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Suffolk commemorates Crime Victims’ Rights Week

The Suffolk Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office is marking an annual recognition for crime victims’ rights, while practicing safe social distancing due to the coronavirus pandemic.

A sign was put on display in the Godwin Courts Building courtyard on North Main Street on Tuesday, along with numerous blue ribbons. This display marks National Crime Victims’ Rights Week from Sunday to Saturday, and will remain on display through the end of April.

Normally, the Suffolk Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office would hold a more formal program in the Godwin Courts Building courtyard for this annual event, but that idea had to be scrapped due to COVID-19 concerns.

“However, we do feel that we should remember and never forget those who have been victimized by crime,” said Suffolk Commonwealth’s Attorney Phil Ferguson. “That is what we’re trying to accomplish with what we have done here in the courtyard with the sign and the ribbons, which represent those who have been victimized.”

The theme for this year’s National Crime Victims’ Rights Week is “Seek Justice | Ensure Victims’ Rights | Inspire Hope.” The theme is about commemorating the individuals and groups whose advocacy has “propelled the victims’ rights movement forward for the past half century,” and has inspired hope for progress, justice and healing in victims and their loved ones, according to ovc.ncjrs.gov/ncvrw.

2020 marks the 34th year that Suffolk Victim Witness Services has met the challenge of assisting local citizens with resources, services and support to help them heal from the “devastation of victimization,” according to Victim/Witness Services Director Diane Bryant.

In addition to National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, Bryant and Ferguson as well as others acknowledge that April is also Child Abuse Month and Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

“Each year, the goal of this recognition has been to celebrate the progress achieved, raise awareness of victims’ rights and services, and stand with our families, neighbors, friends, and colleagues whose lives have been forever altered by crime,” Bryant wrote in her prepared remarks. “Show victims that they are not alone. Many will need ongoing care and resources.”

The coronavirus pandemic has been an especially dire for victims of domestic violence and also for children affected by child abuse.

“It is important to remember that even in these times that child abuse is still prevalent,” Chief Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Marie Walls said. “We’re in the office reaching out to children (and) working with their families to make sure that they’re safe, especially at this time where there’s a lot of anxiety in society.

“But our goal is to make sure that we undertake and use all of our resources to protect children,” Walls continued. “We’re still meeting with childcare providers, doctors, (and) detectives to make sure that we’re bringing the cases that we need to (bring to) court, and making sure that those children are protected.”

For more information on local resources for victims of domestic violence, child abuse and other crimes, visit suffolkva.us/320/Victim-Witness-Services or call 514-4366.