Department of Justice honors Mills County Attorney’s Office Victim Witness Coordinator Sarah McGinnis

U.S. Attorney Richard Westphal presented Sarah McGinnis with the Award For Excellence In Victim Services Monday morning at the Mills County Courthouse in Glenwood.

Victim Witness Coordinator Sarah McGinnis

A member of the staff at the Mills County Attorney’s Office has been recognized with a prestigious award from the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Iowa.

Victim Witness Coordinator Sarah McGinnis is the recipient of the 2022 Award For Excellence in Victim Services.  She was honored during a ceremony Monday at the Mills County Courthouse. McGinnis also serves as the Victim Witness Coordinator for the Fremont County Attorney’s Office.

In her position, McGinnis is responsible for working with victims of all types of crimes, providing practical and legal guidance and emotional support. McGinnis has worked with the Mills County Attorney’s Office since 2020 after previously serving as a deputy sheriff in Nodaway County, Mo., a domestic and sexual assault victims advocate for a women’s shelter in northwest Missouri and a sexual assault victim advocate for Catholic Charities.

During Monday’s award presentation ceremony, U.S. Attorney Richard Westphal praised the work of McGinnis.

“As a victim advocate for both Catholic Charities and now for Mills County as victim witness coordinator, Sarah has dedicated her time helping these victims through a period of time which is often the worst time of their lives,” he said.

“These victim advocates and victim witness coordinators like Sarah across the state of Iowa and across the nation have a very special set of skills and I often say it’s like a special gift. They’re not only subject matter experts when it comes to victims and human behavior but they’re also compassionate and sympathetic. They have that extra gift that helps them connect with these victims and provide them with the hope and support that empowers them.”

Westphal mentioned during his remarks that McGinnis has helped “countless victims of substance abuse,” often young children. She spends time with the victims inside and outside the courtroom setting, often attending family gatherings, school and youth sporting events.

“You regularly demonstrate a great compassion and empathy for crime victims and their families throughout their involvement with the criminal justice system,” said Westphal. “Your work is recognized and remarkable by victims and professionals alike and is a great credit to you and your office.”

McGinnis said she was surprised to learn of the award, crediting an office environment created by Mills and Fremont County Attorney Naeda Elliott and her fellow co-workers.

“Naeda is a victim-oriented, never-back-down, passionate leader for our team,” she said. “Our team (at both Mills and Fremont) is all hands on deck when it comes to providing comfort, guidance and justice to victims of crime. It is my complete honor and privilege to be a part of what they have created and continue to provide.

“We all have our different strengths and we know what they are. We combine all of our strengths to create an atmosphere that is comfortable and encouraging for victims.”
McGinnis said the Mills County Attorney’s Office ensures that every victim, no matter the type of crime, receives timely information about their case and the support they need.”

McGinnis also noted that “justice” means different things to different people.

“There are some victims that never wish to step foot in a courtroom,” she said. “We don’t believe in taking any more or power away from a victim that has already been taken by the perpetrator. We listen to the victims. We do our best to encourage, uplift and stand beside them, whatever their choices or journey might look like.”

McGinnis thanked her family and co-workers for their support during Monday’s presentation.

“My family stayed with me when I went to school to be a teacher, and then became a cop, and then became an advocate, they were super confused but just continued to cheer me on and be there for me,” she said. “My husband is so supportive, loving, and patient and lets me commute and be gone all the time. Then the people in this room, the team you guys are the reason I can do any of this - I couldn’t do it without a team.”


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