Shibinksy Payne
Director, Victim Services Unit

What inspired you to become a social worker?
With over 15 years of experience in the field of Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) and trauma, I received a Master’s degree in social work at Long Island University and have since dedicated my professional career to advocating for victims of crime. From a young age, I knew I wanted to make the world a safe and better place, and the job of Wonder Woman was already taken. My role as the Director of the Victim Services Unit allows me to do my part to explore emotional and physical safety with victims. It also allows me to work with an amazing team of dedicated social workers and victim advocates who provide support, advocacy, and information to individuals who have been criminally victimized in Brooklyn.

What should someone know about working with you?
I love working with people of all ages and backgrounds and feel that it is my calling to help anyone work through difficult times and situations. Compassion, acceptance, and understanding are only a few of the qualities that I bring to my work. I aim to create a restorative experience with victims engaging with the criminal justice system, by creating a safe and nonjudgmental environment for anyone who interacts with the Victim Services Unit.

How do your own core values shape your approach to working with crime victims?
I believe that the voices of victims need to be heard, and it is important that Social Workers and Advocates in our Unit lift up those voices every chance we get.

Why are you motivated to continue to do this work?
It is the collaborative relationship between the social worker and prosecutors that attracted me to the DA’s office and still motivates me today. The innovative work being done in criminal justice and forensic social work to increase public safety continues to evolve and I want to be part of that process.


Emmanuel DeJesus
Social Worker, Victim Services Unit

What inspired you to become a social worker?
I believe my path began from before my birth. My mom was studying to become a Social Worker as I was in her womb. Though I received my Bachelor’s degree in Spanish Literature and Anthropology, I did my practicum at a community center in Madrid, Spain. I worked with underserved children in an afterschool program. Since then, the majority of my jobs have all been in social services, though with various communities and different roles. Along the years I have worked with children, homeless LGBTQI+ youth, victims/survivors of IPV, just to name a few. I was fortunate to be able to continue my education and receive my MSW in both Clinical Social Work and Community Organizing while working at KCDA. The support I received from the office was a huge help in achieving that goal.

What should someone know about working with you?
I am extremely passionate about my work and am very open to learning from those around me. I truly believe that we can only create a better future working as a community and not just working individually.

How do your own core values shape your approach to working with crime victims?
Core values that shape my work are transparency and clear communication. This also means that I will not have all the answers or resources and am open to partnerships with others in order to fully approach a victim’s need.

Why are you motivated to continue to do this work?
My motivation comes from both the importance of the work and the joy that can come from it. The continuous learning that I receive from this work brings me a great sense of personal and professional growth. And growth is what life is all about.


Hyeseung Yoo
Social Worker, Victim Services Unit

What inspired you to become a social worker?
My father got his PHD in Social Work in South Korea that, after immigrating to America, he was unable to use due to language barriers. It was natural for me to follow in his path to do what my dad wanted to do in America – I always have been passionate towards advocating, organizing and serving those who are disadvantaged and oppressed.

What should someone know about working with you?
I try to be patient with everyone and I am always here to learn, listen, and understand.

How do your own core values shape your approach to working with crime victims?
My parents taught me to be non-judgmental, compassionate and to always lend a helping hand to those in need. I do my absolute best to understand, learn, and assist in the ways that benefit the survivors and victims I work with.

Why are you motivated to continue to do this work?
I am motivated to continue to do the work I am doing because I know from personal experience that it is not easy being a survivor, feeling alone and that you have no one to turn to for help. I hope that whoever I get to help can find comfort, peace, and support that they may not find anywhere else.


Alba Espinal
Social Worker, Victim Services Unit

What inspired you to become a social worker?
Serving as a Spanish speaking translator for my father during appointments made me realize how important it was for people to be able to have the capacity to receive and obtain services in the language they speak. Since I was in high school, I always knew I wanted to help and work with people, especially the Spanish speaking community.

What should someone know about working with you?
I’m very passionate about my job. I will go above and beyond for the survivors I work with. I make sure that the survivors understand how the criminal justice works. I make sure to stay present and give them the opportunity to express themselves on how the process is affecting them and how I can assist them. I also ensure that survivors are connected to services when needed.

How do your own core values shape your approach to working with crime victims?
I empower survivors to advocate for themselves and to have self-determination in order to make the best decision, taking into account their safety and the safety of their family.

