Victim’s Rights Week takes spotlight off criminals
By Cynthia M. Jeffries
Ted Bundy. Jeffrey Dahmer. Susan Smith.
After a violent crime has been committed, often the media directs the public’s attention to the person who committed or is accused of committing the crime. In some cases, the victim may not be mentioned at all. In others, a victim might get a snippet in the fourth or fifth paragraph of a news story.
This week, victims’ advocates are trying to recast the spotlight from the crime and the possible criminal onto the victim.
This week, April 21-27, is National Crime Victim’s Rights Week. During this week, organizations that assist victims of violent crime are joining together to promote greater public awareness about crime victims, their needs and what advocates say are the victim’s limited legal rights.
In a press release, Carolyn Clayton,founder of Survival Inc., a Lee County-based support group for victims of violent crimes, said “The criminal justice system is named appropriately because it protects the rights of the criminal. Unfortunately, this same system often leaves victim’s rights at the wayside.
Clayton’s 18-year-old daughter, Amy, was stabbed to death in 1986 while she was jogging. The person convicted of her death is in the Department of Corrections.
Patty Adams, a social worker with Survival Inc. said: “(The criminal) makes a choice to do what he does. The victim didn’t have a choice.”
The theme for this year’s event is “Victim Justice: A New Day Dawning.” The week’s activities will be highlighted in this area with a candle lighting service for those who have lost family members or loved ones in a violent act. The event is slated to start at 6:30 p.m. Friday. Organizers are not publicizing the location of the lighting ceremony, but anyone interested can call Survival Inc. at 840-8728.
Also, a victim’s march has been slated for 2 p.m. Saturday in Ripley. The march will start at the Tippah County Courthouse.
This year in Lee County, two men have died as a result of gunshot wounds and another Lee County man was set afire and died. Police have signed a murder affidavit for murder against his wife in connection with that incident.
In 1994, the latest statistics that are available, 23,310 people died as a result of a violent crime. Many of the women who were killed died as a result of domestic violence.
Kathy Wallace, executive director of SAFE Inc., said abused women are 74 percent more likely to be killed by their partners while attempting to leave. She said that is often one reason some women stay in abusive relationships.
In 1994, 6 million women were assaulted by their male partners. That same year, 1,570 Northeast Mississippi women called abuse crisis lines for help. But only a small percentage of women call for help. Many cases still go unreported.
In the first 10 months of 1995, there were 82 domestic violence reports and 17 reports of family disturbances filed with the Tupelo Police Department. Wallace said this is not an accurate picture since some cases may be classified as simple or aggravated assaults, or even murders.
In 1994, the Violence Against Women Act single-handedly authorized more federal dollars for crime victims than any other piece of legislation, Clayton said.
Last July, two new laws concerning domestics violence went into effect in Mississippi. One of the laws, the mandatory arrest law, requires officers to make an arrest when there is probable cause to believe the person may have committed the misdemeanor offense of domestic abuse within the last 24 hours. The other law allows police to assist a victim who is trying to remove personal belonging from their home when attempting to leave.