Travis County District Attorney Announces New Head of Special Victims Unit

She has more than 20 years experience as a prosecutor

New director Andrea Austin (Courtesy of District Attorney’s Office)

Travis County District Attorney José Garza has appointed a new leader to the office’s Special Victims Unit, which assists victims of family violence and sexual assault. Andrea Austin, who has tried cases for 12 years with the D.A.’s office, was announced as the new director of SVU on Thursday.

Austin began her career at the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office in 1998. Since 2011, she has tried over 75 jury trials in Travis County, including homicides, sexual assaults, and cases of family violence. Now, she leads a unit focused on family violence and sexual assault cases.

“We are committed to establishing a criminal justice system that victims can trust,” she told the Chronicle. “We always take into account the trauma that victims have suffered and discuss with them the steps that can be taken to ensure their safety and well-being. We also explore ways to help victims feel whole again.”

Austin said that SVU places great importance on working with law enforcement and ensures that victims receive regular updates on their cases. She also noted that the good relationship with law enforcement has helped the D.A.’s office increase the number of convictions for sexual assault cases over the last three years.

Austin replaces the highly regarded Erin Martinson, who stepped down as director of SVU after three years due to health reasons. Martinson has devoted her career to helping abused women, working at the Women’s Advocacy Project in 1999 to support victims of domestic violence and going on to become chief of the protective orders division of the Travis County District Attorney’s Office. Martinson ran against Garza for D.A. in 2020 to prioritize cases of sexual assault. After her defeat, Garza hired her as director of SVU.

Garza lauded Martinson’s lifetime of service, saying she taught her fellow attorneys the importance of treating victims with dignity and respect. Martinson said it has been an honor to lead the unit.

“The goal has always been to establish a justice system that survivors can trust by involving them in the entire process and letting their experiences guide how we handle prosecutions,” she said. “I know that Andrea Austin supports that goal, and SVU will thrive under her leadership.”

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