PITTSFIELD — After three decades helping crime survivors navigate the court system in Berkshire County, Jane Kibby-Peirce has picked up a statewide lifetime achievement award.
The seasoned victim witness advocate for the Berkshire District Attorney’s office was voted this year’s Gerard D. Downing Advocate of the Year, named after the late Berkshire DA, who also was the person who hired Kibby-Peirce in 1992.
She spent the next 30 years and counting acting as a crucial support for survivors of crime, who find themselves unwittingly thrust into the criminal justice system.
“These people are brought to the legal system at probably the worst time in their life,” she said. “I help them get through this bad time, through the trauma and through the pain.”
The award Kibby-Peirce won is issued by the Massachusetts District Attorneys’ Association, which supports the state’s county prosecutors and staff who work under them.
DA Shugrue gathered the office together late last week, and announced that one of their team had won the distinction.
“Jane rose to the challenge the system to be more responsive to and accepting of the needs of victims and their children by making judges, probation officers, and law enforcement see the survivors’ humanity while demanding that they as practitioners protect this vulnerable population,” said DA Timothy Shugrue in a statement.
On top of advocating for victims, including time working with survivors of sexual assault in the Special Victims Unit, the DA’s office said Kibby-Peirce trains and mentors newer advocates to take on the role, as well.
Not one for the spotlight, she sees herself as a worker in the trenches, buttressing victims who need a solid support to lean on.
“If they get overwhelmed, you help them out. If they’re distraught, you’re there for them. You believe them. You support them, and you just try to make the process easier,” said Kibby-Peirce.
She works largely in Berkshire Superior Court, where she assists families and victims involved in sexual and domestic violence incidents, kidnappings, arsons and murders.
It’s a job that requires deep empathy, a knowledge of therapeutic resources and the ability to assist law enforcement and the medical examiner, the DA’s office said.
She sharpened her expertise in 2011 when she earned a master’s degree in social work from Springfield College, and also served on the Berkshire County’s Domestic Task Force.
Kibby-Peirce is the fifth employee of the Berkshire DA’s office ever to win an award from the Massachusetts District Attorneys’ Association, according to DA spokeswoman Julia Sabourin.
When she learned she was named the 2023 Gerard D. Downing Advocate of the Year, Kibby-Peirce was shocked, and grateful. While she can’t control how criminal cases unfold, she can be present for survivors.
“Whatever the result is, they still turn around and say, ‘Thank you, thank you for just being there,’ and that’s what the motivation is,” she said.
“There’s never a win win just for you to know that you were there and u helped out along the way,” Kibby-Peirce.