April 19-25, 2020 to be National Crime Victims' Rights Week
Author: District Attorney
4/13/2020 12:29:36 PM
April designated as Crime Victims' Rights Awareness month in San Luis Obispo County
The month of April is dedicated to Crime Victims’ Rights Awareness in San Luis Obispo County and the week of April 19-25 across the nation. This is a time to honor survivors and their loved ones, raise awareness of victims' rights and services, and stand with those whose lives have been impacted. This year's theme is "Seek Justice | Ensure Victims' Rights | Inspire Hope" which celebrates the progress made by those before us as we look to a future of crime victim services that is even more inclusive, accessible, and trauma-informed.
“It was recently pointed out to me that our justice system is usually called the ‘criminal justice’ system and it is never called the ‘victim justice’ system. That must begin to change. While the protection of the rights of those who are accused is fundamentally important, it is equally as important to keep the dignity and respect of the victim throughout the entire process. That is why Crime Victims’ Rights Awareness Month is so important to me,” said District Attorney Dan Dow.
A ‘victim’ is defined under the California Constitution as, “a person who suffers direct or threatened physical, psychological, or financial harm as a result of the commission or attempted commission of a crime or delinquent act. The term ‘victim’ also includes the person’s spouse, parents, children, siblings, or guardian, and includes a lawful representative of a crime victim who is deceased, a minor, or physically or psychologically incapacitated."
Victims are often unaware that they too have rights within the justice system and can access a variety of services. This lack of information and awareness may prevent survivors from reporting a crime. For victims in our county, the Christopher G. Money Victim Witness Assistance Center is here to help by providing support, resources and informing victims they have a right to:
• Be informed about the criminal justice process
• Be notified and informed of pending felony pretrial/trial dispositions
• Be heard by the court at sentencing/disposition/parole eligibility hearings
• The return of property when it is no longer needed as evidence
• Be notified if their presence in court is not needed
• Be informed about available civil remedies, financial assistance, and social services
• Be compensated for their loss whenever possible
• Be provided with a secure waiting area during court proceedings; and
• Have inconveniences associated with participation in the criminal justice process minimized.
*Adapted from the Crime Victim’s Bill of Rights.
On the list above, a victim’s rights are not always assumed, some rights must be invoked.
However, the decision to report is not always easy. For some victims, the consequences of reporting may outweigh the benefits. Oftentimes victims fear retaliation from their offender if they report a crime. In other cases, victims may be reliant on their offenders for financial support, caretaking, or other resources. Some victims may suffer hardships if their offenders are jailed or if protection orders are issued. To guard their own safety and wellbeing, these victims may choose not to report when they have been victimized.
Additionally, victims may not know the benefits of reporting a crime. Reporting to law enforcement may allow for a survivor to apply for victim compensation, which is financial assistance covering certain expenses incurred after a crime has been committed. Survivors might also report a crime to gain empowerment in their situation and/or open the possibility of obtaining justice from their offenders. These efforts alone can be a meaningful part of their healing and recovery.
Reporting a personal victimization is a decision that requires consideration of numerous factors, which differ dramatically in each case. Survivors should be supported regardless of the path they choose and encouraged to recover in a way that keeps them safe and builds resilience.
If you or someone you know has been the victim of a crime, you can contact the Christopher G. Money Victim Witness Assistance Center for information and services including:
- Crisis Intervention
- Emergency Assistance
- Resource and Referral Assistance
- Victim Compensation Program Claim Assistance
- Property Return
- Orientation to the Criminal Justice System
- Court Escort and Support
- Case Status/Case Disposition
- Notification of Family/Friends
- Employer Notification/Intervention
- Restitution Assistance
For more information visit: https://www.slocounty.ca.gov/Departments/District-Attorney/Victim-Witness-Assistance-Center.aspx
District Attorney's Office - Christopher G. Money Assistance Center
1035 Palm Street, #384
San Luis Obispo, CA 93408
The San Luis Obispo County Victim Witness Assistance Center works to reduce the trauma, frustration and inconvenience experienced by victims, witnesses, and family members affected by crime. We do this by providing a wide variety of services to victims of crime and their families, in addition to supporting victims and witnesses throughout the criminal justice process. As part of our mission, we inform victims of their constitutional and statutory rights under California law, and how to exercise those rights. – Mission Statement
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