The goal of this awareness week is to promote victims’ rights and honor crime victims and those who advocate on their behalf. This year’s theme – Expand the Circle: Reach All Victims – emphasizes the importance of inclusion in victim services.
“According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, victims experience more than five million violent crimes and nearly 15 million property victimizations a year,” said SAF Community Response Coordinator Stacie France. “However, many victims of crime face barriers to seeking justice, especially those with disabilities, LGBTQ individuals, older adults, those with limited English proficiency, Native Americans, and others from historically marginalized communities. When victims feel understood and supported, they are more likely to seek services.”
Every year, Oswego County Opportunities’ Services to Aid Families Program (SAF), Oswego County’s domestic violence and rape crisis program, along with the continuous support of community partners, plant a tree to honor victims of crime to commemorate National Crime Victims’ Rights Week. The tree is used as a symbol to represent renewal and hope to those whose lives have been affected by crime in our community. The goal is to plant a tree in all the towns, villages, and cities within Oswego County. Thus far, SAF has planted 16 trees throughout Oswego County, most recently in the Towns of Granby and New Haven.
This year, the Town of Scriba was honored to support the continuation of this annual event. The 17th annual tree planting ceremony was held on Wednesday, April 11 at Sunset Bay Park, with a tree generously donated by Walmart.
“We are honored to carry on the tradition of recognizing Crime Victims’ Rights Week by planting this tree as a way to honor these victims of crime in our community.” said Scriba Town Supervisor Robert Ramsey. “This tree is a symbol of hope and renewal for those whose lives have been affected by crime.”
Ramsey was joined by a number of dignitaries for the tree planting ceremony including Oswego County Legislator and Representative for NYS Assemblyman William Barclay Terry Wilbur, Catharine Wells of Senator Patty Ritchie’s office, Grace Bobertz, representing U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, and Oswego County District Attorney Gregory Oakes. All of which expressed their appreciation of those that advocate and support crime victims and the importance of recognizing all crime victims in this special way.
“Senator Ritchie, who serves on the state senate crime victim committee, recognizes the importance of advocating for the rights of crime victims” said Wells. “National Crime Victims’ Rights week is one of the many ways to honor crime victims and say thank you to those that help provide a brighter future for victims of crime.”
“Senator Gillibarand extends her gratitude to OCO and SAF for its continued recognition of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week and Sexual Assault Awareness Month,” said Bobertz. “We plant this tree not only to remember those that have lost their life to crime but to remind victims and their families in Oswego County and across the nation that they are not alone. It is my hope that this ceremony inspires others to take part in actions, large and small, public and private, to build stronger communities and stand in solidarity with those that have been victimized by crime and sexual assault.”
Victim service providers throughout Oswego County are working every day to meet the needs of crime victims. Yet, there are still many victims who are not informed of their rights and lack meaningful access to services.
“Many victims face barriers, such as isolation, distrust of authorities, language limitations, lack of transportation, or cultural barriers, that keep them from accessing the services and criminal justice systems that can help them recover from a crime,” said France. “To reach all victims, we must build relationships by reaching out, listening, and delivering culturally competent services. Because reaching and serving all victims of crime is essential to supporting thriving communities.”
“It is important to have days like this to recognize all crime victims and to emphasize that we are here to support them and give them a voice in court,” added Oswego County District Attorney Greg Oakes. “By raising awareness and showing that we support crime victims, our hope is more victims will come forward and their voices will be heard.”
The bipartisan Victims of Crime Act (VOCA), passed by Congress in 1984, created a national fund to ease victims’ suffering. Financed by fines and penalties paid by offenders, the Crime Victims’ Fund supports services for victims of all types of crime, including assistance for homicide survivors, survivors of child sexual abuse and victims of human trafficking, as well as rape crisis centers and domestic violence programs.
Funding provided through the New York State Office of Victim Services allows the SAF Program to provide crisis intervention, individual and group counseling, emergency shelter, advocacy, and 24/7 hotline assistance. In addition, SAF will assist any innocent victim of crime in filling out an application for crime victims’ compensation and providing follow up assistance directly to the New York State Office of Victim Services. SAF Staff work directly with the New York State Office of Victim Services to advocate on behalf of victims of crime and help recover out of pocket expenses to include, but not limited to; funeral expenses, medical bills, lost wages, loss of essential personal property, and crime scene clean up. In 2016, crime victims who worked with SAF to apply for compensation received a combined total of more than $15,000.
To learn more about National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, visit: http://ovc.ncjrs.gov/ncvrw
If you or someone you know has been a victim of a crime and is in need of support or information, please call our Crisis Hotline (315) 342-1600. The hotline is staffed by trained counselors and is available 24 hours. SAF is the domestic violence and rape crisis program for Oswego County and has provided crisis, supportive, advocacy and educational services throughout Oswego County for over 30 years.
OCO, Inc is a private, non-profit agency that has been supporting communities throughout Oswego County since 1966. A member agency of the United Way of Greater Oswego County, OCO provides more than 50 vital services throughout 100 separate locations. For more information, visit www.oco.org.