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Wakulla Times Article--May 2010-- We Must Never Forget The Victims of Crimes

WE MUST NEVER FORGET THE VICTIMS OF CRIMES

By SHERIFF DAVID HARVEY
Wakulla County Sheriff’s Office Victim Advocates Laurie Langston and Tina Brimner ponder an answer to the question: What is a typical day in the life of a victim advocate?

The two women were asked the question at different times, but their answers were identical: “There is no such thing as an average day in this job.”

The sheriff’s office celebrated National Crime Victim’s Rights Week April 18 through April 24 by hosting the first of what we hope will be several plantings of flowering bushes at the sheriff’s office flagpole and entrance sign.

A ceremony was held Tuesday, April 20 as we remembered the sometimes overlooked portion of law enforcement, the victims of crimes.

The national campaign included the theme—Crime Victims’ Rights: Fairness, Dignity, Respect. Nationally, the event is sponsored each year by the U.S. Department of Justice in partnership with the National Center for Victims of Crime.

The theme captured the ideals that inspired the victims’ rights movement. Only a few decades ago, shocking numbers of crime victims experienced unfairness, indignities and disrespect. Years of work by victims and advocates led to thousands of statutes and 32 state constitutional amendments that established victims’ rights.

“Every year, we celebrate that progress and commit ourselves to ensuring that all victims know about and can exercise these rights,” said Mark Butler, Acting Executive Director of The National Center for Victims of Crime. “Our National Crime Victim Helpline, 1-800-FYI-CALL, helps victims understand and exercise their rights.”

During a one-month reporting period, the WCSO victim advocates responded to a combined 76 victims and offered 242 services. During one day on the job, Langston and Brimner attended a session of injunction court and spoke to victims at the courthouse before visiting with a man who reported that he was a victim of abuse. Information about a potential case was sent to the Criminal Investigations Division to be investigated by detectives.

Later in the day the victim advocates spoke to a counselor about a client who needed an intervention. On another day, the victim advocates transported a female victim to the hospital emergency room in Tallahassee and took another victim to the Refuge House to get her out of a poor home life situation.

“At times it is really rewarding and at other times it is heartbreaking and frustrating,” said Langston. “You hope you can make a difference in a person’s life. I’ve made long-term relationships with victims that I have maintained to this day. You have to give a lot of yourself.”

Langston has been a victim advocate for four years. “This isn’t an eight to five job,” she said. “You could be called out in the middle of the night.”

The WCSO Victim Advocates are funded through the Victims of Crime Act that uses money collected through the court system, from offenders convicted of federal crimes, to assist victims. Langston calls the funding “bad boy dollars.”

The victim advocates have thank you notes posted on the walls from victims. The victims range in age from young children to the elderly.

“The reward is helping,” said Langston. “I might be planning a funeral or making sure they are fed.”

Brimer has been a victim advocate for 2 ½ years. “The reports never end,” she said. “At times it is very rewarding, but there aren’t enough resources available to help everyone. We can network on their behalf.”

My office comes into many different kinds of victims and we hope to be able to serve everyone to the full capacity possible. National Crime Victims’ Week was also a time to remember those victims who are no longer with us. We will never forget them.

 

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