Crime Victims' Rights Week
April 22 ~ 28, 2012
By Jill Ravitch
The vision that launched the victims’ rights movement emerged more than 30 years ago.
For the 9th year, the Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office and our many partners are honoring crime victims by celebrating April 22nd through April 28th as Crime Victims’ Rights Week in Sonoma County.
The theme for this year is “Extending the Vision: Reaching Every Victim.” This theme reminds us to celebrate the vision behind the progress that has been made to honor victims and the ideal of serving all victims of crime. It is paramount to treat crime victims with fairness, respect, and dignity.
Crime attracts attention, but victims often do not. Television crime programs, local news, and the criminal justice system tend to focus on the crime and the offender, not the victim. Our job is to change that – to convince people that the millions of crimes committed in this country every year affect each of us.
Fortunately, victims’ rights legislation over the years, including Marsy’s Law, also known as the Victims’ Bill of Rights, has given victims a voice in the criminal justice system. The impact of crime is pervasive and knows no boundaries. People tend to think “It can’t happen to me.” Yet, anyone, in any community, including the citizens of our county, may become a victim of violent crime at any time. They deserve our understanding and compassion.
The Victim Services Division of the District Attorney’s Office guides victims through the criminal justice system, links them to community resources, and assists them with Victim Compensation and Restitution to recover crime related losses. In fiscal year 2010 – 2011, a total of 2,806 victims were served in Sonoma County. In the first six months of the current fiscal year (July 1 – December 31), 1,620 victims have been served. This means we are on track to serve 3,200 crime victims in this fiscal year.
These numbers may mean little to the victim of a violent crime, when his or her life is forever changed; when a life is lost; when trust or a feeling of safety in one’s home cannot be regained; when a job is lost or one has to flee their community.
Each and every victim we help to empower to become a survivor raises us up as a community. While we have come far, our work is not done and we must continue to work toward a better future for all victims of crime.