Victim Assistance Coordinator (VAC) Interview: Courtney Chase, Archdiocese of Washington
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Do you have a family? Where did you go to school?
I am a Washingtonian – born and raised in Washington DC. I attended Georgetown University for undergraduate. I worked and went to night school at Marymount University for my MBA and then went to Catholic University for my MSW. I am a licensed clinical social worker. I have been married for almost 20 years and have a 12 year old son (who is hysterical).
How long have you been a Victim Assistance Coordinator? What drew you to this work?
I have been at the Archdiocese of Washington for over 6 years. I was asked to apply for the position when the person who had the position left and they were looking for a person with a clinical background. Prior to that, I worked as an assessment social worker for more than seven years for Montgomery County Child Welfare Services in its child sexual abuse and fatalities division. I believe having an LCSW-C is an important background to have when working with individuals suffering from trauma. I felt it would be a wonderful opportunity to be able to give back to a community that has been an important part of my life.
What personal quality do you think helps you to be a good Victim Assistance Coordinator?
I think it is critical to be able to listen and take on the pain that survivors are releasing when they share their story. I hear so many times from victims/survivors that they have been told to stay quiet or that they were not telling the truth and it is liberating when they feel that their voices/stories are being heard. I feel it is a privilege when a victim/survivor feels comfortable sharing his/her history with me – it illustrates the journey is heal can begin.
Where do you find support for this work, both in and out of the office?
I feel very lucky to have colleagues who are supportive and honest. I have great family and friends that offer peace. I am a big believer in exercise and looking for small joy in every day.
Why have you been called “aggressive and assertive” in your job?
Surprisingly, there are still people in this Catholic world that do not make victims/survivors a priority. They get angry when pushed by advocates for those who need assistance. The VAC’s role is to support people who come forward and help provide the most relevant resources in order for them to heal. I would not be doing my job if people who come forward did not get the appropriate support to help them move forward in their healing journey.
About the work
Have you seen any changes of attitudes in the Church towards abuse survivors during your time working as a Victim Assistance Coordinator?
I have felt a shift. The ADW, through its child protection & safe environment policy and Advisory Board, have made survivors/victims a priority. After the McCarrick ordeal, our office expanded its safe net to include victims of sexual misconduct and boundary violations. Through the years – the subject of sex abuse and misconduct has moved front and center. That is so important to healing and building trust.
What is something that you think people don’t know about the Church’s efforts in victim assistance?
People should know that our office has an expanded scope of support. Our office addresses not on abuse but misconduct and abuse of power as well. We work to support victims/survivors of clergy abuse and their families while educating the community on how to recognize signs and symptoms of abusive behaviors. Additionally, we work to help report all abuse, neglect, and sexual misconduct. Our office supports schools and parishes when reports of abuse regardless of whoever is the offender. The ADW, under leadership of Cardinal Gregory, works to help educate people on how to identify and report abuse so they can contribute to the safety and well-being of our community.