~ AG Herring presented awards to six honorees at the 3rd annual Unsung Heroes Awards ceremony this afternoon ~

RICHMOND (April 11, 2019) – This afternoon, Attorney General Mark R. Herring commemorated National Crime Victims’ Rights Week by honoring six victims’ advocates at the third annual Unsung Heroes Awards ceremony in Richmond. The Unsung Heroes Awards honor Virginians who have dedicated themselves to serving victims and fighting for their rights.

“Today, we are honoring the men and women who have dedicated their time and efforts to victims’ services, but who too often go un-thanked, with theUnsung Heroes Award,” said Attorney General Herring. “These kind, generous Virginians have put in countless hours to make sure that victims know they have someone to turn to when they may feel lost or alone. Each person honored today has provided unmeasurable comfort and support to victims or survivors during their darkest time. It is my honor to recognize these incredible men and women today and thank them for their crucial work.”

Below are the recipients of this year’s Unsung Heroes Awards:

Lalita Brim-Poindexter, Attorney, Poindexter Law LLC

Lalita Brim-Poindexter is the attorney/owner of Poindexter Law, LLC in Southwest Virginia. She has been in the legal field for 15 years and began her career as an Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney in Roanoke City, where she prosecuted crimes against children and victims of domestic violence.  Now, she devotes her work to assisting victims with protective orders and in child custody disputes. She is also a certified Guardian ad litem for children. Over the past year, she has volunteered for TAP (Total Action for Progress), providing legal consultations and pro bono services. She has also partnered with TAP and the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance as part of their Project for the Empowerment of Survivors (PES) to ensure that victims in the Roanoke Valley obtain adequate and affordable representation for civil and family law cases when they need it. 

Steve W. Edwards, Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney for Isle of Wight County

Steve Edwards is Deputy Commonwealth Attorney for Isle of Wight County. He has prosecuted crimes against children and sexual assault cases for over 20 years. Along with his daughter, Ashley, he has conducted training programs and demonstrations using horses to teach effective means of communication with severely traumatized witnesses and victims. These sessions are available to law enforcement, prosecutors, social workers, victim witness advocates, guidance counselors and all others whose occupation brings them into contact with people who have suffered brutal trauma. He often brings victims out to his farm to interact with the horses as part of trial preparation. As Executive Director of Gwaltney Frontier Farm, a non-profit equine breed conservation program, he has conducted free weekly sessions working with horses for inpatient PTSD survivors from the Hampton Veterans Hospital.

Anita Gonzalez, Founder, Peninsula Families United Together

Originally from Brooklyn, New York, Anita relocated to Virginia in 2014 with her family to escape crime and gangs, only to have her 17-year-old son, Jermell Hayes, shot and killed in 2016. Following this tragedy, Anita saw opportunity and wanted to work to promote healing and curb the violence by turning towards advocacy and connecting with the Catalyst Effect. She talked with leaders involved with the Pastors’ Dialogue on Racism, Poverty and Violence, where she had served on a panel with other mothers of murdered children, and launched “Peninsula Families United Together”, a support group of mothers that meets monthly to help participants work through trauma, forgiveness, accountability and restorative justice. The group works to provide a network for families, responding quickly to offer support during times of tragedy and has met with local law enforcement, prosecutors, faith leaders, funeral homes and human service providers. They are also engaged in outreach and speaking engagements throughout the community to help curb violence and to reach out to others.

Carly Mee, Senior Staff Attorney, SurvJustice

Carly Mee is an attorney who provides direct legal assistance to survivors in the campus, civil, and criminal systems. She has represented many survivors in Title IX campus hearings since joining SurvJustice in 2016 and has significantly increased the rate of success for survivors in campus proceedings. In 2017, she also assisted international law firm Steptoe & Johnson in establishing a historic new victim-advocate privilege in federal court. Carly also serves as a liaison to the American Bar Association Commission on Domestic & Sexual Violence. As an undergraduate at Occidental College, she spoke publicly about her own experience of reporting sexual violence and went on to co-found the Oxy Sexual Assault Coalition with other students and professors.

Brad Roop, Detective, Washington County Sheriff’s Office

Brad is a native of Radford, VA and currently serves as the Crimes Against Children Detective for the Washington County Sheriff’s Office. Brad began his law enforcement career 21 years ago after being honorably discharged from the United States Air Force. Early in his career, Brad realized that he possessed a passion for helping children and saw the need for someone to specialize in the investigation of crimes against them. Brad is a graduate of the Virginia Forensic Science Academy and was trained as a Child Forensic Interviewer at the National Children’s Advocacy Center. He has received extensive training related to child abuse investigations, child physical abuse reconstruction techniques and perpetrator behaviors. His specialized skills, passion and dedication have aided in bringing countless children to safety and their abusers to justice.

Kristina Vadas, Victim Services Programs Manager, Department of Criminal Justice Services

Kristina Vadas is the manager of the Victims Services Team at the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS), where she provides oversight of all Victims Services initiatives and monitors victim-related legislation, conducts studies, and promotes best practices in service delivery for victims of crime. Kristina represents DCJS on statewide committees and task forces that address human trafficking, underserved victims of crime, services for victims of sexual and intimate partner violence, and other related issues. Previously, Kristina served as the Sexual Assault Program Coordinator for DCJS, where she managed the statewide sexual assault victim services programs, including the Sexual Assault & Domestic Violence Grant Program (SADVGP) and the Sexual Assault Services Program (SASP). She provided technical assistance, consultation, and training to victim advocates, law enforcement, prosecutors, and others requesting information and resources on sexual assault. She also developed resources, policies, and procedures to improve services to sexual assault victims, including those related to Sexual Assault Response Teams (SARTs).