CSP honors those who work to advocate for victims throughout Orange County

By Joe Vargas

For every crime, there’s a victim — someone who has been assaulted, robbed or even murdered. With that comes the inevitable emotional trauma and feelings of vulnerability.

A burglary victim comes home to find his or her home ransacked. Suddenly their safe place no longer feels safe anymore.

A domestic violence victim suffers the ongoing emotional issues of not only having been abused, but abuse that has occurred over time.

A sexual assault victim bears the scars for a lifetime and needs support to deal with the psychological trauma that is inevitable.

La Habra PD’s Det. Jason Forgash gives a talk to a full room during a victims’ rights conference at the Embassy Suites in Garden Grove.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

For more than four decades, Community Service Programs (CSP) has been providing services for victims in Orange County.

The 2017 CSP Victims’ Rights’ Conference took place on Wednesday, March 29 at the Embassy Suites in Garden Grove. Its theme was “Strength. Resilience. Justice.” The event hosted more than 200 law enforcement officers, therapists, nonprofit staff, service providers, victims and community members for training and to honor those who work to advocate for victims throughout Orange County.

Each year CSP assists the needs of more than 125,000 victims of crime, witnesses and their families in Orange County, including abused children, struggling families, acting-out adolescents, and those in need of mediation services.

Angelica Carlson, a witness specialist for the Victim Witness Assistance Program, listens to audience members as they voluntarily stand up to say what makes them happy, during a victims’ rights conference at the Embassy Suites in Garden Grove.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

The conference offered educational workshops and an opportunity to recognize some of the professionals and law enforcement officers who have gone above and beyond to meet the needs of crime victims.

Educational offerings included workshops on how trauma impacts a child and individuals who experienced early trauma throughout adulthood and key issues of trust and betrayal between survivors of trauma and advocates, and the intense feelings that can challenge these relationships.

Orange County Supervisor Todd Spitzer spoke and took the time to highlight the dangerous trend of early release as reform. During his keynote he said: “We have never been more challenged in California today with the law enforcement system and what are being called reforms than ever before. Crime is up 25 percent in our counties and yet we are being told there is no evidence there is a link to Prop 109 or 47.”

Audience members listen to La Habra PD’s Det. Jason Forgash during a victims’ rights conference at the Embassy Suites in Garden Grove.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

He went on to say, “victimization is not a forgivable sin.” More criminals on the streets means there will be more victims.

The following service providers were recognized by CSP:

Dr. Susan A. Yeres is a consultant for CSP and the California Crime Victims Assistance Association. Kait McKay Photography

Visionary in Victim Service Award

Dr. Susan Yeres

Dr. Yeres was recognized for her lifelong work in implementing training for Victim Advocates across the state. She is a consultant for the California Crime Victims Assistance Association and CSP. Her work has created the foundation for the training of all victim advocates in the State of California.

Victim Service Awards

La Habra Police Det. Jason Forgash

Det. Forgash was recognized for his work with crime victims and going above and beyond to offer support. In one case, he worked a murder-suicide where two children were in the home. He provided for their needs and even went out of his way to assure support for one of the older children who was to attend a graduation ceremony in two days following the crime. Det. Forgash also helps to train responders and is currently pursuing his doctorate in psychology.

Fullerton College Professors Jodi Balma, Diana Kyle and Kelly Nelson-Wright

This team of college professors was recognized for their leadership in bringing awareness about sexual assault and human trafficking on their campuses. They have organized events, raised funds and recruited volunteers for the Sexual Assault Victim Service Prevention program.

Community Service Programs Director of Victim Assistance Programs Lita Mercado, Placentia resident Kristin Swinford, supervisor of Community Service Programs’ Sexual Assault Victim Services, and Community Service Programs Executive Director Ronnetta Johnson at nonprofit Community Service Programs’ (CSP) 13th annual Victims’ Rights Conference on Wednesday, March 29, 2017 in Garden Grove. The event offered cutting-edge educational tracks and honored local heroes who advocate for victims’ rights throughout Orange County. Swinford received the Betty Delaney Victim Service Award in recognition of her exemplary work, dedication and commitment to crime victims and their families, and to CSP’s mission. Kait McKay Photography

Betty Delany Victim Service Award

Kristin Swinford

Kristin began as a CSP Sexual Assault Victim Services volunteer while a student at Cal State Fullerton. She earned a master’s degree in counseling and was promoted to the position of supervisor for the Rape Crisis Center. As supervisor of CSP’s Sexual Assault Victim Services, she currently oversees all the volunteers, facilitates training, community outreach and writes grants for the center. She does all this and still manages her own client caseload.

