaugh. She has worked with prosecutors, Hall, Greg Perry and currently Charles Howland.
Felonies they work with can be rape, assault, breaking and entering and crimes of violence and sex offenses with children. A few years back there were five murders in a row that involved her office. At one she was called out at 3 a.m. to go to the murder scene.
A big challenge is to “figure out what victims need and how to connect them with counseling services, Job and Family or Children’s Services and other resources.”
Howland said the Victim Witness program and Rose Machesky “are a crucial component of the criminal justice in Morrow County.”
Howland said the program has been especially important in working with crimes when children are the victim.
“Rose came up with a way to work with the children,” Howland said. She would bring them into the courtroom after court hours and have them see where they would be sitting. She would have children play games with her and him so they wouldn’t be intimidated.
‘Passion for her work’
Howland said many convictions were connected to Rose because she made victims feel comfortable in the courtroom. Howland and Rose would develop a rapport with victims so they would “state the elements of a case, which is a requirement for conviction.”
“She had a passion for her work. She will be missed,” Howland said. “She never left the courtroom while the jury was deliberating. Sometimes she would stay until 11 at night and get the victim food or something to drink.”
Howland said the courtroom can be a very anxious place for victims and Rose would sometimes be their voice in sentencing when they were afraid to speak.
Machesky emphasized that it is important for the victims to have a place apart from the courtroom and offenders while waiting to testify or going to hearings. She fought to keep the Victim Witness office and rooms in Walnut Place and not moved to the courthouse.
Machesky grew up in Pennsylvania and went to Latrobe High School, which she proudly states is also the alma mater of Arnold Palmer. She moved to Morrow County when her husband got work here.
I learned the work in Victim Witness “by just doing it.” She learned about grant opportunities and how to apply for them on her own.
“This program wouldn’t be here without our grants,” Machesky said, adding that some funding comes through the prosecutor’s office.
A big frustration for Machesky is not having a shelter for victims in the county. Victims can go to Turning Point in Marion, but sometimes they have no openings. Knox County can also take only a few.
Her biggest frustration is when a badly beaten person, who has received a protection order, comes back again after returning to the offender.
Success is when victims are able to get away from an offender and make their way apart from abuse and violence. Machesky’s best reward is the many thank you cards and letters she has received or a simple hello around town.
Machesky and Director/Victim Advocate Amanda Abdon recently welcomed the newest Victim Advocate, Randi Wolfe, to the Victim Witness Program.
Abdon has worked with Machesky for the past six years and handles much of the “paper work” for the program.
Wolfe is a U.S. Navy veteran and worked at the Veterans Organization, Columbus Military Veterans Resource Center for several years. She’s very happy to work in the county close to home and not to have the commute to Columbus. Wolfe’s Associate Degree is in Criminal Justice.
In the veterans organization she helped people get jobs, find housing, food and other services. She also networked with employers to find work for veterans. The goal was to look for barriers that kept veterans from adjusting and succeeding and set them up to succeed rather than fail.
Wolfe is looking forward to working as a Victim Advocate and feels her experience working with veterans has prepared her well for her new position.
Abdon said the work of the Victim Witness program and advocates is important. They work with the prosecutor and courts for the victim. Some walk in and need assistance, some want civil protection orders. They work with the courts and attend court with them and follow up; sometimes for many years.
Abdon said that very recently they notified a victim that their offender had been released from prison after 20 years. She said not all victims choose to work closely with them, but they continue to notify victims of proceedings as they continue in court and even after the offender is in prison.