Every month, we'll interview one of the people who makes AVP so special. This time, we sent our questions to Kendra van de Water, a recent addition to the AVP team, who is in charge of an exciting new project in our West Philadelphia offices:
What is your job title and how would you describe what you do here?
I'm the new Director of the Intra-Familial Homicide Initiative, which is very new work being done in the country around specific types of homicides. Focusing on the big picture, I would describe what I do as forming partnerships and collaborating with agencies in Philadelphia to create emerging best practices for how co-victims of intra-familial homicides (family members who murder family members) receive services in Philadelphia, and how to improve when and how those services are delivered. In other words, I oversee a project that's really an opportunity to build a foundation that will ultimately help inform the work of other states when it comes to assisting co-victims of intra-familial homicides. I look at my position as a macro level, systems approach to create an enhanced response to complex homicides.
Why did you decide to get into victim services?
Due to my personal experiences with the criminal justice system both as a teen and adult, my entire background and scope of work has always been in social justice. Whether it be law enforcement oversight, advocacy, or policy and practice implementation, I have always worked to improve the lives of those who need it most, while doing transformative work that doesn't exist in many other places across the country. This position allows me to continue to do that. Making sure those who have been and continue to be victimized by people and systems are not silenced, is vital to my ultimate goal of breaking the cycle of racism and oppression, and working towards true justice and healing.
What part of your job means the most to you?
The parts of my job that mean the most to me are being authentic and proactive in this work, making sure we are truly working towards the betterment of the people we serve, and being able to sustain our efforts through developing effective processes and accountability across the board. Although not always immediate, making a long term impact that really addresses the root causes of issues is extremely important to me. This field is very reactive to complex problems, so approaching how we do this work with a holistic, public health lens matters.
Is there anything you'd like to focus more of your effort toward as further define your role here?
In general, there is a major divide in our justice system; between those who provide services to people who have been victims of crimes and those who provide services to people who commit crimes. Over time, I'm hoping to be part of a culture shift around this divide to help work towards more of a restorative justice approach and re-define what we consider justice to be. Additionally, I would like to focus my efforts on creating true diversity in how we as an agency provide services, and use my current role to eventually create a national response to complex homicides with Philadelphia being the model.