Why are you motivated to continue to do this work?
My motivation continues to be my father and the survivors I work with. At 72 years old, my father continues to need my assistance translating and explaining services in Spanish. Even when their criminal court case is closed, survivors also continue to call for resources and I will continue to assist them in any way I can.


Anna “Jovi” Lombardo
Teen Services Coordinator, Victim Services Unit

What inspired you to become an advocate?
In high school, one of my friends was assaulted. I remember being confused about how to help and unsure what her options were as a victim of a crime. I knew that whatever I did as a career, I wanted to be the person with the answers. I didn’t know advocacy was a job until an internship in college where I studied criminal justice. I met an advocate who worked with victims through the criminal justice system. I immediately switched internships and started working with her. Next, I decided to pursue a Masters in Social Work to better understand trauma and to be able to provide clients with long-term therapy and advocacy. I have been working with victims and survivors ever since.

What should someone know about working with you?
I do not base my practice or approach on what crime has been committed. My starting point is always with the individual and their experience. I know that I cannot understand your experience because I have not experienced it myself. The criminal justice system can be frustrating and not always trauma-informed. I am here to listen to frustrations and your experience. My focus is you, your needs, and your comfort.

How do your own core values shape your approach to working with crime victims?
I strive to approach work, life, and advocacy through the Humanistic Perspective. This social work theory states that we cannot understand a person’s experience without having lived that experience and their life ourselves. When I work with clients, I know I cannot fully understand their experience or their mindset because I have not personally walked a day in their shoes. I start by listening to understand their perspective and base my advocacy on them as an individual.

Why are you motivated to continue to do this work?
I am motivated by the amazing, strong, and resilient people I have met through this work, both clients and coworkers. This work is difficult, but being able to help a client through a long and difficult case and seeing their resilience is an incredible experience. My motivation is being able to meet people at one of the most difficult times of their lives and making that experience just a bit less difficult. My hope is that I can be there for clients throughout the criminal justice process to help support and advocate for their needs.


Ashley E. Wright
Social Worker, Victim Services Unit

What inspired you to become a social worker?
When I was in college, I worked at a drop-in center and soup kitchen for women. Since then, I knew I wanted to be of service.

What should someone know about working with you?
I hope my clients and colleagues would say that I approach everyone with kindness and a profound level of respect.

How do your own core values shape your approach to working with crime victims?
Everyone deserves a chance to tell their story and be heard.

Why are you motivated to continue to do this work?
Unfortunately, crime in general and gender-based violence specifically are part of our fractured society. I continue to find motivation when I witness my clients pursue their path to healing. I’m honored to meet them on their way.


Denise Briales
Social Worker, Victim Services Unit

What inspired you to become a social worker?

Growing up in Brownville during the 60s, I witnessed high levels of gang related crimes in my community. My mother, a pastor, would walk right into an active beat down that would occur on our block and dissolve it with her voice and demeanor. I would not recommend this action on any level. She was a fierce woman whose faith in God, and love for humanity captivated her and motived her to care for the hurting and seek to protect them however she could. She never walked away from an opportunity to help someone in need.

This level of compassion was instilled in me as a child and motivated me to seek to help those who are hurting because of crimes committed against them. For the past 35 years, I have been walking alongside crime victims to assist in advocacy, healing, and recovery from trauma through counseling. These injustices committed against them, such as childhood and adult sexual and physical assault/abuse, domestic violence and bereavement caused by homicide, are among a few of my primary focuses.

What should someone know about working with you?
I am a team player, dependable and eager to share whatever resources I have for the greater good of the client, colleagues, and to those I collaborate with within the field.

How do your own core values shape your approach to working with Crime Victims?
I learned early on in life the art of putting others first and being empowered to acknowledge when to get assistance for the greater good of those I seek to help and finding a balance for myself in the process.

Why are you motivated to continue to do this work?
Assisting others does not stop because of the status of age or position. It is our responsibility as members of society to find the balance in how we continue to share our experience and expertise in supporting others who are in need.


