Advocates help local crime victims

Wallowa County victims' advocates Cheryl Coughlan and Dody Yaccarino stand under a poster publicizing National Crime Victims' Rights Week. Photo by Elane Dickenson

While they have traveled different life paths, Wallowa County's two Crime Victims' Advocates share a desire to help victims of crime to cope with the aftermath of their traumatic experience through the Wallowa County District Attorney's Victim Assistance Program.

Working as a multi-agency advocate is Cheryl Coughlan, a relative newcomer to the county, who stepped into Mandy Decker's shoes when she moved across the hall to the county's Youth Services Department.

Dody Yaccarino, who moved here in 1975, works as a victim's advocate in the half-time position formerly occupied by Coughlan in the district attorney's office.

Both women are trying to draw the public's attention to the services they provide as part of National Crime Victims' Rights Week, April 6-12. A table full of information about their programs, crime statistics and related material is set up on the first floor of the Wallowa County Courthouse this week.

What can the Crime Victims' Advocate do for someone who has been burglarized, brutalized or been on the victim's end of some kind of crime?

In general, the advocate keeps victims informed about important court procedures and keep them updated on their cases; assists with restitution and return of property; advises victims of important rights; provides referrals to outside agencies; assists with crime victim compensation applications; offers general assistance to crime victims; and provides public education programs.

In general, the advocate provides the arm a victim can lean on through the court process and aftermath of the crime, and in general offers a lot of moral support for a situation that is often very tramatic..

There are some things the victim's advocate cannot do in their position, including provide professional counseling, provide direct financial assistance or give legal advice.

In her role as a multi-agency advocate, Cheryl Coughlan works closely with a number of agencies, including law enforcement, youth services department, Safe Harbors and state social service offices.

She moved here from a completely different world - Brooklyn, N.Y., where she lived for 12 years. There she met her husband, Brian Coughlan, who was raised in Joseph. The couple moved back to Wallowa County, where he co-owns Eastern Oregon Landscaping with Terry Bates.

Coughlan's background includes working at the Brooklyn Museum of Arts as the photo archivist, working at other jobs in real estate and photo sales, and doing counseling work in a medical office.

She started in her current career path when she was hired last April as the part-time crime victims' advocate in the DA's office, and then stepped into the multi-agency position this January.

Dody Yaccarino has worked at many different jobs in the past 27-plus years. "You have to if you want to live in Wallowa County," she notes.

She worked for the U.S. Forest Service for about 10 years, and more recently was the coordinator for the Lifespan Respite Program of Wallowa County. "Lifespan is a referral program with many of the service providers in the county, and gave me background helpful to the crime victims' assistance program," she said.

Yaccarino is also a long-time county volunteer, serving as land products superintendent at the Wallowa County Fair for many years and working with the volunteer medical transportation program since 1998. Yaccarino has twice been Homemaker of the Fair (in 1987 and 1993) and graduated with the Wallowa County Leadership Group in 2000.

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