Advocate helps victims of crime in their darkest times


On Thanksgiving afternoon, a woman lay in a hospital bed after being attacked by her husband hours earlier.

He had charged at her with a knife during a dispute and stabbed her multiple times. He then turned the knife on himself.

Huntington Beach police arrested him on suspicion of attempted murder.

While the woman will recover physically, the wounds her husband left that day cut much deeper.

She has children to raise, no job and no health insurance. The aftermath, emotionally and financially, is devastating.

This is where Huntington Beach Victim Advocate Jana Harden steps in.

Harden guides clients through the confusing, and sometimes frustrating, process of being a victim of a violent crime.

“They are going into a world that is scary (and) unknown, and it affects their personal life down to their core,” she said. “I try to be a calming presence during a crisis to help them through a very difficult time.”

Harden walks victims through the legal process, including family court and criminal court proceedings; helps them find financial resources, including paying some medical or counseling bills; explains their rights through the Victims’ Bill of Rights; and even helps connect them with community resources to meet their basic needs.

Whatever the victim needs, Harden helps facilitate.

“I’m not here to walk in someone else’s shoes or to fix their lives,” Harden said. “I’m here to help give them guidance and resources.

“You have to support and empower someone to make positive changes in their own life to help them recover from the devastating effects of crime.”

Harden has worked with the Huntington Beach PD for nearly 17 years and serves on cases including domestic violence, rape, stalking and attempted murder.

“She is just a good resource for our department,” said Officer Jennifer Marlatt, HBPD’s public information officer. “As officers, we are looking for arrests, for somebody to go to jail. She is there solely to help the victims.”

Before coming to Huntington Beach, Harden worked as an advocate at the Orange County Superior Court Central Justice Center and the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.

Harden is employed by CSP, Inc. Victim Assistance Programs and is based at HBPD through grant funding.  She and two part-time Huntington Beach detectives are assigned to domestic violence cases as part of a federal Violence Against Women Act grant administered by the California Office of Emergency Services.

The funding expires in 2014, and Harden said they again are competing for the grant to continue offering services in 2015.

“The good thing about having me here in the police department is you get I can reach out to these victims right away,” she said. “You’re impacting their lives and getting in there to offer confidential assistance as soon as possible.”

Harden always is on call, ready to respond to the needs of a victim when a crime happens.

And although parts of her job mean seeing women broken or beaten, she knows her role in their lives is crucial to their healing.

“It is hard, but I deal with it is by telling myself that it’s my job to be a strong and supportive advocate for that victim,” she said. “I get to help people in their darkest times.”