April 6 to April 12 marks this year’s National Crime Victims’ Rights Week. Sheriff Rex W. Coffey said the Charles County Sheriff’s Office will be commemorating our nation’s progress in advancing victims’ rights by honoring those who advocate for expanded support and services to people and communities affected by crime.
Members of the sheriff’s office will be attending a candlelight vigil being held on Tuesday, April 8 at 7 p.m. at the Charles County Courthouse. “We will take time to remember all victims of crime and honor those who work to protect our communities and those who aid victims of crime,” said Sheriff Coffey.
This year’s theme – 30 Years: Restoring the Balance of Justice – presents a perfect opportunity to salute all those who have aided crime victims. “As we celebrate defending three decades of defending victims’ rights, we are reminded of how far we have come and how much more work has yet to be done,” said Sheriff Coffey.
Only 30 years ago, crime victims had virtually no rights and no assistance. The criminal justice system 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 rebuild their lives. There were few avenues to help them deal with their wounds. Victims were on their own to recover their health, security and dignity.
Today, the nation has made dramatic progress in securing rights, protections and services for victims. Every state has enacted victims’ rights laws and all states have victim compensation programs. More than 10,000 victim services agencies now help more people across 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 centers and victim compensation programs.
Victims’ rights advocates have scored countless victories over the last 30 years, but there is more work to be done. Over three decades, VOCA pioneered support efforts from once hidden crimes like domestic and sexual violence. Now, VOCA is shining a spotlight on other abuses that have long been unreported and not prosecuted – elder abuse, hate and bias crimes, bullying, and sex and labor trafficking among others.
The Charles County Sheriff’s Office is committed to helping victims of crime. The agency has a full-time Victims Services Coordinator who works with local, state and regional agencies including the Center for Abused Persons, the Center for Children, the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board and Victims Information and Notification Everyday (VINE) to ensure victims understand their rights and have access to counseling and compensation. For more information about National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, visit www.victimsofcrime.org.