April 10, 2011, marks the beginning of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, a time to honor victims and the advocates of victims’ rights. This year’s theme—Reshaping the Future, Honoring the Past—evokes victims’ past struggles and our nation’s duty to help them rebuild stronger lives.
For victims, reshaping the future means confronting many challenges. After a crime, victims need to know what rights and resources they can count on. They may need funds to bury a loved one or pay medical bills. They may want information on the criminal justice process, their rights to be present of heard in court, and to be notified about court proceedings and offenders’ whereabouts. Yet many victims do not find the help they need.
For victim advocates, reshaping the future—particularly in these financially stressed times—means finding ways to do more with less. It means locating resources for victims who want them and helping new victims—such as the millions harmed by financial fraud—to restore their credit and financial security. Reshaping the future requires meeting present and emerging challenges.
It also requires understanding how crime has marred the past. As we approach the tenth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, we honor the memory of the victims and their families’ struggles to rebuild a future despite their grief. We also remember the thousands of homicide victims in our nation in recent years, and the millions who live each day in fear of violence.
Honoring the past also means recalling a time, not too many years ago, when victims had no voice in the criminal justice system—when murder victims’ families were excluded from courtrooms and assault victims paid all their own medical bills. National Crime Victims’ Rights Week honors the victims and advocates who confronted such injustices and helped produce a nationwide system of victim compensation and victims’ rights. It also reminds us that failures to enforce these laws or to fund programs for victims jeopardize the success of these reforms.
“Reshaping the Future, Honoring the Past captures the spirit and mission of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week,” said Joye E.Frost, acting director of the Office for Victims of Crimes, Office of Justice Programs, U. S. Department of Justice. “The past that we honor points to a future when all victims are respected, the laws to protect them are enforced, and the resources they need are in place and accessible to them. Justice demands no less.”
For additional information about National Crime Victims’ Rights Week and ideas on how to serve victims in your community, please contact the Crime Victim Assistance Center at (254) 629-3223, or visit the CVAC website www.victim-services.net.