Supporting Crime Victims Starts With Giving Them a Voice
When a crime occurs, there is often no telling how long it will take for the victims to see justice. Some trials take months, and some take years. But no matter how long the criminal justice process takes, the trauma experienced by crime victims and their families doesn’t end when the perpetrator is sent to prison. Victims and their families can see lifelong physical, emotional, psychological and financial impacts as a result of crime.
According to the National Center for Victims of Crime, victims can experience myriad negative effects as a result of crime, from physical bruises to severe post-traumatic stress disorder. Without the proper support, the consequences of crime can have a ripple effect on victims, causing their recovery process to take anywhere from years to a lifetime.
While victims typically cope with financial losses fairly quickly, psychological and social effects linger. After the initial incident, victims can experience shock, numbness, disorientation, paranoia and avoidance. Some have physical and emotional paralysis, with an inability to make rational decisions. Feelings of denial, disbelief, anger and self-blame rush over many victims after a crime. They may be burdened with sleep disorders or recurring nightmares. Victims often live with anxiety, fear, despair, self-pity, guilt and shame. These can cause them to constantly ask, “Why me?” and “How did I let this happen?”
Even after the initial shock from the incident has passed, victims often have to worry about environmental factors — smells, noises, holidays, birthdays or the anniversary of the crime — that could trigger a long-term crisis reaction, causing them to relive the event.
Although the criminal justice process can be painful for victims and their families, studies show participation in that system, with support from trained professionals, friends and family, can aid victims in rebuilding their lives.
The National Center for Victims of Crime says, “If victims are kept well-informed about the criminal proceedings and feel that they have a voice in the process, they will feel that they are a part of a team effort. This added effort enables victims to understand the judicial process and helps to return to them a sense of control to their lives and circumstances.”
In the immediate aftermath of crime, victims deserve to feel they are heard and involved. Not only do they deserve that right, but they need it to begin healing. This is why the proposed Marsy’s Law is so important. It will make victims’ rights a constitutional guarantee, ensuring that they have protections if their rights are violated.
These rights include:
- The right to be heard at any pretrial motion or bond hearing
- The right to talk and give the judge their opinion in the process
- The right to be notified of when the hearings are and the right to be present at those hearings
- The right to be heard at all of the proceedings
- The right to confer with the prosecutor
Showing support and offering assistance for those who have been victimized by crime starts with guaranteeing them a voice.