This article is also available in the RESERVIST Magazine, Issue 2, 2018.
Written by Anastasia Devlin
Senior Chief Petty Officer Marilyn Dufrat was awarded the Unsung Hero Award from Attorney General of Virginia Mark Herring at the attorney general’s office in Richmond, Virginia, on April 12, 2018.
Dufrat, a reserve member of the logistics department at Coast Guard Sector Hampton Roads, Virginia, serves as the director of the Stafford County’s Victim/Witness Assistance Program and had multiple nominations for the prestigious award, which was given to 10 individuals for their work as victims’ advocates as part of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week.
Dufrat has been the manager of the victim-support program for the last 16 years. Her staff offers information and services to victims and witnesses with the goal of reducing confusion during what can be a complicated, lengthy ordeal. She attends courtroom hearings and supports victims through the criminal justice process, which she said, “can be very overwhelming.” She provides one-on-one meetings to anyone seeking a protective order against an abuser.
“The court process opens the wounds they’re trying to heal,” said Dufrat, “and some of these cases take up to a year and a half, so you really get to know the families and aid in their healing.”
She went to Richmond this year to lobby for proposed legislation that would let judges sign off on lifetime protective orders after certain felony convictions, though the Virginia Senate’s finance committee voted to continue discussion of the bill during next year’s general assembly session. Her county also initiated the state’s first “courthouse dog” program, where a fully-trained service dog assists and comforts victims as they testify in court.
A tireless and humble leader, Dufrat is well-respected by her team (who she refers to as her “crew”). They missed her solid presence when she was activated for the response to the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season. The senior chief filled a role at the Personnel Support Team in Weston, Florida. She lent a sympathetic ear while assisting displaced Coast Guard families, many of whom had lost everything.
“I try to put myself in their position and think about their perspective.”
Herring praised the award winners, saying, “These big-hearted Virginians come in early, stay late, work through lunch and come in on weekends, stopping at nothing to make sure they help victims who may not know where else to turn.”
Cmdr. Maureen Kallgren, the senior reserve officer for Sector Hampton Roads, said this describes Dufrat perfectly.
“Senior chief often gives time off the clock to train her staff and make sure members get paid on time,” said Kallgren. “We’re lucky to have her as part of our team.”
She said the job can get stressful, but knowing that she may have helped save a life, or eased the pain of a traumatic time, or kept children from being exposed to future domestic violence… it keeps her going back in the door every morning.
“It’s so challenging,” she said, “but it’s also so rewarding.”