GUEST OPINION: Taking time to honor crime victims among us

  • Terry Probyn, the mother of kidnapping victim Jaycee Dugard, leaves the courtroom after making a statement to her daughter's kidnappers, Phillip and Nancy Garrido, during their sentencing hearing at the El Dorado County Superior Court in Placerville, Calif., Thursday, June 2, 2011. Calling him the "poster child" of a sexual predator, Judge Douglas C. Phimister sentenced Phillip Garrido to 431 years to life and Nancy Garrido to 36 years to life in state prison for the 1991 kidnapping of Dugard.(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, pool)

Crime attracts attention, but victims often do not. Television crime programs, local news and the criminal justice system tend to focus on the crime and the offender, not the victim. Our job is to change that, to convince people that the millions of crimes committed in this country every year (almost 19 million in 2010) affect each and every one of us. For each direct victim, there are multiple derivative victims — relatives, friends and associates — whose lives are also forever altered by the crime.

The Sonoma County District Attorney's Office and our many partners are honoring crime victims by celebrating Crime Victims' Rights Week in Sonoma County next week with a variety of important events.

The theme for this year is "Extending the Vision: Reaching Every Victim." This theme reminds us to celebrate the vision behind the progress that has been made to honor victims and the ideal of serving all victims of crime. It is paramount to treat crime victims with fairness, respect and dignity.

On April 24, the District Attorney's Office will host Terry Probyn, mother of Jaycee Lee Dugard, at the Family Justice Center. Dugard was kidnapped in 1991 at age 11 and forced to live in her perpetrator's backyard for 18 years while bearing two children by him. Probyn will share her experience, both as the mother of a victim and a victim herself, of anguish and helplessness that over time turned into hope and inspiration. For details on this free event, please see our website: http://da.sonoma-county.org and click on "Save the Date."

The victim services d-ivision of the District Attorney's Office guides victims through the criminal justice system, links them to community resources and assists them with victim compensation and restitution to recover crime related losses. We are on track to serve 3,200 crime victims in this fiscal year.

Every victim we help to empower to become a survivor raises us up as a community.

Jill Ravitch is Sonoma County's district attorney. Gloria Eurotas is victim services director for the county.

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