Held April 21-27, the national effort promotes victims’ rights and remembers those affected by crime and advocated on their behalf, according to the Office of Justice Programs.
Locally, the District Attorney’s Office and A Better Way, Advocates for Children’s advocacy center, are partnering for events in the Cherokee Judicial Circuit, which covers Bartow and Gordon counties.
“We were lucky enough to apply and be awarded a grant in order to partner with people in our community on behalf of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, which is typically the last week in April,” said A Better Way Director Rebecca Bentley.
The $5,000 grant from the Office for Victims of Crime, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice and National Center for Victims of Crime funds opportunities only during the awareness week.
Because of the overlap in coverage, Bentley said the partnership with the DA’s department was a natural one.
“We deal with the same folks, the same families and the same kids, and while it’s our mission to only serve children, this kind of stuff is a family problem, too,” she said.
Victim Witness Director Julia Richards said Bartow County’s program to mark National Crime Victims’ Rights Week will be held Monday, April 22, at noon at the Frank Moore Administration and Judicial Center, 135 W. Cherokee Ave.
“We are working on getting a couple of groups of kids in both counties to come out and perform a skit called, ‘Breaking the Silence,’” she said.
In addition to the performance, guest speakers are lined up, along with a live butterfly release.
“This particular event is meant to be commemorative, but it’s also to raise awareness that [children] are standing there, they are watching and they are listening the whole time,” Bentley said.
With each National Crime Victims’ Rights Week focusing on a different area, Richards said children are particularly important.
“It’s so important when people seeing something going on to speak up and be a voice for those who maybe can’t be a voice for themselves,” she said.
Adult education and participation are key for Bentley as well.
“Every April and throughout the year, it is our mission with Advocates for Children to raise awareness of the fact that it is an adult’s problem. Children are the victims. Children are suffering. Families are the victim and families are suffering, but it’s not up to the child to say no and to stop this. It is up to adults to recognize what to look for in a child, in a youth, a teenager and each other,” she said.
And child abuse is epidemic.
“Since [the end of 2008], I, myself, have interviewed over 530 child victims, and it’s not just adults hurting children, it’s also children hurting children,” Bentley said. “That speaks more to the climate of what’s going on in their families, a lack of awareness of parents that are allowing their children to have unattended time with computers, unattended time with gaming devices, unattended time with teenagers, unattended time with adults they know and they trust that they don’t know are doing these things.
“It’s not just the people that get splashed on the news, the coaches and that kind of stuff. It’s the people we bring into our lives, the boyfriends, the girlfriends, the pawpaws, memaws; these people we trust to leave our children with are the ones that are doing this stuff.”
For more information on Advocates for Children, visit www.advochild.org, and to learn more about National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, go to http://ovc.ncjrs.gov/ncvrw/.