Katherine Celardo
Barrier Free Justice Coordinator, VSU

What inspired you to become a social worker?
My path to becoming a social worker started when I joined AmeriCorps as a national service volunteer. I had recently graduated from college and was pretty lost. I didn’t know what direction to take my life in. So, I joined AmeriCorps and started working at a Veterans Affairs Hospital. I was suddenly surrounded by all these people in many professional fields, including a lot of social workers. That was a very formative year for me. I started to learn about who I wanted to be, and it was only the start of my journey. After my service year, I went straight back to graduate school to study for my social work degree.

What should someone know about working with you?
I’m a hard worker and I try to bring that energy to work with me and to every case that comes across my desk.

How do your own core values shape your approach to working with crime victims?
I practice kindness and aim to leave things a little better than I found them in all the areas of my life, including in my approach to crime victims.

Why are you motivated to continue to do this work?
It’s all about the little victories. They’re the thing that keeps you going. For example, I once gave a crime victim a referral for long term therapy a few years ago. She’s been in therapy since I gave her that referral and every time she calls me, she’s doing better. And each time she calls to let me know she’s doing better, that’s a small victory. As long as you’re looking for them, these victories are everywhere.


Maddy Strassler
Social Worker, Victim Services Unit

What inspired you to become a social worker?
While I was working in the restaurant industry as a baker/pastry chef, I began volunteering at an agency that provided assistance and support to survivors of sexual assault. I found myself drawn to social work, so I changed careers and pursued a Master’s in Social Work and obtained my LMSW. I interviewed for a position in the Victim Services Unit when the pandemic began. I am excited to now be here.

What should someone know about working with you?
I am always looking to learn new things and have already learned a lot from my colleagues in my time here thus far. I look forward to collaborating and supporting everyone here at KCDA as we engage in this work.

How do your own core values shape your approach to working with crime victims?
Empathy, social justice, and seeing the strength in each person inform my approach. These values have shaped my worldview and I take that into the work I do. I aim to provide a sense of support and safety.

Why are you motivated to continue to do this work?
I feel privileged that I am able to be here, interacting and learning from people from all walks of life who work with this office, as well as my colleagues. While there is a lot of uncertainty happening in this country and the world right now, I wish to contribute my skills and compassion as a social worker to those who are working through challenging times.


Stephanie Gonzalez
Victim Advocate, Victim Services Unit

What inspired you to become an advocate?
In high school I wanted to work in a field related to the criminal justice system. Unsure of what I wanted to do, I spoke with my school counselor and told her all of my interests. She informed me that I could be a social worker that works in the criminal justice field. I wasn’t aware that social work had such a wide variety of options. So when I went to college, I majored in Social Work. My internship was the catalyst that set the spark. It ignited my interest in the criminal justice side of social work and led me to where I am today.

What should someone know about working with you?
The criminal justice system can be tricky to understand so I am here to explain the process in the best way possible. I am also here to listen and understand what you are going through and help with resources. I speak Spanish. It may be a huge relief for Spanish speakers to know they have someone who can explain the system in their own language. I also always have candy in my cubical for people to take!

How do your own core values shape your approach to working with crime victims?
I learned from an early age to always help those who ask for it. I am here for crime victims and I am willing to help in any way that I can.

Why are you motivated to continue to do this work?
Whether it is crime victims, colleagues or even people on the street, being a helping hand for those who need it feels great. I hope that whoever I get to help feels supported and knows that they have an advocate to help them.


Rachel Saewitz
Social Worker, Victim Services Unit

What inspired you to become a social worker?
After studying criminal justice and having a career as an American Sign Language interpreter, I joined the Victim Services Unit as a Victim Advocate for the deaf and hard of hearing. It rapidly became apparent that this role was more social work than interpreter and I fell in love. After a few years in this position, I decided to make it official and earned my Master’s of Social Work from New York University.

What should someone know about working with you?
I approach all my interactions with clients and colleagues with empathy and a trauma-informed approach while taking individual’s social, economic, and cultural factors into consideration. You should also know that while we deal with very serious matters, I am also very silly and try and find levity around the difficult and challenging work we do.

How do your own core values shape your approach to working with crime victims?
Respect and dignity are two core values that are part of every interaction I have with crime victims.

Why are you motivated to continue to do this work?
I am motivated to continue doing this work because assisting people who experience gender based violence find physical, emotional, and psychological safety and the freedom that comes with that safety is an important step in finding empowerment to take back control of one’s life.


