In honor of National Women’s History Month, we are honoring some of the many talented women who work for the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office through a series of interviews entitled: “The Women of CCPO”
Today, we recognize Victim Advocate Mary Kay Baker.
What does Women’s History Month mean to you?
Mary Kay: It is so important for all women — young and old — to learn about the accomplishments of those who have paved the way before us. To have a month of recognition is great, however we should always keep our young women informed of the historical events involving strong and capable women. I am humbled and very happy to have been chosen to be featured for Women’s History Month. Hopefully not just because I am the oldest historical figure in our office!
What woman did you admire growing up and why?
Mary Kay: I was blessed to have had wonderful, loving relationships with both my grandmothers. They taught me many life lessons sprinkled with “Irish wit” and political incorrectness that has stayed with me throughout my life. However, my deepest admiration lies with my beloved mother, Kathryn McFarland Gillen. My mom was a true character and always was ahead of her time. She loved all of her family unconditionally and always used her great sense of humor to get through some pretty tough times. She instilled in me a deep faith, a love of the arts and never stopped telling me I could be anything I wanted to be.
I watched my mom re-enter the work force when my dad became ill, after she spent twenty plus years at home. She took her sense of style and feisty personality to her one interview and ended up becoming the Assistant Banquet Manager at one of the top hotels and entertainment venues in Cherry Hill at the time. She also managed to cook a full meal for her family every night. That’s what really blows me away! I have tried to emulate her every day of my life, falling short sometimes, but hoping to set the best example for my daughters as she did for me.
Allow me to share a few snippets of wisdom from “Kathryn the Great”:
“Always be honest and true to yourself.”
“What are you saving your good jewelry for? Wear it and enjoy it every day.”
“Always have one great black dress.”
“If you have sons, teach them to cook and do laundry!”
Describe your role at the CCPO:
Mary Kay: As a Domestic Violence Victim Advocate, I help victims through the highs and lows of their legal journey. I act as a liaison between the victim and the Prosecutor and the Detective assigned to the case. This may entail putting them in touch with various agencies that can help with relocation, personal counseling, counseling for their children along with court accompaniment.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Mary Kay: The most rewarding part of my job happens when I see a victim finally grasp the fact that he or she doesn’t have to suffer from abuse anymore. Unfortunately, this doesn’t happen all the time, but when it does, I know my message has gotten through and hopefully this victim will move forward to a more peaceful life.
What is your message to young girls interested in pursuing a career path like yours (or to young women in general)?
Mary Kay: I came to this position rather late in life. After raising two wonderful daughters, I pursued my degree in Criminal Justice. My college graduation did not occur until I was 47 years old! My first message to young women would be to pursue your education at whatever level you choose. Graduating from high school in this day and age is an absolute must. For a career in social services or law enforcement, a bachelor’s degree is required and a master’s degree in your chosen field will set you heads above the rest.
Always be truthful to the victim’s you work with. If you are insincere and your heart is not in this work, it will be evident.