Event honors victims’ rights

Published 9:20 pm Friday, April 8, 2011

Sharon was at home asleep with her 6-year-old son in a nearby room when she was raped.

The crime occurred in 1999. Sharon was dragged out of her house by her hair, blindfolded, put in a car and driven down the street.

“I remembered that you’re never supposed to let them take you away from the scene,” Sharon said.

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She opened the door and leaped out of the moving car, then ran to a neighbor’s house.

It was several months before her attacker was caught through a DNA match. In the interim, Sharon stayed with neighbors for a while, but eventually she had to go back to her own home. She purchased outside motion-sensor lights and a baseball bat that she kept by her bed.

“There I was during the middle of the night,” she said. “I was paralyzed with fear. It took me a while to get through that.”

A few things helped her get through, she said — the support of friends and family, and the services offered by the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s victim/witness office.

The victim/witness office is commemorating its 25th anniversary this year and observing Crime Victims’ Rights Week next week, April 10-16.

The recognition, themed “Reshaping the Future — Honoring the Past,” will include a self-defense expo on Tuesday. It is free and open to the public to observe or participate in self-defense training and also will include general education about crime and light refreshments.

The Suffolk victim/witness office was formed 25 years ago to provide support to crime victims and families. The office helps crime victims and witnesses understand their rights and apply for the assistance to which they are entitled, provides courtroom tours before trials and even holds their hand during court proceedings.

“We’re all committed to the work we’ve been called to do,” said Diane Bryant, the director of the program.

“It’s nice to know that you’ve got people that care, helping you through reliving a difficult situation, reminding you that it’s not your fault,” Sharon said. “They were there every step of the way.”

Next week’s event will feature training in Combat Hapkido at Triple T Sports Center at 619 E. Constance Road. It lasts from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday. It is presented by the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office and Suffolk Police Department.

The victim/witness office offered a few tips to help avoid and prevent crime:

  • Be alert. Keep your head up and be aware of your surroundings.
  • Vary your routines. Predictability makes you a more likely target.
  • Make your home a tough target. Lock your doors and use floodlights, motion sensors, a security system, deadbolts and other devices to foil burglars.
  • Avoid carjackings by keeping your windows up and doors locked, checking your mirrors and blind spot when stopped, staying at least one car-length away from the car ahead of you and sounding your horn and flash your lights if you think you’re being approached by a carjacker.
  • Avoid car thefts by locking it, using an anti-theft device, turning the wheels when you park, parking in a well-lit place, putting packages in the trunk and never leaving a spare key inside the car.
  • Be informed and get involved. Learn the crime trends in your area and work to protect yourself against them. Join or organize a Neighborhood Watch.