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No safe state or safe place

03/27/2008

By Susan Russell

April is Sexual Violence Awareness Month and April 13 through 19 is National Crime Victims Rights Week. Vermont is said to be one of the safest states in the nation. Yet ask any crime victim/survivor and I am sure they will not agree with this statement. In fact, I believe most crime victims will tell you that there really is no such thing as a safe state or even a safe place.

All we would need to do to verify this statement is to ask those victims and secondary victims whose loved ones went to work at the World Trade Center on that fateful September 11 day. Or we can ask those family and community members of the April 16, 2007, Virginia Tech massacre. Or we can ask David and Anne Scoville of Canandaigua, NY, whose daughter Patricia was murdered just after moving to Stowe, Vermont, in 1991. It has taken over 16 years to find her killer. Credit for finally locating the murderer through the use of DNA can be attributed to the Scovilles' commitment in securing DNA legislation in every state of our great nation. And on a plaque dedicated in her memory the following words have been added: "Justice for Patty was found on January 17, 2008."
 
Or you ask me, your Vermont neighbor, who is a survivor of violent crime, who was kidnapped right here in our small community of Warren. Fortunately I was rescued by five teenagers camped one-tenth of a mile from where I was left to die at Texas Falls, Hancock. Fortunately for all of us the perpetrator of this crime was apprehended, arrested and convicted of this crime. However, he has only six to seven years left to serve and then he will be released back into our society with no one to supervise him.

These types of stories and experiences of crime victims and survivors remind us that crime can strike anyone, anywhere, anytime. Crime changes your life, your family's and the greater community's life, forever. However, what truly matters here is what happens in the aftermath of crime as it relates to victim assistance, victim rights and seeking justice. The field of victim assistance has come a long way in the past several decades. The field is strong, vibrant and committed to easing the suffering of those hurt by crime. There are over 10,000 community and system-based victim assistance programs in the United States today. And there are over 32,000 federal and state laws that are on the books today that try to define and protect victims' rights. And as a result, since their inception, they have helped thousands and thousands of victims, like yours truly. In addition to my family and friends, I have the privilege and honor to live in this wonderful supportive community. Many of you have supported my family and me through these many years of healing. I take this opportunity to thank you all. I'd also like to take this time to provide you with information on upcoming events that support, acknowledge and appreciate crime victims and all those who support them.

April is Sexual Violence Awareness month, and the week of April 13 through 19 is National Crime Victims Rights Week. The theme of this year's National Crime Victims Rights Week (NCVRW) is "Justice for Victims, Justice for All." On Thursday, April 17, there will be a Red Flag Ceremony, paying tribute to victims/survivors of sexual assault at the Statehouse at 10 a.m. The 15th Annual Crime Victims Rights Award Ceremony will take place at the Pavilion Building Auditorium from 2 to 4 p.m. The Awareness Theater and Vermont Center for Crime Victim Services have created a play about the victimization of elders and people with disabilities: And Justice for All. They will perform it at the Evergreen Place Senior Center on Tuesday, April 22, at 12:30 p.m.

There are many other events taking place in and around the state during the month of April and during NCVRW. For more information and/or a listing of these events you can go the Vermont Network Against Domestic and Sexual Violence website, www.vtnetwork.org or contact the Network directly at 802-223-1302. For more information on the Annual Crime Victims Rights Award Ceremony or the Awareness Theater, you can contact the Vermont Center for Crime Victim Services at 802-241-1250, ext. 112.

This piece is an excerpt from Susan's keynote address for this year's April 17, 2008, Syracuse, NY, Crime Victims Rights Ceremony.
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