Scott Martin,  
  CNS News  
  As Crystal Weston speaks, it is plain to see the enthusiasm she has for her work. Her huge smile radiates warmth. As she sits comfortably behind a desk in one of the cold victim intake rooms, she talks about how she works closely with San Francisco's District Attorney's Office to help victims in the prosecution of batterers.  
  The District Attorney's Office, under Terrence Hallinan, has stepped up efforts to counter rising rates of domestic violence by hiring a domestic violence prosecution staff. Attorneys can now handle cases from start to finish. Getting victims into court to testify is crucial to making the prosecutions. The District Attorney's Office has an advocacy office just to meet that need, called the Family Violence Project.
  Eight months ago, Weston was hired by the District Attorney's Office to work in the Family Violence Project to get domestic violence victims to court. Weston is the first full-time victims' advocate to aid gay and lesbians victims, as well as heterosexual victims.  
  "It's hard. We call them and we remind them of what they said, of what the police report says. We try to get them to think about what they were feeling that night that made them to tell an officer,`I am afraid, I think that he or she is going to kill me, I am so scared, is it safe for me to come out of the bathroom?' We remind them of what happened that night," Weston says.  
  Weston grew up in Brooklyn, went to City College in Manhattan, and then attended law school at Northeastern in Boston. Weston enjoys helping people understand law. "I do think one of my skills is the ability to explain thick legalese to a lay person," she says. "I like to make it accessible."  
  She considers herself a public servant and a human rights activist at heart who is committed to gay and lesbian equality. Weston says that her job at the Family Violence Project has the right mix of her interests. "The legal stuff and the domestic violence, all together it was just right, definitely," she says.  
  Weston is trying to make the Family Violence Project's gay and lesbian domestic violence victims' services known city-wide with an advertising campaign that will put her office's same-sex domestic violence services up on ads inside buses. She hopes this will get more gay and lesbian victims into her office.  
  Another way that she is trying to make her services known is by meeting with a variety of domestic violence service providers at conferences. She wants people to know who she is and to get people coming in through referral. Weston says that in the past, such a meeting was impossible because there weren't enough service providers. But there are now over 20 domestic violence services in San Francisco. "There's actually enough people to form a group. It's quite inspiring and exciting," Weston says.  
  Weston cited a study of six cities that shows the need for same-sex victims' services. Six domestic violence service providers did a study in 1995. What they were looking for was the number of callers reporting gay bashing or hate crimes. What they found was that they actually got more calls for same-sex domestic violence complaints.  
  "CUAV (Community United Against Violence), the local anti-violence group, was no exception to that. They received 347 domestic violence calls in 1995 compared to 324 gay bashing type calls," Weston says. "It's a lot of stress on a community. Heterosexuals certainly can be battered, but they don't have to worry about being heterosexually bashed on the street."  
  Weston is getting involved in a program to help educate police officers on the differences with gay and lesbian domestic violence. It requires showing police officers to look beyond the normal perception of who is the abuser. "What we are supposed to do is teach them to look beyond gender and size and all the typical things," Weston says. "The things to look for would be wounds on the palms of the hands. These are defensive moves."  
  Some of the improvements that the police have sought are similar to the Domestic Violence Project. "We will do follow-up investigations when the victims say they want to drop the case," Domestic Violence Unit Inspector, Dolores Casazza, says.  
The District Attorney's Office is also working closer with the police department's domestic violence unit. "It's really a collaborative effort," Assistant District Attorney, Susan Breall, says.

Weston and the Family Violence Project will be an important part of the collaboration that is being put together in the city to counter domestic violence.

  She works closely with the Assistant District Attorneys and is an important link in getting victims to court to testify. Often times victims just drop the charges and don't want to testify for fear of breaking up their family. "Recanting is common," Weston says.  
  Domestic violence service providers say that misdemeanor convictions are a crucial step in stopping the cycle of violence. The misdemeanor domestic violence conviction carries with it mandatory batterer's counseling as a condition of probation.  
  "So that's our job," Weston says, "to advocate for prosecution, hold them accountable and keep victims safe."