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Criminology Student Supports Victims of Sexual Assault

Published: April 21, 2016
Maya Burtin ’16, a criminology major, volunteers as a victim advocate with the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay.
Maya Burtin ’16, a criminology major, volunteers as a victim advocate with the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay.
When someone is the victim of sexual assault, 211 is called to connect the person with resources in the community. One of those resources is a victim advocate from the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay.

“They are called to assist the survivor during the forensic exam,” said Maya Burtin ’16, a criminology major from Kansas City, MO. “You’re there to listen and help support them.”

Burtin is a trained victim advocate. Last fall she interned for the Crisis Center and decided on her own to take the extra steps necessary to become an advocate. In order to volunteer, she had to complete 30 hours of online training through the Florida Council Against Sexual Violence where she studied Florida statutes and laws, the rules on mandatory reporting and the role of an advocate.

The first time she was called to assist was emotional.

“I was extremely nervous. I kept thinking, they just went through this traumatic experience — what can I do?” Burtin said.

But she learned by watching the nurses, and she learned through practice. She’s been to upwards of 30 calls since then and has seen the appreciation in the victims’ eyes.

“We live in a rape culture society,” Burtin said, explaining that society tends to blame the victim, questioning what he or she was wearing or doing. She wants to change that. “I love helping people, and I want to make a difference.”

While Burtin still volunteers as a victim advocate, her internship this semester is with the State Attorney’s Office in the Victim Assistance Program. She spends a lot of time in court on cases that run the gamut from domestic violence to homicide. Her role is acting as a liaison between the prosecutor and the family (or victim) to help ensure the family (or victim) understands what is happening.

“Maya is an outstanding student academically and is committed to service to her community,” Kathryn Branch, associate professor and internship coordinator for the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice. “This year my colleagues and I selected her as one of two outstanding criminology students. Her experiences have provided her with the opportunity to make connections, learn about other career options and determine what it is she is interested in pursuing post-graduation.”

When she returns home after commencement, Burtin wants to continue working one-on-one as a victim advocate providing direct services.

“I knew I wanted to work in this field as I’ve always been fascinated by crime,” Burtin said. “Dr. Branch and her work in intimate partner violence influenced me a lot. I’ve looked to her as a role model in the field.”

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