GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) — Brenda White survived an attack from her husband, but nobody warned her about what comes next, going to court.
“The anticipation of not knowing what to anticipate, just not knowing what to expect, not knowing what was going to happen the next day, the next minute,” White said. Fear of her perpetrator, the unknown and the justice system all started to sink in.
Now, White and other volunteers, called court navigators, are making sure nobody else has to go to court alone and afraid of what’s next.
It’s a simple concept. Volunteers will go through the doors of the courthouse with the survivors and make sure they know everything that will happen.
Starting with the first step of giving up your cell phone, going through security and finding the courtroom. Then they sit there with them no matter how long the case goes on.
“I know what it feels like to be fearful, I know what it feels like to be afraid,” White said. 11 years ago, Brenda white was the victim walking into Guilford County court.
“I was stabbed 10 times by now ex-husband and I survived it,” she said.
Brenda White had friends and family by her side for all her court dates, but not knowing how the court system played out left her intimidated.
“You don’t know what questions are going to be asked to you and you are frightened because the person that did this to you is sitting over here and you are sitting here with all these emotions in your head, you are scared beyond means and it is just difficult,” White said.
More than a decade later, she walks to the courthouse for a different reason.
“I don’t want you to be nervous, I know you are but you are going to be okay, we’re going to walk through this, the entire day I’m with you, you don’t have to worry about being afraid,” is what White says as she walks side by side with survivors.
She tells them about their rights, what will happen in court that day, what will come next and listens to their concerns.
“Just knowing that survivors are going to have more support goes a long way, I truly hope it will lead to more convictions because we will have survivors testifying in court and I think also just knowing that our community is ready to help,” said Sonya Desai, the manager at the Guilford County Family Justice Center.
The FJC trained the first 8 volunteers and will assign cases soon, both in the High Point and Greensboro courthouses. “Sometimes just having someone next to you saying, you can do this, and explaining what is going on is such a comfort,” Desai said.
Sonya and Brenda met more than a decade ago, the day after the stabbing when Sonya was a victim advocate.
Now, the pair couldn’t be happier to be launching this new program together, right back where it all started.
“I feel good about it, I’m standing here and others can stand here with me and go through what I went through and they can stand here as well so I think it is a wonderful feeling,” White added.
There is training required to become a court navigator and the Family Justice Center will host another training later this month if you are interested in becoming a volunteer.