NEWS | Dec. 11, 2013

JB Charleston Victim Advocate named Zonta Victim Advocate of the Year

By Airman 1st Class Chacarra Neal

Robin Sevigney, 628th Medical Group domestic abuse victim advocate, was recently named the 2013 Breaking the Silence, Zonta Victim Advocate of the Year for 2013.

According to the Zonta website, more than 31,000 Zonta members in more than 1,200 clubs make up the worldwide organization of executives and professionals, working together to improve the status of women through service and advocacy.

The Zonta Club of Charleston focuses on prevention and awareness of violence against women and girls and created an annual awards program to recognize and honor members of the community whose work makes a difference in the lives of violence victims.

"For me, just being a domestic-abuse victim advocate is one of the biggest honors I could have," said Sevigney. "When victims come to me, they are perhaps in one of the worst situations that they have ever been in during their lifetime; because the person they love and trust the most has just hurt them in some way. For them to have to come in and tell me, a complete stranger, that is the biggest and bravest thing someone can do, and I really honor that."

Sevigney actually started her career on the other side of the fence, working with offenders.

"I use to work with offenders doing counseling in jail and acting as a coordinator for a substance abuse clinic," said Sevigney.

"One day, there was an ad in the paper and my daughter said, 'Mom, you would be really good at being this victim advocate person.' I replied, 'I don't work with victims, I work with offenders.'"

Even though she was hesitant, she applied for the job anyway, and received a call six-months later stating she was hired.

"It was the best thing I ever did," said Sevigney.

Sevigney has been a victim advocate for more than 10 years before leaving Connecticut to come to Charleston. One of her main goals is to educate and advocate for the victims' needs and wants. Once someone comes to visit Sevigney she works with them on becoming empowered.

"I educate them on the dynamics of domestic violence, the power and control, the cycle of abuse and what is a healthy relationship versus an unhealthy relationship," said Sevigney.

Sevigney works withvictims to achieve safety, including a safety plan which could be to leave or stay. She asks questions such as, how do we get past this? What do we do next? How do we get housing and feed the children in the case the abuser is the provider?

"I help them set goals and move beyond where they are now," said Sevigney.

"People think I go above and beyond, but I do my job, which is to support and empower victims of domestic violence," Sevigney said.

"Mrs. Sevigney is simply an outstanding Victim Advocate," said Maj. Jeffrey McClean, 628th Medical Operations Squadron. "Her compassion for victims of domestic violence has made a profound impact in their lives - giving them hope and support."

Sevigney mans a 24-hour a day, seven-days a week hotline phone for victims to call at any time, and that number is (843) 405-5776.

"Robin is requested by name by commanders, first sergeants and base leaders to assist their personnel and family members," said McClean. "She is always available to help those in need. I am grateful to have her on our team."

"There's something about watching the process of someone who was terribly hurt and broken transform from a victim into a survivor," said Sevigney. "That is the most amazing thing to be a part of. You see people transform. They begin to talk, dress, and even carry themselves differently."

"It's been 12 years total and I won't ever do anything else," said Sevigney.