Lori Letterman does not consider herself an influential woman. But the more than 5,000 victims she’s counseled would probably disagree with her.
For nearly 13 years, Letterman has led people through the criminal justice system as a victim advocate for the Webster County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. For her, it’s a mission.
“Daily, I am provided the opportunity to be a part of their healing when they are going through something they never anticipated and did not choose,” Letterman says. “The demonstration of leadership and educating victims can vary from being with a family that has lost a child in a horrific manner or for a woman who continuously returns to a violent relationship that could eventually kill her. The scenarios are too many to write about but are held very close to my heart.”
With a bachelor’s in criminal justice and psychology from Columbia College, Letterman spent three years at Burrell Behavioral Health connecting people with resources and working as an adolescent substance abuse counselor.
As a victim advocate, she educates people on criminal procedures and ensures their rights are upheld. She must be familiar with court motions and depositions as well as witness and trial preparation.
“Each week, month, year when I am part of an individual’s story and see or assist them recover from the acts that made them a victim, the joy I have at that moment is overwhelming,” Letterman says. “I am fortunate for the many opportunities to be a part of so many successes of individuals in my community.”
She became a certified Rape Aggression Defense Instructor in 2013 to teach women and children ways to escape danger.
“The loss of safety is something that is common for a majority of victims,” Letterman says. “I utilize this often with my victims to help them regain a little bit of power back and to educate them.”
In January, she added administrator of the Webster County Drug Court to her responsibilities.
“I get the privilege to play a role in reuniting families and ending the clutch of a serious addiction,” she says. “The participants are generally on the other side of the law but are in dire need of the best services.”
Letterman monitors a budget, organizes training and handles grant applications.
“It is a different role, but it has provided me with the chance to help those broken or crippled by the addiction to controlled substances, restoring individuals as productive members of the community and watching families heal,” she says.
In 2013, Letterman received Missouri Victim Assistance Network’s Judith McDonald-Compere Award in recognition of her significant contributions to victims.
“Assisting victims, coordinating the system of drug court and educating others on self-defense is where my heart is on influencing others,” Letterman says. “While it is my job, I have seen that many victims can make choices that help them to recover and move on, but I am blessed to be that person that helps show them the opportunities to advance beyond the event or events that caused him or her to be a victim.”
The Forward SGF comprehensive plan was born from the input of residents, and one message that came through loud and clear was their desire for connection.