Darlene Ellison
Advocate, Victim Services Unit

What inspired you to become an advocate?
I did not want a job just to be gainfully employed. I wanted a job that would allow me to have an impact on people’s lives. I am not the type of person who wants to sit and wonder if what I was doing would make a difference. Though I have not been here long yet, I can tell from the people I have been honored to be trained by and work alongside that “am I making a difference?” will not be a thought I will have to entertain.

What should someone know about working with you?
I come across as quiet, but I like working with a team.

How do your own core values shape your approach to working with crime victims?
I have always been interested in the behaviors and mental health of others and I am curious about what motivates people. People’s lives change when they are empowered. And that’s what we do here.

Why are you motivated to continue to do this work?
I am motivated to continue to do this work because I want to give back to those that need it most.


Emily Kline
Social Worker, Victim Services

What inspired you to become a social worker?
From the time I was young, I have always been interested in assisting and serving underprivileged communities. As a white person, I often acknowledge in my work this fact, and the privileges that I have been privy to based on my race. I understand stress and trauma present themselves in a variety of forms, and it overwhelms our ability to cope. I have been motivated to help others, as others have helped me in the past.

What should someone know about working with you?
I offer an empathetic and strength-based approach while developing rapport with those in need. I use humor when appropriate and feel one of the most important skills in this work is active listening.

How do your own core values shape your approach to working with crime victims?
I feel that simply supporting individuals and providing compassion in a patient way can be paramount in this work. I also understand achieving justice in the criminal justice system looks different for many people. I am committed to exploring this to help bring survivors of crime to a place of holistic peace.

Why are you motivated to continue to do this work?
Social work is a rewarding career choice, and I am blown away everyday by the resiliency of the clients I work with. I feel honored to be a part of helping survivors make positive changes in their lives, no matter how small that change is – every success should be celebrated!


Patricia Bacchus
Social Worker, Victim Services Unit

What inspired you to become a social worker?
My path to becoming a social worker started at Clara Barton H. S. in the Rehabilitation Services Program. I took my first psychology course and volunteered at Interfaith Hospital and Kings Brook Jewish Nursing Home. That is where my aspiration and journey began to become a professional social worker. I grew up in East New York in NYCHA Housing. My family migrated from Trinidad, so education was a core value in our home. I attended Hunter College and received a BA in Psychology/African History.
Hunter College School of Social Work/Silberman is where I earned my Master’s in Social Work. Getting a college education and an advanced degree literally lifted me out of economic poverty. The profession of Social Work changed my life and was ultimately my destiny. I truly believe that it is an honor to serve others.

What should someone know about working with you?
I believe that employing a trauma-informed approach starts the process of healing.

How do your own core values shape your approach to working with crime victims?
Compassion, competence, dignity, excellence, empathy, humility, kindness, passion, and respect are some of my core values. I incorporate all of those values when I work with client witnesses.

Why are you motivated to continue to do this work?
Working with crime victims has been transformative for me in many ways. My life and professional experiences motivate me to serve in this position.


Marianne Lane
Elder Abuse Unit Coordinator, Victim Services

What inspired you to become a social worker?
I went to John Jay College to get my Master’s Degree in Forensic Mental Health Counseling and while there I started volunteering with an organization called SAVI (Sexual Assault and Violence Intervention) which led me to want to work with victims.

What should someone know about working with you?
I am 110% dedicated to helping victims as much as I can and to be there to listen when they just need/want to talk.

How do your own core values shape your approach to working with crime victims?
Being in the Elder Abuse Unit, I think my family values are what helps me understand and be empathetic toward victims.

Why are you motivated to continue to do this work?
I strongly believe mental illness is a topic that doesn’t get enough attention. Many of my victims have loved ones who are mentally ill, and I think our approach to defendants with mental illness is the best way to help the victims.


Lauren Waldman
Advocate, Victim Services Unit

What inspired you to become an advocate?
I majored in Criminology in college, not really knowing what I wanted to do with my degree. I only knew that I was interested in the human condition and learning about ways to make society equitable for all people. I found my calling as an advocate when I started volunteering for a non-profit that supports children in foster care by providing them with a court appointed advocate to ensure that they don’t slip through the cracks of the system. I felt that these children were really the most vulnerable and in need of a voice in court.

What should someone know about working with you?
Those working with me should know that I will be persistent and very rarely take “No” for an answer. My feeling is that most problems have a solution if you are willing to look hard and long enough for one!

