Meet Our Advocates, Robin Butler and Lisa Holcombe

Lisa comes to Heroes Landing with a background as both a survivor and as a social worker. Her dedication to serving people and her community are invaluable and we are so lucky to have her on our team. 

With 28 years of experience as a victim advocate, Robin Butler has played a pivotal role at Heroes Landing since its conception. Her expertise working with adults and parents of teens who’ve been sexually assaulted are a great asset to Heroes Landing. 

Keep reading to learn more about the incredible work our advocates are doing in Muskingum County.

Q&A

QUESTION: What is your background and what drew you to get involved with Heroes Landing?

ROBIN: I’ve been a victim advocate for 28 years. I started with Family Health Services shortly after receiving my Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology from The Ohio State University.  I’ve been a Registered Advocate with the Ohio Advocate Network for about 24 years now. 

I primarily work with adult victims of sexual assault throughout eastern central Ohio, but I’ve also worked with parents and family members of teens who were sexually assaulted. I had worked with a number of parents who were frustrated by their experience with the criminal justice system in Muskingum County, mostly due to communication issues and feeling helpless. 

In addition to communication issues, youth needed to be driven out of the county—45 minutes to an hour each way—for a forensic interview. For many families, this was a hardship both in terms of time and money, even when they had a vehicle reliable enough to make that trip. 

My program had recently added an advocate dedicated to Muskingum County victims, so I reached out to the prosecutor’s office there about developing a Child Advocacy Center in Muskingum County. It took several years of meetings and COVID slowed things down a bit, but thanks to support from the Malouf Foundation, the concept of making child victimization less stressful on families is finally a reality. 

LISA: Growing up, helping people and seeing them smile was always my goal. That passion followed me through life and drove me to the career of social work. My job background is working with children and families at Head Start and working with adults with developmental disabilities through Consumer Support Services. In both positions, my favorite aspect was always advocating for the rights of people I was serving.  

I did not realize Victim Advocacy was even a job title until my current supervisor, Robin Butler, came to speak at one of my college classes. Robin’s presentation and my own history of becoming a survivor led me to apply to my current position. Heroes Landing and programs like it are extremely important to allowing victims to tell their story in the least traumatizing manner. To be a part of that is something I am very proud of. 

QUESTION: Can you explain what advocacy means and how it defines your work?

ROBIN: When I try to explain to people what a victim advocate does, I explain it like being a concierge. It’s my job to know all the local resources and systems because most people don’t know what to do after they’ve been the victim of a crime—they don’t know what to think, what to feel or where to start doing anything to fix things. That’s not knowledge anyone should ever need. It’s my job to be that person they can come to for help navigating the criminal justice system, the medical and mental health system, and the social services system following a crime as they try to put the pieces of their life back together. 

I approach each victim as an individual with unique resources, needs, and concerns, so no two cases are ever the same. Some victims just want the information, some victims need a hand to hold and help with paperwork, phone calls, etc. I try to be there in whatever capacity that individual needs, as much or as little involvement as they need. 

LISA: Advocacy is being someone’s cheerleader. For me, it’s giving them information and resources that can hopefully empower them to begin the healing process of what they’ve been through. It’s making sure they know that they aren’t alone in the process and that there isn’t any right or wrong way and most importantly, it is not their fault. 

QUESTION: Can you explain how a child survivor and their caregivers may interact with you at their Heroes Landing appointment?  

ROBIN: The process has been that a victim advocate checks the family in for their appointment when they arrive. We—either myself or Lisa—greet them, go over their paperwork to make sure everything is in order, and ask them to fill out a medical history form on each child, as well as a family needs assessment. This helps us determine what that family is actually interested in—such as information, referrals, or general assistance—so that we’re not judging what a family needs or doesn’t need based on what we think. We ask. 

While the youth is being interviewed and getting a medical exam, the advocate keeps the caregiver company and reviews the needs assessment, provides information on victim’s rights and resources for victims that may apply to their situation. This can include the victims of crime compensation program or the Safe at Home address confidentiality program or any other needs that the family may have that there are resources to aid them with. 

LISA: Typically, I am the first person they interact with at their appointment. When they come through the doors, I introduce myself and ask them if they have the paperwork and help them through it if needed. During this time, I make small talk, ask them how their day is going, ask them if they’d like any water or if they have any questions. I also make sure I go over who else they will meet at the appointment and what their roles are. 

Once the child is with the Forensic Interviewer, I keep the caregiver or family company and talk with them as much or as little as they’d like. I explain to them that I am there to support them but also make sure they understand they are not obligated to speak with me if they aren’t interested. Each family leaves with a tie string bag with information and my business card in case they have questions later. I complete a Family Needs Assessment with them and offer any pertinent referrals. 

QUESTION: Robin, you’ve been part of Heroes Landing from inception—how’s it going and where do you see it heading?

ROBIN: It’s been great to see this build as a grass roots effort, pulling pieces that were already in the county together to make this happen. Starting slowly makes sense, but there are exciting pieces that will be added as the growth happens. 

Our victim services program has a curriculum for a non-offending caregiver’s support group that we’ve held in the past and will be starting back up again soon for the families who are seen at Heroes Landing. I would love to see it grow into a full one-stop program with mental health resources and support groups for child victims, siblings of child victims and adult family members, as well as interaction with children services and the criminal justice system all under one roof. 

This way, families feel heard, and they can feel like they’re a part of the system and not just a piece of the problem.