Recognizing Victims' Rights Week
April 8-14, 2018, marks National Crime Victims’ Rights Week (NCVRW), drawing attention to the devastating, long-lasting consequences of crime. Commemorated by the Office for Victims of Crime (OVC), part of the Office of Justice Programs (OJP), this year's theme for NCVRW is "Expand the Circle: Reach All Victims."
The focus of NCVRW 2018 is to "emphasize the importance of inclusion in victim services" while addressing how we can "better ensure that every crime victim has access to services and support," and "how professionals, organizations, and communities can work in tandem to reach all victims."
At Prison Fellowship®, we advocate for justice that restores, including justice that restores those hurt by crime.
JUSTICE THAT LISTENS
To advocate for criminal justice means to be a voice for those who are affected by crime and incarceration—including victims. But before we can speak, we must learn to listen to what those harmed by crime are saying. We need to "mourn with those who mourn," listening to those who have been harmed by crime without any sense of judgment.
Prison Fellowship believes that engaging, supporting, and listening to the victims of crime is a vital part of justice that restores. This process includes caring for the needs of victims, helping those victims participate in the justice process as much as they want to, and giving them a chance to be heard. Some victims of crime report great empowerment and personal benefit from mediation with the person who wronged them.
However, this is a deeply personal journey and decision, which cannot be rushed or forced.
In addition, Prison Fellowship believes that accountability is a vital component of biblical justice. Biblical justice requires that individuals take responsibility for the harm they’ve caused and work to be transformed and earn back public trust, so that they become a person who will not commit more crimes. This is one way of showing respect for these painful experiences—by doing everything possible to make sure the situations are not repeated.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
First, listen. Be aware, too, that crime has far-reaching effects and is never victim-less. There may be more victims who need help than you know.
If someone is considering reporting a crime, let them know that there are Victims Services Specialists who can help them develop a safety plan if needed.
Support victims. Help replace items that were taken or damaged during the crime. Go with them when they report crimes or have to attend trials. If the victim expresses an interest in meeting the person who harmed them, find a local victim mediation or restorative justice program. And remember, no matter how much time has passed, ask how the victim is doing and if there is anything you can do to help.
The journey to restoration can be a long one. Don't leave the victim to walk it alone.
If you would like to explore this topic more, check out the Outrageous Justice small-group curriculum, which contains an entire chapter on victim care.