By Cass Rains, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
By Cass Rains
Today marks the beginning of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, and this year’s theme is “New Challenges, New Solutions.”
District Attorney Mike Fields said this year’s theme celebrates the spirit that will continue to advance the cause of victims’ rights in our community and state.
“We have made remarkable progress for crime victims despite many challenges,” Fields said. “Only 30 years ago, crime victims had no rights or even access to services to help rebuild their lives. They were often excluded from courtrooms, treated as an afterthought by the criminal justice system and denied an opportunity to speak at sentencing.”
Fields, who serves Garfield, Blaine, Canadian, Grant and Kingfisher counties, pointed out changes have been made over the past three decades.
“Through decades of advocacy and hard work, we’ve come a long way. Today, all states have enacted crime victims’ rights laws and established crime victim compensation funds,” he said. “More than 10,000 victims’ service agencies help victims across the nation. Victims and victims’ advocacy groups now have a stronger voice than ever before.”
Despite such progress, Fields said important work remains ahead.
“Crime Victims’ Rights Week reminds us that there are still many challenges to overcome,” he said. “Most troubling to me is the fact that surveys continue to show that approximately one-half of all violent crimes are not reported, and only about 10 percent of victims of violent crime receive the services they need.
“We must do better in these two areas in particular.”
For three decades, National Crime Victims’ Rights Week has successfully promoted the awareness of victims’ rights and services, and honored countless crime victims and survivors.
“Every year, millions of innocent people become victims of crime,” Fields said. “They deserve our understanding, compassion and respect. National Crime Victims’ Rights Week is a time to reach out to victims and help them rebuild their lives.”
The 22nd annual vigil for crime victims will be held 6 p.m. Tuesday at YWCA Enid, 525 S. Quincy.
“We have many community partners who have worked hard to make this event special and we hope that everyone will join us,” Fields said.
The featured speaker this year is Kamelle James, a domestic violence survivor. The vigil will conclude with the speak-out portion of the program, in which any victim who chooses to do so will have an opportunity to address the audience.
The event is sponsored by Fields, YWCA Crisis Center, Garfield County Sheriff’s Office, Enid Police Department, Garfield County Child Advocacy Council, Garfield County Juvenile Office, Garfield County Domestic Violence Task Force, Carver Education Center, Vance Air Force Base Airman and Family Readiness Center, and Vance Air Force Base Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office.
Fields said victims in Garfield County are served by victim assistance programs that identify and address the immediate, short-term and long-term needs of crime victims and survivors.
“We provide crime victims with information about their rights and the many services that are available to help them,” he said. “If you or someone you know is a victim of a crime, we want to help.”
For additional information about the 2013 National Crime Victims’ Rights Week or the Victims’ Vigil, contact District Attorney District 4 Victim Witness Coordinator J.D. Overton at (580) 233-1311.