Walworth County's silent heroes: Helping victims get through difficult times
Their names don’t show up on newspaper front pages after high-profile trials. Despite the pair’s common faces in Walworth County courtrooms, most people there don’t seem to notice what they do.
But those who cross paths with the women are often glad they did.
“They provide the office with a conscience,” District Attorney Phil Koss said.
Buchholz and Schulz are the victim and witness coordinators at the Walworth County District Attorney’s Office. Together, they work with crime victims at trying times, be it when they mourn the loss of loved ones or when a parent tries to explain to a small girl why someone sexually assaulted her.
Their job is to keep Walworth County’s judicial gears always turning. The women line up witnesses for trials, offer moral support for victims during court appearances and provide guidance about navigating the system.
Compassion is the word Koss used to describe them.
“Especially in the saddest of all cases, they are still hanging in there and working with people in their grief, and they just do a great job of helping,” the prosecutor said.
The job is often arduous. Connecting to victims sometimes is inevitable, and the women sometimes find it difficult to forget about a badly hurt victim or detach themselves from a court ruling unfavorable to the victim.
“When I first started the job, there were many times that I would go home and cry; I felt so sorry for these people,” Schulz said.
She doesn't cry as much, which Schulz said doesn’t mean she doesn't feel as much. She has just learned to deal with it.
“A lot of it is really beyond our control to a certain extent,” she said. “I read, I enjoy music, I like to travel. You have positive things in your life—love the grandkids.
“You try to go home at night and leave it here.”
Despite how emotionally charged the job can get, Buchholz said it’s rewarding.
“It's tough in some cases, more so than others, when there’s personal injury or death in a family; those are very difficult to let go of,” she said.
“Some you hold on longer. But in order to keep your personal life, you need to let go of some of the things in here. And you have to keep things in perspective, you know.”
Schulz's original career ambition was to become a nurse. That was, of course, until she found out in nursing school that she couldn’t hear through a stethoscope.
“I took a year off, trying to figure out what to do with my life,” she said. “Then I became a teacher.”
Years later, Schulz moved to Elkhorn with her husband, who is now a retired art teacher. She started working as a legal secretary and eventually became the calendar clerk in Walworth County’s criminal court.
She became a victim and witness coordinator about 15 years ago.
Buchholz’s first job in Elkhorn was at the clerk of courts office, where she worked for the juvenile intake officer. She later moved to the child support agency and eventually accepted an offer at the DA’s office. That was about 14 years ago.
They find the job to be fulfilling. The women said they like helping people, especially those who need help navigating the system and getting through difficult times.
Many victims just want someone to listen.
“Not to say there aren’t some victims that are very trying,” Schulz said with a smile. “But for the most part, they are very appreciative in very difficult situations.”
Last updated: 12:58 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012