A Closer Look with Rebekah Morlan
Rebekah Morlan is a victim advocate at the Gulf Coast Children's Advocacy Center in Panama City, Florida. She received her Bachelors in Human Services from Southeastern University. As an advocate, she wants to bring hope to the families she gets to work with and also wants to continue to bring awareness regarding child abuse and the need for education and prevention.
As someone who works with survivors, how do you believe Marsy’s Law helps current victims and survivors of crime?
Marsy’s Law gives victims the right to be a part of the process. When a family comes into our agency they are all coming in with different stories from different backgrounds. Even though every situation may look different, there is still a victim that never chose to be in the situation that they are in. Marsy’s Law helps victims have a voice and protects them throughout the judicial process. As an advocate, I am able to walk closely with the victim from the beginning and keep them informed on what to expect. This law being in place gives the family an opportunity to be informed on all court events and information that involves the case.
In discussing the criminal justice system with victims and survivors, what have you found to be common themes/frustrations for those navigating the system?
As an advocate working through a pandemic, the judicial process has looked different in so many ways so it has been difficult to explain things to the family the way we normally would. The most difficult part is that the families cannot attend court in person and it has made them feel that they are not included. Thankfully, we work closely with the State Attorney’s office to help bring all the pieces together and make things as normal as possible. Another obstacle that has been brought to my attention is the criminal information can be intimidating or overwhelming and so there are concerns that the family may miss something or be left out of a decision.
Which component of Marsy’s Law for Florida stands out most to you and why?
I am very appreciative that we in Florida have Marsy's Law in place. The component that stands out to me the most is the fact that one of the main purposes of the law is to give the victim and family the same rights that the accused receives. Whenever I meet with a family I always think about the fact that they had never planned on being in this situation and I could not imagine if they had to walk through it alone, unprotected and uninformed. The majority of the time, the accused has had the upper hand for so long over the victim. Without Marsy’s Law in place, the accused would continue to have the upper hand while the family is walking through one of the hardest times of their lives. I believe Marsy’s Law brings comfort throughout the process and allows the victim to know their voice matters and that they are not alone.
As you've worked to spread awareness about Marsy's Law in Florida, what has been the response from those you work with and in your community?
I have been honored to be a part of bringing awareness to Marsy’s Law. Marsy’s Law has given us the opportunity to open up conversations with individuals outside of the social work profession who may not know what the law entails and its benefits for the victims. Being able to advocate for Marsy’s Law has led to others wanting to learn and educate other individuals they come in contact with. I have had people reach out to me that are not in the field of victim advocacy and express their thoughts on why they feel this law is important. Most importantly, I have been able to explain to my clients that they have people behind them, fighting for and with them through possibly the hardest journey they may ever go through. Marsy’s Law gives them the reassurance that something is in place just for them.