It’s Crime Victims’ Rights Week

To the editor:

This year marks a milestone in the rights of crime victims. Thirty years ago the Victims of Crime Act was passed. The Victims of Crime Act was an attempt by the federal government to help the victims of criminal actions through means other than punishment of the criminal. There have been huge achievements made on behalf of crime victims in the past 30 years due to the passage of the Victims of Crime Act.

Previous to VOCA, the criminal justice system did not recognize victims and their need to be a part of the judicial process. Services available to victims for counseling or support after a violent crime were few and far between. There were no crime victim compensation fund programs to help with the unexpected costs after being traumatized. Crime victims had virtually no rights.

Progress has been made throughout the past 30 years. Today, there are service agencies throughout the country working to help rebuild victims’ lives and fight for their rights. Victims are now encouraged to be a part of the criminal justice process and allowed to make victim impact statements at sentencing. Each state has a crime victim compensation program that help pay victims out of pocket expenses from the crime.

April 6-12, is National Crime Victims’ Rights Week. The theme this year is “30 Years: Restoring the Balance of Justice.” This is a time for us as communities to reflect on how far victim rights have come, but also a reminder of how much work there is to be done. This week provides an opportunity to remember what you can do to help crime victims every day. Volunteer or make a tax deductible donation at your local victim services program, lobby for crime victims’ rights or just lend an ear when someone may need it. Take the time to reach out to crime victims, listen to what they need, and help them rebuild their lives.

Marie Harvey

Homicide/other violent crimes counselor

Domestic/Sexual Assault Outreach Center

Fort Dodge