Crime Victims Rights Week is April 7-13

To the editor:

In 1981, President Ronald Reagan proclaimed the first National Crime Victims’ Rights Week. Every year since, the United States has recognized one week in April as National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, as a way to bring awareness to issues that victims of crime face and to promote services available to crime victims. This year, National Crime Victims’ Rights Week is April 7-13. The theme is Honoring Our Past. Creating Hope for the Future.

In 2017, the Nicollet County Attorney’s Office received a grant from the Office of Justice Programs for a full-time Victim/Witness Coordinator position. While services were previously provided to victims through a part-time Victim/Witness Coordinator, a full-time Victim/Witness Coordinator has allowed the County Attorney’s Office to ensure that victims are kept informed and given a voice throughout the case, from the time charges are filed through the case conclusion. In 2018, the Victim/Witness Coordinator assisted 424 crime victims, provided 1,719 notifications of hearing outcomes and next hearing dates, and had numerous victim contacts to provide information and referrals.

The County Attorney’s Office also started a Victim Services Stakeholders Group. This group has members from the area law enforcement agencies, human services, and leaders from various community groups in Nicollet County. The focus of this group is to identify ways we, as a community, can better serve and support all crime victims. We then work to implement the recommendations from our meetings into how we serve crime victims.

With all of the work that has been done since 1981, crime victim survivors still face many barriers, resulting from both internal and external factors, when deciding whether to report their victimization. The National Crime Victimization Survey administered by the Bureau of Justice Statistics found that in 2017, only 45 percent of violent victimizations were reported to law enforcement. Some victims may not know the benefits of reporting a crime. They may think that their story feels insignificant, or they may wish to forget the incident and focus on recovery.

Every victimization, whether it be from an assault, burglary, theft, or stolen credit card, is significant as it impacts the survivor and the larger community. Reporting to law enforcement enables a survivor to apply for crime victim compensation where appropriate, obtain referrals to other services, and may help law enforcement identify similar crimes that have occurred in the area. If the case is prosecuted, victims may also seek restitution for any out of pocket expenses, and provide a victim impact statement at sentencing to let the court know how the crime has affected them. This can help the victim feel a sense of justice, which can be a meaningful part of recovery.

We support victims no matter which path they choose and encourage them to recover in a way that keeps them safe and encourages resilience. We recognize the progress that has been made, while we work towards providing services that are even more inclusive, accessible, and trauma-informed.

Michelle Zehnder Fischer

Nicollet County Attorney

Bonnie Petersen

Nicollet County Victim/Witness