Comfort in time of need

Published 9:27 pm Wednesday, April 13, 2016

For victims of crime, the pain, loss and frustration they feel in the hours immediately following the crime are hardly the end of the painful road they must travel. Even when suspects are quickly identified and arrested, the ensuing legal process can be a long one, and one that can be fraught with confusion and its own type of suffering. And it’s a process that doesn’t always bring the sense of closure those victims long for.

Criminal prosecutors have much experience in working with crime victims, and Suffolk Commonwealth’s Attorney C. Phillips Ferguson has sought for more than 30 years to make sure they have the best resources available to understand the legal system and deal with the challenges victims face in the wake of the crimes committed against them.

Suffolk crime victims were remembered, and the work of those who support them was honored, during the Suffolk Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Crime Victims’ Rights Week ceremony on Tuesday. A special ceremony in Suffolk Circuit Court honored the families of four men who were murdered in Suffolk during 2015 and 2016, remembering those victims with a memorial wreath and reminding those attending that each of those men represents a family whose foundations were shaken by their deaths.

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“It is our hope and goal to see that justice is done anytime somebody’s life is taken,” Ferguson said during the ceremony. “Our focus is to educate our citizens and prevent crime first. When we do that, we reduce further victimizations.”

But Ferguson’s creation of the Victim/Witness Services Division within his office also demonstrates an understanding of the toll crime has on families, on loved ones and on society as a whole.

Diane Bryant, the city’s victim/witness director, said the work of advocates is important because without it, victims often feel like they do not have a voice. “What they’re looking for is someone who will support them through the process,” she said.

Suffolk’s victim/witness program is one of the oldest in the commonwealth, according to Kassandra Bullock, victims services manager for the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services. That’s a testament to Ferguson’s forward thinking, and it should be help provide a bit of comfort to crime victims during a time in their lives when comfort is desperately needed.