Denver, New York (PressExposure) January 27, 2012 -- Stephanie Villafuerte is a dedicated child advocate who has spent 20 years working with children who have suffered both physical and sexual abuse. She has worked tirelessly as a legal advocate in the courtroom as well as in the public policy arena to ensure justice for young child victims.
Ms. Villafuerte began her work with child victims in 1991 when she was sworn in as a deputy district attorney in the Denver District Attorney's Office where she served for a total of twelve years. During her tenure, she prosecuted child abuse and domestic violence cases where women and children were horribly violated. She distinguished herself early in the profession as an innovative prosecutor who went above and beyond in all of her cases. She continually focused on ways to improve the way child victims were treated within the criminal justice system.
Villafuerte says," My work has always been about putting a human face on violence against woman and children. Every case I handled presented a learning opportunity for me to improve the system so that it works for abused children in their darkest hours. No child should ever fall through the cracks because adults designed a system tailored to grown ups."
To that end, Villafuerte spearheaded numerous changes to benefit child victims. She joined with community stakeholders including law enforcement and human service providers in Denver County to create a comprehensive approach to investigating and treating children who were victimized physically or sexually.
Villafuerte was instrumental in enhancing and streamlining the interview process for child victims so that child victims are not subjected to multiple interviews by police officers, doctors and social workers and prosecutors. She also was responsible for introducing the use of forensic interviewers into the child abuse investigation process.
Additionally, Villafuerte advocated for the use of state of the art medical equipment for child sexual assault medical examinations. Villafuerte worked to secure grant funding to purchase medical technology which was critical to ensuring that child victims were examined in the safest and least intrusive manner possible.
Villafuerte also worked to rewrite Colorado law so as to allow child victims of physical and sexual abuse, child witnesses and developmentally disabled individuals the opportunity to testify in court via closed circuit television. Prior to Villafuerte's efforts, only child sexual assault victims were allowed to testify through the use of technology--not physically abused, developmentally disabled children or children who witnessed violence. Villafuerte said, "This legislation was critical to ensure that all child victims and witnesses had a way to testify in their cases without having to speak in a public courtroom about the intimate details of their victimization."
In addition to her work on the state level, Ms. Villafuerte also advocated on behalf of children as an assistant United States Attorney in Colorado. For three years, she worked with federal law enforcement agencies to combat the production and distribution of internet child pornography.
Besides her work in the courtroom, Ms. Villafuerte also served for four years as deputy chief of staff to Governor Bill Ritter, Jr. In that capacity she worked on statewide public safety and child welfare policy issues.
Ms. Villafuerte is now serving as Executive Director of Rocky Mountain Children's Law Center, a non-profit organization that provides quality legal representation to child abuse victims in the child welfare system.
Villafuerte has used her vast legal skills to dramatically improve the plight of child abuse victims in the criminal justice system. When asked about her work Villafuerte says,"Over the years my job has been to educate and guide children through the criminal justice process, but the reality is that the children I have worked with taught me far more than I could ever imagine. They have taught me about hurt and healing, courage and stamina, and the power of the human spirit to persevere in the face of great adversity. I have considered it an honor to have been entrusted with working with such a vulnerable population."
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