A Closer Look with Sophia Fifner
Sophia Fifner is an advocate and activist for women and girls. For more than 15 years, she has served as a bold change agent for issues regarding sexual assault and civic engagement. To fulfill this mission, Sophia serves on the Marsy's Law for Ohio Advisory Board, the Survivor Advisory Council of the Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence, and the Board of Directors of the Women’s Fund of Central Ohio. At present, she works as Director of Communications and Executive Director of the NiSource Charitable Foundation.
Can you describe what it was like for you as a crime victim in the Ohio court system?
It was challenging and confusing. As a first-generation American, I didn't understand what steps I could take to receive justice. I didn't understand the options I had for pursuing a criminal or civil case. Last, I didn't understand that, as a victim of a violent crime, I had rights. I'm thankful Marsy's Law for Ohio was passed with more than 80% of voter support in 2017. However, we need consistency and clarity across the state. Marsy's Law language needs to be implemented into the Ohio code so crime victims can have a voice in the criminal justice system.
What did you find to be the most frustrating aspect of the justice system?
As a Black minor, I was treated as an adult. One of the most horrifying experiences was sharing my story with a detective who told me that my rape did not happen and justified this belief with examples of her adult experiences. This experience occurred despite a thoughtful review of the evidence found in my rape kit and the statements provided in my case.
Crime victims and especially survivors of rape, sexual assault, and incest, must be treated with dignity and respect—our rights matter. More importantly, survivors of crime should have meaningful and enforceable constitutional rights equal to the rights of the accused.
How do you believe Marsy's Law for Ohio most helps crime victims in the state?
Every Ohioan should want a fair, just, and truly balanced legal system. Marsy's Law helps crime victims across the state understand their rights. This is critical for every resident of Ohio because our community's safety depends on victims having the opportunity to hold their wrongdoers accountable.
Do you have any words of encouragement for other crime victims?
Your story and voice matter. As a society, it's far too easy to turn a blind eye to atrocities happening right before us. It's important that, as victims, we use our voice, tell our story, and fight for systemic change.