Transgender advocate Victoria Cruz was recently awarded a top honor by the Department of Justice for her work helping victims escape abuse.
The feds are watching one of Brooklyn’s toughest ladies.
East Flatbush resident Victoria Cruz, a transgender woman who has been “out” since grade school, is a Justice Department 2012 pick as one of the nation’s top crime fighters.
The 66-year-old Latina, known simply as “Vicki,” advises abuse victims from across the city based on lessons she learned surviving years of sexual and physical torment during an era when homophobia was rampant.
“I’ve survived many crimes; been there done that,” said Cruz, a senior domestic violence counselor New York City Anti-Violence Project.
Attorney General Eric Holder honored Cruz and 11 others as life savers Friday in the National Crime Victims’ Service Awards ceremony in Washington D.C.
They transformed “their own experiences into a positive force for sweeping change,” Holder said in a statement.
New Yorkers dominated the power list. Girls Educational & Mentoring Services, a Harlem based nonprofit helping teens escape the world of sex trafficking, was also cited; along with city Correction Commissioner Dora Schriro and Common Justice, an alternative to Brooklyn criminal court for low-risk criminals.
Still Cruz stood out. The feds said she “empowers her clients to stand up and speak for themselves.”
The Red Hook native was born brazen, never hiding her sexual identity growing up in the 1950’s as a boy.
“I always knew that I was different,” Cruz said. “When I was in middle school they would call me ‘queer.’ ‘Gay’ at the time meant a jovial person.”
Cruz, like many women, was drawn to abusive relationships.
She made headllines in 1997 while working at the Cobble Hill Nursing Home part of a welfare-to-work program when she accused a group of female nurses of groping her while screaming “anti-man” and “battyman,” gay bashing slurs used by West Indians. A criminal court judge found two nurses guilty of harassment and acquitted two others.
AVP then hired Cruz transforming the victim into an advocate.
“I am passionate about the work that I do,” Cruz said. “People are coming out at a younger age. And putting themselves at risk.
This award is making the invincible, visible.”