Katie Strayhorn, director of victim services for the Dawson County District Attorney's Office, was recognized last month as the District Attorney's Victim Advocate of the Year for the State of Georgia.
Strayhorn, 43, said she was speechless when she learned she had won the award, which according to her doesn't happen often.
Strayhorn said she was under the impression that she was going to a meeting on new statewide computer software when she was surprised with the recognition at the Prosecuting Attorney's Council of Georgia's Victim Witness Advocates annual conference on April 26.
Strayhorn has been a victim advocate for 18 years in the Dawson office, providing thousands of victim services during that time. She said she was honored to be nominated for the award by District Attorney Lee Darragh and Supervising Attorney Conley Greer.
"It was particularly special because the award was presented to me by the Chief Assistant District Attorney Wanda Vance, someone I have great admiration for and know to be a staunch advocate for crime victims," Strayhorn said.
Strayhorn said that her job is to ensure people who have been affected by crime know of the resources that are available to them and understand what to expect at different stages of the criminal justice process. Victim advocates also coordinate witnesses for trials and attend all court proceedings with victims.
Her favorite part of the job is getting to see people stare evil in the face and triumph over it.
"Being a part of someone's transition from "victim" to "survivor" is a very powerful thing," she said.
Strayhorn graduated from the National Victim Assistance Academy at the Medical University of South Carolina in 1998 and received a bachelor's in Social Work from Jacksonville State University in 1996. She has been a certified forensic interviewer of children since 2006.
Strayhorn is also a member of Georgia's Sexual Offender Registration Review Board, for which she served as chair for four years.
The Gainesville native and current Dahlonega resident said that her father retired from over 30 years in law enforcement and that her mother served as the executive director of the Rape Crisis Center in Gainesville for over 20 years.
Their leadership in public service led her to begin a career right out of college working in domestic violence and child abuse treatment. Moving into prosecution-based advocacy was a natural fit, she said.
"I don't think this is a profession you choose," Strayhorn said. "I think it's a passion you are called to follow."
Darragh said on behalf of the DA's office that he is proud of Strayhorn and her accomplishments.
"Katie is a fierce advocate for children and adult crime victims and works tirelessly to ensure all victims are treated with fairness and dignity and in accordance with Georgia's Victims Bill of Rights," Darragh said."We are blessed with Katie's presence and work in our office and we are very proud of this well-deserved recognition."
Strayhorn said the award, however honored she is to receive it, isn't about any one person.
"It takes a lot of people in a community to make victim services successful," she said.