Garden Grove resident Rebecca Alvarado. Kait McKay Photography

Distinguished Service Award

Rebecca Alvarado

Alvarado has worked at CSP since 2001. She works behind the scenes in the CSP Victim Compensation Program. She ensures that victims of various crimes receive the appropriate financial support they need. She was recognized for her excellent care and communication in dealing with crime victims.

Valor Award

The valor award is provided to a victim who has demonstrated strength and resilience in the aftermath of crime victimization. As requested, their identity is kept private but the following is a quote:

“Because of the commitment and support from law enforcement, the district attorney’s office and advocates from the family protection unit afforded to victims like me I have been able to go on with life and at the same time life once again has meaning.”

From left, Community Service Programs Executive Director Ronnetta Johnson, Buena Park resident and Cypress Police Department Det. Deanna Hartman, Community Service Programs Director of Victim Assistance Programs Lita Mercado, and Cypress Police Department Chief of Police Rod Cox pose for a photo during nonprofit Community Service Programs’ (CSP) 13th annual Victims’ Rights Conference on Wednesday, March 29, 2017 in Garden Grove. The event offered cutting-edge educational tracks and honored local heroes who advocate for victims’ rights throughout Orange County. Det. Hartman received the Valiant Award, granted to a law enforcement officer or other first responder who has made extraordinary efforts in fostering public trust and engaging communities in support of crime victims. Kait McKay Photography

Valiant Award

Cypress Police Det. Deanna Hartman

Detective Hartman was recognized for her work on a serial child predator case involving numerous victims and multiple jurisdictions. The case was especially difficult since it involved the use of the Internet to prey on underage minors. As a side note, Det. Hartman is married to Westminster K-9 officer Travis Hartman.

Joe is a retired Anaheim Police Department captain. You can reach him at jvargas@behindthebadgeoc.com.

From left, Community Service Programs Victim Assistance Programs Training Coordinator Anna Espinosa, Community Service Programs Executive Director Ronnetta Johnson, San Rafael resident and Visionary in Victim Services Award winner Dr. Susan A. Yeres, a consultant for CSP and the California Crime Victims Assistance Association, and Community Service Programs Director of Victim Assistance Programs Lita Mercado at nonprofit Community Service Programs’ (CSP) 13th annual Victims’ Rights Conference on Wednesday, March 29, 2017 in Garden Grove. Kait McKay Photography

From left, Community Service Programs Executive Director Ronnetta Johnson, Garden Grove resident Rebecca Alvarado, an office specialist at Community Service Programs California Victim Compensation Program, Community Service Programs Director of Victim Assistance Programs Lita Mercado and Community Service Programs California Victim Compensation Program Supervisor Michael Mizukami at nonprofit Community Service Programs’ (CSP) 13th annual Victims’ Rights Conference on Wednesday, March 29, 2017 in Garden Grove. Alvarado was honored with the Distinguished Service Award, which recognizes the extraordinary efforts of a member of CSP Victim Assistance Programs staff whose work is outside of direct advocacy. Kait McKay Photography

From left, Fullerton College Professor Diana Kyle, a Fullerton resident, Fullerton College Professor Kelly Nelson-Wright, a Lake Forest resident, Community Service Programs (CSP) Supervisor of Sexual Assault Prevention Education and Community Outreach Dawn Foor, Fullerton College Professor Jodi Balma, a Brea resident, and Community Service Programs Sexual Assault Victim Services Volunteer Coordinator Christina Beecher pose for a photo during nonprofit Community Service Programs’ (CSP) 13th annual Victims’ Rights Conference on Wednesday, March 29, 2017 in Garden Grove. Kyle, Nelson-Wright and Balma received Victim Service Awards for their dedication and commitment to crime victims and their families. Kait McKay photography