Sunday marks the beginning of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week.
As we celebrate three decades of defending victims’ rights we are reminded of how far we have come and how much work is yet to be done.
Only 30 years ago, crime victims had virtually no rights and no assistance. The criminal justice system often seemed indifferent to their needs. Victims were commonly excluded from courtrooms and denied the chance to speak at sentencing. They had no access to victim compensation or services to help rebuild their lives. There were few avenues to deal with their emotional and physical wounds. Victims were on their own to recover their health, security and integrity.
Today, the nation has made dramatic progress in securing rights, protections, and services for victims. Every state has enacted victims’ rights laws and all have victim compensations programs. In 1985, Michigan enacted the William Van Regenmorter Crime Victims’ Rights Act. More than 10,000 victim service agencies now help people throughout the country.
In 1984, Congress passed the bipartisan Victims of Crime Act (VOCA), which created a national fund to ease victims’ suffering. Financed not by taxpayers but by fines and penalties paid by offenders, the Crime Victims Fund supports victim services, such as rape crisis and domestic violence programs and victim compensation programs that pay many of victims’ out-of-pocket expenses from the crime, such as counseling, funeral expenses, and lost wages.
Victims’ rights advocates have scored remarkable victories over the last 30 years. But there is still a lot of work to be done. Over three decades, VOCA pioneered support efforts for victims of once-hidden crimes, like domestic and sexual violence. Today, we are shining a spotlight on other abuses that have long been unreported and often not prosecuted — hate crimes and bias crimes, bullying, and sex and labor trafficking, among others.
For 30 years, VOCA has represented hope, healing and justice. Our message to all victims of crime is this: You are not alone.
In Montcalm County, we serve justice by serving victims of crime. During the 30th anniversary of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week (April 6-12) and throughout the year, let us remember that by helping victims of crime, we help make our neighborhoods, communities and nation stronger and safer. And that by serving crime victims, we are truly serving justice.
For more information, contact the Montcalm County Prosecutor’s Office at (989) 831-7326 and ask to speak with Teresa.
Andrea Krause is the prosecutor for Montcalm County.
The opinions expressed in the Guest View do not necessarily represent the opinions of The Daily News.