This week is the 2013 National Crime Victims’ Rights Week. This year’s theme – New Challenges. New Solutions. – celebrates the spirit that will advance the rights of crime victims for years to come.
Remarkable progress has been made for crime victims in recent years. Only 30 years ago, crime victims had no rights, access to crime victim compensation, or services to help rebuild their lives. They were often excluded from courtrooms, treated as an afterthought by the criminal justice system, and denied an opportunity to speak at sentencing.
Today, all states have enacted crime victims’ rights laws and established crime victim compensation funds. More than 10,000 victim service agencies help victims throughout the nation. Every year, states and localities receive millions of federal dollars to support these services.
But National Crime Victims’ Rights Week reminds us that many challenges remain. Crime victims’ rights are not universal and are often not enforced. Only a small percentage of victims receive crime victim compensation, which is usually limited to victims of violent crime. According to last year’s National Crime Victimization Survey, more than 50 percent of violent crimes were not reported to police in 2006-2010. In addition, a 2011 report called the Use of Victim Services Agencies by Victims of Serious Violent Crime showed that only 9 percent of violent crime victims received needed services in the 1993-2009 timeframe.
Advocates also face a host of new challenges as they strive to provide culturally competent services for increasingly diverse populations (e.g., seniors, teens, immigrant populations) and victims of newly prevalent crimes (e.g., trafficking and technology-related stalking and identity theft). As funding sources decrease, providers must target their services even more strategically.
Locally, the Walker County District Attorney’s Office acts as an advocate for crime victims and a part of its efforts each year is a candlelight vigil held at the Walker County Courthouse. This year’s ceremony will be Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. A highlight for this year will be the dedication and unveiling of the Walker County Crime Victim’s Memorial Fountain.
Many volunteers, several of which are surviving family members of violent crime victims, have spent countless hours over the last several months to construct the fountain. The Daily Mountain Eagle commends their efforts.
The Eagle also urges area residents to attend Tuesday’s candlelight vigil to show support for crime victims and their families. These citizens have lived through terrible tragedies and deserve our support.
- Daily Mountain Eagle