SAN FRANCISCO—On Tuesday, January 25 it was announced by the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office announced that on January 24, the SFDA’s Victim Services Division (VSD) convened its first meeting of the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Elder Abuse Steering Committee. The steering committee was created to address the gaps in services for AAPI elderly victims – to examine the challenges with case coordination, underreporting, and to develop a standard set of best practices for providing services in a trauma-informed and culturally-appropriate manner to AAPI elderly victims.

“Elderly crime victims and survivors often experience unique challenges such as a lack of an adequate support systems, reduced finances, presence of multiple and chronic diseases, decreased memory and cognitive ability, and sometimes reliance on the person inflicting harm on them,” said District Attorney Chesa Boudin. “We are committed to listening to community leaders, and experts to better understand how to best serve our elderly victims.”

As noted in a press release, the AAPI Elder Abuse Steering Committee is led by Interim Chief of Victim Services Kasie Lee, along with the VSD’s two dedicated Elder Abuse Program Advocates, Peter Huynh and Wesley Chu, fluent in Cantonese and Mandarin; Anni Chung, Executive Director of Self-Help for the Elderly; Alice Chiu, Executive Director of Institute on Aging; and Henry Ha, victim services case manager with the Coalition of Community Safety and Justice.

The VSD gives support to victims to help them steer through the complex criminal court process – providing access to mental health services, transportation, in-court advocacy, and assisting with restitution when appropriate. The AAPI Steering Committee develops a partnership with city and community-based partners to ensure that elderly AAPI crime victims and survivors have their needs met before, during, and after court proceedings.

“I am proud to work together with Kasie’s team and other AAPI Partners to improve the experiences of the victims, especially seniors who need a lot of hand-holding and support,” said Anni Chung, Executive Director of Self-Help for the Elderly. “Being able to receive bilingual and bicultural care coordination and support from members of the Steering Committee will help alleviate fear and anxiety. We will make sure elderly victims of crimes are treated with respect at every step of the way.”

In 2021, the SFDA’s Office applied for and received grant funding through the California Office of Emergency Services to expand access to victims as well as funding for a victim advocate to work with underserved AAPI communities. The AAPI community includes numerous communities that may have different needs, and the VSD is also working towards implementing new policies and protocols to reduce the marginalization and elimination that can come from such a distinct label.

VSD graduated its second cohort of victim advocates from its “Victim Services and Advocacy Training.” Under the leadership of Interim Chief Kasie Lee, appointed by Boudin in June 2021, VSD developed the immersive weeklong “Victim Services and Advocacy Training” for all new advocates as well as a Victim Services Division Handbook to standardize the process by which victim advocates reach out to crime victims to keep them informed of the court matters in their case.

The creation of the training and handbook are part of Interim Chief Lee’s efforts to protect victim rights, ensure that victims are centered throughout the criminal court process and beyond, and comply with state laws. In 2021, all advocates were trained on the DA’s Office’s new language access and interpreter request policy, which mandates the request of court interpreters for Limited English Proficiency (LEP) crime victims and survivors who decide to attend and/or observe proceedings so that they can meaningfully weigh in at critical stages as provided under Marsy’s Law.