Mexico are the only states that do not have specific provisions for support persons.109 There is a
broad range of specifications for support persons, depending on the state.110
Victim advocates work inside and outside the courtroom to support victims. Victim
advocates may work at the district attorney’s office, but in some states, outside programs provide
advocate services. For example, the district attorney’s office in Albuquerque, New Mexico111 has
victim advocates who attend pre-trial interviews, hearings, and trial with victims. They also help
victims apply for funding through the New Mexico Crime Victims Reparation Commission.112
The victim advocates are essential resources for both child victims and their families. In Colorado
Springs, the police department contains a victim advocacy unit.113 These advocates work with
victims to help them understand their rights, to receive compensation through the Crime Victim
Compensation Act,114 to see that they receive necessary services, and to provide them with
Friends, family, therapists, staff members, or guardians ad litem (“GAL”) are allowed to
serve as support persons, depending on the state.116 In March 2002, sixteen states required
appointment of a GAL for child victims in criminal cases.117 A study published in 2013 found that
victim advocates and assistance were the most common support persons for child victims.118
GALs were the least common support person.119
Prosecutors cannot be direct support persons to a child in court, thus they should make
sure the child has someone with them throughout the trial. A support person is especially
important if the child has no parents or family who can support them. The child should be
comfortable with whoever is supporting them, whether the support person is a parent, family
member, friend, or victim advocate. Prosecutors should be working closely with the support
person to make sure that the child is being cared for.
ii. Use of support objects
Support objects, such as favorite toys, blankets, or stuffed animals have also been used
during a child’s testimony to help reduce the stress and anxiety of testifying,120 and these objects
can be a comforting aid to a child witness.121 In Sperling v. State, a Texas court allowed a child
witness to hold a teddy bear while testifying.122 Similarly, in Connecticut, a court allowed a child
victim to hold a large stuffed gorilla while testifying in State v. McPhee.123 As is the case with
many actions of the prosecutor, he or she must be careful to act within the bounds of ethical
109 Id. at 58.
110 See McAuliff et al., supra note 107, at 99.
111 This Author worked very closely with victim advocates as a clinical law student at the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office
in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
112 CRIME VICTIMS REPARATION COMM’N, http://www.cvrc.state.nm.us (last visited Apr. 10, 2015).
113 Colorado Springs Police Department, Victim Advocacy Unit, CITY COLO. SPRINGS,
https://www.springsgov.com/Page.aspx?NavID=4391 (last visited Apr. 10, 2015).
114 See generally COLO. REV. STAT. ANN. § 24-4.1-101–24-4.1-124 (West 2015) (detailing the Colorado Crime Victim Compensation
115 See Colorado Springs Police Department, supra note 113 (explaining the role of victim advocates).
116 McAuliff et al., supra note 107, at 99.
117 NAT’L CTR. FOR PROSECUTION OF CHILD ABUSE, supra note 57, at 462–63.
118 McAuliff et al., supra note 107, at 101.
120 CHILDREN’S ADVOCACY CTR. TEX., CHILD-FRIENDLY COURTROOMS: ITEMS FOR JUDICIAL CONSIDERATION 9 (2011), available at
121 John E.B. Myers et al., Psychological Research on Children as Witnesses: Practical Implications for Forensic Interview and
Courtroom Testimony, 28 PAC. L.J. 3, 71 (1996).
122 Sperling v. State, 924 S. W.2d 722, 725 (Tex. Ct. App. 1996).