TACOMA, WA – Today marks the beginning of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, a time to honor crime victims and our nation’s progress in advancing their rights. Upholding the rights of crime victims is a top priority for the Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney's Office. The Victim-Witness Unit guides victims and witnesses in Pierce County through the complicated criminal justice process, providing education and resources specific to each victim's needs.
"In serving our community, we uphold, affirm and advance the rights of victims," said Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist. "This is a week where we remind ourselves of our daily duty to support victims and to make the justice system work for our community."
The Prosecutor’s Office seeks creative and cost effective ways to better serve crime victims. Last year the VWU gained its newest member, courthouse dog, Kiley. Throughout the year, Kiley provided assistance to children and adults with disabilities who are victims or witnesses of crime. When words are not enough, Kiley is available to provide a calming and reassuring presence to victims and witnesses.
The creative use of technology allows the Prosecutor's Office to engage victims when their access to services may be limited. After the mother of a murder victim spent two weeks watching the killer's trial, she had to return to her home in Florida. While she was unable to attend the sentencing hearing, the victim advocate videoconferenced the mother into the courtroom so she could address the court during sentencing. Technology helped her participate and observe justice from her Florida residence.
The VWU serves more than 15,000 victims every year. For some victims, the victim advocate becomes a lifeline during the court process. A victim wrote these words to an advocate, "I know you talk to many people who are in situations like mine...when you talk with me, I feel as if I'm the only one going through this." She concluded, "thank you for making my darkness a little brighter."
This week the VWU created an "Empty Shoe" display to represent crime victims. The display honors a sample of homicide victims from adjudicated cases in Pierce County from 2011 and 2012. The display is open to the public Monday, April 22, through Friday, April 26, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Pierce County Annex located at 2401 South 35th Street in Tacoma.
For more information, please contact Kelly Kelstrup at (253) 798-7792, [email protected].