JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Those who have been victimized by crime have “courage, strength, and endurance,” and the Missouri Capitol took time to honor crime victims, survivors, and efforts the of victim advocates on Friday.
In observance of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, which is April 8 through April 14, a ceremony was held to recognize the importance of reaching out to all victims to ensure they have access to resources and support. The theme was “Expand the Circle, Reach All Victims.”
“We have, as a society, progressed so far because of outspoken victims who are brave and resilient and have fought for rights and those rights have been expanded, enhanced, strengthened over years,” said Mike O’Connell, director of communications for the Missouri Department of Public Safety. “And this is to celebrate how far we have come and also to talk about how we can continue moving forward.”
The Department of Public Safety administers grant funding for programs and projects to victim-centered agencies, including the Crime Victims’ Compensation Program, the Sexual Assault Forensic Examination Program, the Sexual Assault Services Program Grant Program, the State Services to Victims Fund, the Violence Against Women STOP Formula Grant Program, and the Missouri Victim Automated Notification System.
“Our mission at DPS is to help all Missourians,” said DPS Director Drew Juden. “Part of the mission is making sure all victims know they have a place to turn in DPS.
“We should never victimize the victims.”
MOVANS allows Missouri crime victims to receive automated emails or phone calls any time an offender is scheduled to be released from prison or jail, or have a parole or court hearing. In the last five years, MOVANS has delivered almost 5 million automated phone calls, emails and letters about court dates and offender custody status.
The CVC program helps pay violent crime victims’ out-of-pocket expenses, such as counseling, funeral expenses, and lost wages. In the last five years, it has awarded more than $24 million to more than 8,500 Missourians who were affected by violent crime.
“I am encouraged when I see all these organizations and individual that are giving up their time for such an important thing as making sure that people who have been victimized — they are not victims but have been victimized — are treated appropriately,” said Jay Ashcroft, Missouri Secretary of State.
Amy Fite, president of the Missouri Association of Prosecuting Attorney’s, talked through what victims go through in the criminal justice system. She said they are subject to having “their credibility and their integrity attacked” to being “called liars, mentally unstable, troubled.”
They go through this, for the belief that “justice can be served and in the end, our communities will be safer.”
“Courage, strength, endurance those are words that can be used to describe many victims but these words are particularly fitting for victims that have gone through the criminal justice program,” Fite said.