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Agency to recognize Crime Victims' Week

| April 21, 2012 7:15 AM

The week of April 22 begins National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, a time to honor crime victims and the nation’s progress in advancing their rights. 

This year’s theme — Extending the Vision: Reaching Every Victim — celebrates the vision behind that progress and the ideal of serving all victims of crime. 

The vision that launched the victims’ rights movement emerged more than 30 years ago. Then — as now — crime victims endured physical and emotional wounds, costly financial burdens, an often hostile criminal justice system, and an alarming public tendency to blame them for the crimes against them. 

Victims were often excluded from courtrooms, disrespected by officials, and afforded few rights. They began organizing to confront these challenges and to promote fair, compassionate, and respectful responses to victims of crime, said Carol Ramos the Lincoln County Victims/Witness Program coordinator.

The Lincoln County Victim/Witness Program (LCV/WP) began October 1997.  The Lincoln County Victim/Witness Program is a special division under the Lincoln County Attorney’s Office.  

The LCV/WP provides services to victims of violent crimes whose offender is being prosecuted in Lincoln County.  

“Some of the violent crimes we assist with are: domestic violence (partner/family member abuse), sexual assault, sexual intercourse without consent (rape), incest, stalking, assault, homicide (survivors), and violations of orders of protection,” Ramos said.

Some of the ways services are provided by the Lincoln County Victim/Witness Program include: phone, in person, email or mail. Some of the services provided by the LCV/WP include: providing information about Court proceedings, accompanying the victim to court, assisting with clothes for court, Information about what they can and/or should do in court or otherwise, referring to other agencies for assistance, personal advocacy for victims with prosecutors, police officers, and allied social service professionals, access to a 911 cell phone, and assisting with paperwork for Orders of Protection or Crime Victims Compensation.       

Ramos said despite advances there is still so much to do. Victims’ rights are not universal and are often not enforced. Only a fraction of victims receive crime victim compensation, which is usually limited to victims of violent crime. More than 50 percent of crimes are not reported, and fewer than 20 percent of victims receive needed services, she said.

The victim services system is fragmented and uncoordinated, and agencies are struggling to keep their doors open in the face of budget cuts. 

National Crime Victims’ Rights Week will begin in Washington, D.C., at the Department of Justice’s annual Attorney General’s National Crime Victims’ Service Awards Ceremony on April 20 to honor outstanding individuals and programs that serve victims of crime. 

The Lincoln County Victim/Witness Program successfully promotes awareness of victims’ rights and services and honors countless crime victims and witnesses and has done so for almost 15 year, in part by celebrating Crime Victims’ Rights Week.  

The Lincoln County Victim/Witness Program served 289 victims of violent crimes last year up from the 212 victims the previous year providing approximately 1,807 services. Lincoln County will observe National Crime Victims’ Rights week with an Open House at the Victim/Witness Program Office at 418 Mineral Avenue, Libby from noon to 2 p.m. Wednesday, April 25.

“We cordially invite the public to attend,” Ramos said. 

The Lincoln County Commissioners have signed a resolution declaring April 22 to 28 as Crime Victims’ Rights Week.  

“Later in the year look for other special events to honor victims of crime,” Ramos said. “We urge each community to encourage its members to participate by finding ways to reach out and help victims of crime.”

For additional information about National Crime Victims’ Rights Week and how to help victims in your community, please contact the Lincoln County Victim/Witness Program at 406 283-2415, or visit the office at 418 Mineral Avenue in Libby.  

“Our online website, www.lincolncountymt.us/vw, has more information about our program,” she said.

For more ideas on how to volunteer, visit the Office for Victims of Crime Web site, www.crimevictims.gov.