Trust. It’s a simple human concept. Believing in the integrity, strength, and ability of another person with confidence. As young children, we learn that concept and we are taught we can put our trust in adults who care for us. When trust is broken, it is one of the hardest feelings to repair. For those who are victims of criminal sexual conduct (CSC), trust is the one of the things they feel they may never get back.
Giving victims of criminal sexual conduct a sense of trust in the criminal justice system is part of what inspires Angela Borders to do her job. Borders is the senior trial attorney in the Lenawee County Prosecutors Office who is responsible for prosecuting all criminal sexual conduct offenders in the County.
“My job is to make [the victims] as whole as I can again,” said Borders. “It isn’t just about getting convictions; it’s to give the victims a sense of justice and to figure out what justice means to them. I have to make sure their definition of justice has been served by what I do.”
The way in which Lenawee County prosecutes criminal sexual conduct cases is a victim-based system, rather than a traditional offender-based system. Borders is the designated prosecutor who handles the CSC cases in Lenawee County. If she were unable to dedicate the time and resources needed to help these victims, she feels the outcomes of these cases would be greatly affected.
“I have relationships with the victims,” said Borders. “For example, when my client won homecoming queen, I stood in for her mom. I go way past making the connection other prosecutors in other counties do. It’s because I have the time to make those connections and truly understand the victims and what they want that I am able to do this job.”
The Victim’s Rights Unit within the prosecutor’s office helps to coordinate counseling services, and they are available to victims seven days per week. Borders works closely with this unit to ensure the CSC victims are receiving the services they need and that they are educated on the process of criminal justice.
“When a victim comes in initially, the first thing I do is explain the criminal justice process because many of them have never been involved in the system before,” said Borders. “We meet multiple times to build a relationship. By the time we’re halfway in, they understand what my role is.
“By the time the case is to go to trial, the victims are making the decisions at a much greater level than I am,” continued Borders. “At that point, I am developing a resolution that gives them that sense of justice.”
Many times, when a case ends in a plea agreement, it is because proceeding to trial would require the victim to testify. Often there is not enough physical evidence for a case to proceed without that victim’s testimony. The majority of the time, the victims are children. It will be more traumatic for them to testify than for a plea agreement to be reached.
“I have sat across from the victim for eight months, and I know everything about their lives,” said Borders. “The victim is my main concern, and I know that this is the best justice that can be served. I know that because they now have a counselor they can contact 24 hours per day. They now have the support of their family because they are participating in family counseling services. And, they know the offender cannot touch them anymore. They are safe.”
Taking this victim-based approach to CSC cases in Lenawee County through the Victims’ Rights Unit and through special prosecutors like Angela Borders is an investment in justice. Justice for the victims of these inconceivable crimes. That is why Lenawee County will continue to invest in programs and services that help victims of crime.