On the morning of April 6, the One Place Metropolitan Family Justice Center is partnering with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Northern District of Alabama to hold a ceremony at Regions Field recognizing victims of crime.
One Place brings together representatives of the District Attorney’s Office, the police force, the YWCA, and the Crisis Center, Inc. in one location to provide their services to victims of domestic violence.
The recognition ceremony is part of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, an annual program managed by the Department of Justice’s Office for Victims of Crime that partners law enforcement officers across the country with victims’ rights organizations to raise awareness of the resources that survivors of crime have access to. (Full disclosure: Weld is a sponsor of the ceremony.)
On Monday, President Donald Trump issued a proclamation recognizing National Crime Victims’ Rights Week. “Crime and violence rob people of their rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We must focus on the plight of crime victims and search for effective solutions,” the proclamation read. “As a society, we must continue to support those who have endured the fallout from crime . . . During National Crime Victims’ [Rights] Week, we renew our commitment to protecting all victims of crime, vindicating their rights, alleviating their burdens, and preventing future crime.”
This year marks the first time that One Place has participated in a National Crime Victims’ Rights Week event, said Executive Director Allison Dearing. Beyond highlighting local resources for those who have experienced a crime, she said, the ceremony is intended to give thanks to those who work to serve victims.
“We all realize that working in law enforcement and working as an advocate, these are difficult situations every day that our police walk into, that our prosecutors face in the courtroom,” Dearing said. “And oftentimes, we fail to say thank you, to show appreciation for the people in our community who work really hard to keep us safe. I think this is an opportunity to publicly acknowledge those who are doing those hard jobs every single day and to express our appreciation as a community.”
During the ceremony, representatives of One Place and the U.S. Attorney’s Office will present awards to a local law enforcement officer, a victim advocate, and a prosecutor “who have demonstrated exceptional leadership in fighting for crime victims’ rights,” according to the Crisis Center, Inc. website. Awards will also be given to crime victims “who have modeled the way for fellow crime victims with their acts of courage.”
Meg Garvin, a clinical professor of law at Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland, Oregon, will deliver the keynote address. Garvin also serves as the executive director of the National Crime Victim Law Institute, a legal organization that advocates for victims’ rights, trains lawyers on working with survivors, and provides free or low-cost legal services to crime victims. In this capacity, she has testified before Congress multiple times on issues relating to victims’ rights and, with the other members of the institute, helped draft the Crime Victims’ Rights Act of 2004, which protects the rights of victims in federal crime cases.
Garvin said she plans to talk about the need to include victims’ voices in the criminal justice system and on the importance of community members working together to protect and support survivors. She praised the One Place model, which has been used in several different cities to congregate resources vital for victims of crime.
“Survivors are having to really navigate living in the aftermath of crime, and when we send them to three thousand different places in order to get services, we are only compounding their trauma. The more that we can do to make navigating the aftermath of crime easier, the better it is for the survivor,” she said.
Garvin said that everyone in the community has a responsibility to be aware of the resources and rights available to victims in case they ever need to help a survivor.
“If we don’t know the rights, don’t point the way to services, and do it in a non-judgmental way, survivors can’t move forward through their problems,” she explained.
Dearing said that she hopes the ceremony and the wider National Crime Victims’ Right Week impress upon the community the importance of collaboration in helping survivors.
“We certainly know that all of the systems are necessary at different points in the healing process,” she said. “We know that when people and systems work together to provide support, that crime victims aren’t defined by what may be the worst event that ever happened to them . . . Collaboration is key to helping people not just survive but thrive after they’ve been a victim of a crime.”
To learn more about the One Place Metropolitan Family Justice Center, visit oneplacebirmingham.com.