National Crime Victim's Rights Week gets underway starting April 22, honoring the nation's progress in advancing victim's rights.
This year's theme, "Extending the Vision: Reaching Every Victim," celebrates the ideal of serving the victims of every crime.
The vision that launched the victim's rights movement emerged more than 30 years ago. Then and now, crime victims endured physical and emotional wounds, costly financial burdens, a hostile criminal justice system, and an alarming public tendency to blame victims for the crimes committed against them.
Victims were often excluded from the courtroom, disrespected by officials and afforded few rights. They began organizing to confront these challenges and to promote fair, compassionate and respectful responses to victims of crime.
"Since the 1980s, there has been dramatic progress in securing rights, protection and services for victims of crime," said Kim Bishop-Jones, Lawrence County victim's advocate. "Every state has enacted victims' rights laws and 32 states have constitutional victims' rights amendments."
All states have victim compensation funds and more than 10,000 victim service agencies have been established throughout the nation.
The Office for Victims of Crime, U.S. Department of Justice, supports a range of programs for crime victims and seeks to extend those services to those who are underserved.
"There is still much to do," Bishop-Jones said. "Victims' rights are not universal and are often not enforced. Only a fraction of victims receive crime victims' compensation, which is usually limited to victims of violent crimes.
"More than 50 percent of crimes go unreported," Bishop-Jones continued. "Fewer than 20 percent of victims receive needed services. The victim services system is fragmented and uncoordinated and agencies are struggling to keep their doors open in the face of budget cuts."
Bishop-Jones said victim advocates are committed to extend the vision and reach every victim of violent crimes as well as overcome the many challenges facing many agencies today.
The week will begin on June 20 with an awards ceremony at the Department of Justice's annual Attorney General's National Crime Victims' Services in Washington D.C.
For additional information about National Crime Victims' Rights Week and how to help victims in this community, contact Bishop-Jones at the Lawrence County Sheriff's Office at 417-466-2131 ext. 2338 or the hotline at 417-489-2351 or visit the website at www.lawrencecosheriff.com.
More information may also be obtained at the Office for Victims of Crime website at www.crimevictims.gov.