MEDFORD, Ore. — The second week of April is National Crime Victims’ Rights Week and we may not realize it, but victims and survivors of crimes are all around us… many hiding in plain sight.
1 in 3 women have been victimized by domestic violence and 1 in 4 by sexual abuse. Often times we discuss the crime, not the victim behind it.
That’s why, organizations across the country are joining together to shed light on crime victims and how to help them.
The Jackson County Victims’ Assistance Program says they’ve provided services to over 4,000 crime victims from 2017 to 2018, but that number is actually much higher because it’s only reflective of the cases they’ve prosecuted.
“We tend to focus on the actual crime, just in culture, and we forget that there’s someone behind it,” said Barbara Johnson, Executive Director of Community Works.
Every day we encounter survivors and victims of crimes whether it be a neighbor, friend, or family member and we may not even know it.
According to the National Domestic Violence hotline, 24 people per minute are victims of rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner in the United States.
That’s more than 12 million women and men over the course of a year.
“It isn’t that someone is choosing to allow it to happen, it happened because someone else made the decision to do something to victimize them,” said Johnson.
But the numbers are just that… numbers; they can’t speak, shout, or breathe.
It’s why Johnson says it’s so important to give victims who have gone through traumatic experiences back their voice.
“Bringing it up… and saying this is not acceptable,” she said.
She says a fundamental part of victims having a voice is to know their rights. In Oregon, victims have the right to dignity and respect, the right to speak at some court hearings, and restitution.
That’s where Tammi Pitzen and Diana Hamilton come in.
“There’s a job that has to be done by the system but there are people involved in that and how do we have an empathetic, compassionate approach in that,” said Tammi Pitzen, Executive Director of the Children’s Advocacy Center.
They say many times people feel afraid to come forward, but it’s necessary in order to put perpetrators behind bars.
“In order for us to prosecute a lot of cases, we have to have the victim,” said Diana Hamilton, Jackson County District Attorney’s Office.
Both admit the judicial system is about justice, not healing.
That’s why Johnson says when it comes to victims learning to live through the trauma, it’s a slow and difficult process that begins with recognizing they’re not alone in their fight.
“No blaming, no I wouldn’t do this myself, but more from the standpoint [that] they’re not alone. We’re all going to be in this together and we’re not going to give up on them,” she said.
An event for National Crime Victims Rights Week will be held at the Jackson County Public Library from 5:30 to 7:30 Thursday night; no reservations are required.
Amanda Rose is a multimedia journalist for NBC5 News. Amanda graduated from Columbia University earning a Master’s degree in Journalism. She also received a Bachelor’s degree in English with a specialization in literature from the University of British Columbia.
She’s a Los Angeles native, but is thrilled to return to the beautiful Pacific Northwest and is passionate about reporting on the criminal justice system.