Adriana Ochoa: Victim advocate at the Latin American Community Center
Adriana Ochoa knows what it feels like to be the victim of a crime.
When she was 18 years old, heavily armed members of the Venezuelan National Guard boarded the bus she and her mom were traveling on to demand cash and food.
“I felt extremely scared,” says the 23-year-old. “When a person is victimized, one of the most common reactions is a feeling of loss of control and helplessness.”
Today, Ochoa, who learned English at the age of 16 when she moved to the U.S., works as a victim advocate at the Latin American Community Center in Wilmington. The non-profit offers free bilingual services to victims of crimes.
The New Castle resident, who has a degree in Criminal Justice from Wilmington University, has counseled more than 50 people ages 7-65 since she started working at the LACC more than a year ago.
Her cases include victims of telephone fraud, robbery, child and elderly abuse, and wage exploitation. Her services include helping victims fill out paperwork, referrals, and accompanying victims to court. At workshops and community outreach events, she educates the public about their legal rights, what to do after reporting a crime, and the importance of reporting a crime within 72 hours to be eligible to receive compensation.
“Compensation may cover medical costs associated with the crime, mental health counseling, funeral costs, (etc.),” says Ochoa. Fear of police and the current immigration climate stop some victims from speaking up, she says.
Juana Castaneda says that if she had not reached out to Ochoa, her 14-year-old daughter may not be alive today. “It’s not easy finding someone that speaks your language, that you can open up to and trust,” says the Wilmington resident. “For a year, I felt lost not knowing how to help my daughter. Adriana helped us find a psychologist.”
Ochoa says arming victims with knowledge and resources helps them regain a sense of empowerment and control.
Last year, Ochoa volunteered in Honduras and in 2016 in Haiti through her church, Maranatha Life Changing Church, in Dover. She assisted doctors who care for the poor. While in college, she volunteered at the Court of Chancery, in Dover, for the Guardianship Monitoring Program. She reported the needs of people placed under guardianship.
“She has a lot of compassion,” says Deputy Orlando Rodriguez, New Castle County Clerk of the Peace. “Her ability to relate to victims (is) unparalleled. She is the voice of victims in the community (and) is willing to go above and beyond.”
The LACC partners with such agencies as the Community Legal Aid Society and the Attorney General’s office to assist crime victims.
Before joining the LACC, Ochoa worked for the Delaware Criminal Justice Information System, gathering and helping to analyze crime statistics, and in 2017 she worked for the Delaware State Police, helping Latinos with the Delaware Privilege Card process.
Ochoa plans to pursue a law degree in the near future.
Her advice to her clients: “Don’t let fear stop you from getting the help you need. Take advantage of someone that can help you.”
For more information, call 655-7338 ext. 7725, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.