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Victims’ Rights Week a time to learn, reflect

F.E. Warren AFB, Wyo. -- April 22 begins national Crime Victims' Rights Week -- a time for all Americans to learn about victimization, reflect on the cost of crime to our society and promote laws, policies and programs to help victims of crime rebuild their lives. The week's theme, "Victims' Rights: Every Victim - Every Time," envisions a strengthened national commitment to the nearly 24 million Americans harmed by crime each year. 

During the past three decades, the United States has made progress in securing rights, protections and services for crime victims. Every state has enacted victims' rights laws; law enforcement agencies give victims greater protection, and more than 10,000 victim assistance programs have been established throughout the country. Every state has a crime victim compensation fund and federal laws, such as the Violence Against Women Act and the Crime Victims' Rights Act, to help protect victims. 

Yet many crime victims have not experienced such progress. Only a fraction of victims report the crimes against them and participate in the criminal justice system. Victims' rights vary from state to state. Not all protections are enforced. Services are sometimes not available or they may not meet the physical, financial and psychological needs of victims or their families. Particularly vulnerable populations such as the elderly, persons with disabilities or residents of rural areas may not receive the support they need to rebuild their lives. 

"We are all diminished when victims go without the protections and help they need," said John Gillis, director of the Justice Department's Office for Victims of Crime. "Anytime a crime is not reported, a witness is intimidated, or an order of restitution is not enforced, we are all less secure. Achieving justice means repairing the harm suffered by all victims of crime." 

The Justice Department launched National Crime Victims' Rights Week in Washington, D.C., with its fifth annual National Candlelight Observance Ceremony Thursday, and their awards ceremony today, to honor extraordinary individuals and programs that provide services to victims of crime. Cheyenne will commemorate National Crime Victims' Rights Week with special events and programs April 22 - 28. 

Warren is encouraged to join in the week's activities and get involved in helping victims of crime. For more information about National Crime Victims' Rights Week and ideas on how to help victims in the community, call the victim and witness coordinator in Warren's legal office at 773-2256. For more information about national resources available to help crime victims, visit http//:www.crimevictims.gov.