Do Victims Deserve Restitution?

Do victims deserve restitution from their attackers? 

Of the myriad of problems that emerge from being a victim of crime, this is the least likely to be addressed. Though many criminals have limited means to provide restitution, don’t victims deserve the right to explore that possibility and potentially draw restitution from the convicted that will help make them whole following a crime?

Consider this story of an actual crime that occurred in North Carolina: A woman running an errand at her local shopping center was attacked getting into her car; a gun was held to her head as she was brutally and repetitively beaten – primarily to her face, leaving her incapacitated. This horrible crime occurred during daytime hours in a public place before the assailant left with her purse.

Eventually, the attacker was captured, detained and tried. Justice was – on paper – served.

But for the victim, that was only part of the story. She was left emotionally scarred and in need of significant medical treatment, including surgeries from the injuries she sustained in the attack. Not only did she suffer from the physical event, but the aftermath of medical treatments, pain, and recovery, as well as the very real burden of having to pay for all of the medical procedures that were a result of the crime. She did not receive any financial support for this enormous and unexpected expense.

Like all victims, she was thrust into this role by her attacker’s choice, not hers; and yet she is left picking up all of the pieces. Victims have to take time off of work or disrupt daily activities like grocery shopping or banking to attend court proceedings; speak with law enforcement about custody or schedule and endure medical procedures.

And what about financial planning? Most of us spend time creating a budget; saving for college, retirement or creating safety nets for a major appliance repair that inevitably occurs. How many of us set up a savings account in the event that someone in our family becomes a victim of a heinous crime?

The loss of financial security is a real and serious problem, but often a societal taboo or an afterthought. These are all significant lifestyle disruptions placed squarely at the feet of victims and their families.

Victims of crime in North Carolina deserve the right to pursue restitution – to help make them physically and financially whole.  And yet, that is not currently guaranteed by state law. Marsy’s Law for NC would give victims – and their families – this guarantee in the constitution. It’s time for North Carolina to strengthen victims rights and speak up for our own neighbors and citizens when crime strikes them against their will.