Every year, our nation recognizes victims of crime during Crime Victims Rights Week. April 18 to 24 is dedicated to all of those who have suffered and lost and feel the silence of a loved one who is never coming home. It affects us all.
Look back through your life and it is likely that you will either know someone who has been touched by crime or you will have been a victim yourself.
In 1979, a young woman from my neighborhood in Buffalo was murdered. She went to work in a Riverside bar and never came home. A few days later, a notice of a Jane Doe was listed in the paper and her brother went to the morgue to identify her body. She had been raped, beaten and strangled. Unfortunately for society, her killer was released 12 years later.
Her family has never forgotten her, nor have I. I remember the empty feeling of all who knew her. Everyone thought, if only I were there to protect her. But it was not meant to be. At the time I was 16 years old. I remember going to the wake and wondering why this happened to her, and to everyone who knew her. The whole neighborhood was affected by this murder.
Many families lose loved ones to crime and are devastated by the effects. That hole in their life is never filled.
I am now in my 40s and I have been a crime victim advocate for the past eight years. I remember that womans murder every year, and how her family and a community lost a very special person to a senseless crime.
Wonderful things happen in life that fulfill us, and devastating things happen in our lives that tear us apart.
I went to a conference a few years ago and heard Congressman Ted Poe speak of his experiences with crime victims as a judge in Texas. As part of one sentence, Poe made the man hang a picture of the person he murdered in his jail cell so that every day he would think about what he had done. I think more judges should include this in sentencing, so that murderers can never forget what they have done. They need to know that their actions affected not just one person, but an entire community. The victims family and friends will never forget.
In 2002, one of my family members was attacked while riding her bike down a neighborhood street in Buffalo one night. She was 17 years old. She was beaten, raped, strangled and left for dead in a school yard. She was also listed as a Jane Doe and put in a medically induced coma for two weeks due to her injuries. Fortunately she survived.
The person who did this to her is not scheduled to be released until 2038 at the earliest. It took some time for her to heal and move forward. She will never forget what happened to her; neither will her family, friends or the amazing ambulance crew that saved her life.
Today she is a beautiful young woman who is healthy and strong and has a family of her own. She is a survivor.
As a crime victim advocate, what happened to these two young women will remain with me for the rest of my life. One unfortunately is gone. The other has been scarred, but is still alive and able to move on.
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