How do your own core values shape your approach to working with crime victims?
Even as a young child, I always found it natural to stick up for those who couldn’t or wouldn’t do so for themselves. Advocating for other people comes more naturally than doing so for myself.

Why are you motivated to continue to do this work?
Being able to make a positive impact on those who have suffered is its own reward. I cannot foresee a time in my life when that will not be my role in one way or another. For me, life would have little meaning if I wasn’t able to serve others.


Brigitte Tibana
Social Worker, Victim Services Unit

What inspired you to become a social worker?
Being a daughter of first-generation immigrants, I grew up in an underserved community. It was a community of minorities from all backgrounds who shared common struggles. Like my parents, struggles had to be handled on their own out of fear of asking for help and fear of being discriminated against. Becoming a social worker has allowed me to give back to underserved communities. It has helped me advocate for those who don’t speak the language, those who need help navigating the system, and those who often remind me of my own family.

What should someone know about working with you?
I am a fierce advocate who, while empathetic, assures my client’s needs and concerns are addressed.

How do your own core values shape your approach to working with crime victims?
From a young age, I learned the selfless act of helping others without judgment. I learned to show compassion and offer a helping hand to someone who needs it without expecting anything in return. As I work with crime victims, I offer my services with compassion and empathy while validating their experience.

Why are you motivated to continue to do this work?
Being a social worker is challenging yet such a rewarding career. As social workers, we often go above and beyond for our clients, we deal with the vicarious trauma, and yet when we can empower someone to make the changes and seek help for a better future. That’s when we are reminded why we continue to do this work every day.


Margarita Sionova
Social Worker, Victim Services Unit

What inspired you to become a social worker?
Throughout my life, I have always been always drawn to idea of helping and supporting people. During my graduate studies at Fordham University, I earned my Master’s of Social Work; with a certificate in Law, and I was always mesmerized by how both fields complimented one another so well; finding themselves inextricably involved with one another. I found my fields of study to be complementary to one another and this is the primary reason I feel that my course of study made me a well-rounded social work advocate.

I completed my clinical internships at the Truancy Bureau at KCDA, followed by Jewish Board of Family and Children Services. In these internships, I provided psychotherapy and individual counseling; undergoing internal turmoil, and upheaval when confronted with modern day issues of adolescence and young adulthood. Finally, my journey brought me to my dream position as a social worker in the KCDA Victim Services Unit. Here at VSU, I get to work as part of an interdisciplinary team of assistant district attorneys, investigators, detectives and my fellow social workers in order to help our borough’s most fragile, exploited and traumatized victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, trafficking and various violent crimes overcome their trauma and fear.

What should someone know about working with you?
I am tenacious and won’t rest until I have provided emotional support, comfort, and aide to our complaining witnesses. I like to be thoroughly involved in every case that I am assigned. I also have good interdisciplinary skills and work well and in close collaboration with all my colleagues. I am also able to speak, write and read in Russian fluently.

How do your own core values shape your approach to working with Crime Victims?
I have always sought to protect the fragile voices of those who were scared to speak up. I go out of my way to help those who are in a disadvantaged position to help themselves, and I try to empathize with and empower every survivor that I work with.

Why are you motivated to continue to do this work?
This is more than a job to me. It has become a way of life. As much as it allows me to help others, it has come to define who I am and how I view the world. It is truly incredible and rewarding knowing you are able to give a hand to people in need. This work gives me purpose and a sense of fulfillment.


Melissa A. Castello
Advocate, Victim Services Unit

What inspired you to become an advocate?
My path to becoming a victim advocate began in social services with homeless individuals. I would hear so many heartbreaking stories of broken relationships, domestic violence, loss of income and falling on hard times from homeless men and women. From working as a case manager to becoming a social service supervisor, I was inspired to reach more individuals in need.

What should someone know about working with you?
I am compassionate, dedicated, loyal and determined. Helping others is my life’s passion.

How do your own core values shape your approach to working with crime victims?
I believe that it’s important to be attentive and supportive. Crime victims have not asked to be in the position in which they are placed. My job as an advocate is to provide as many resources and moral support as possible.

Why are you motivated to continue to do this work?
I am motivated to continue to do this work because there is a great need to heal. I believe I have what it takes to heal and to assist.