"Victim Justice: A New Day Dawns"

By (name of author)

(Title/Agency or Organization)

The basic premise upon which the foundation of America was established is "liberty and justice for all" citizens of our great nation. When just one individual is denied justice, we all feel the sting. And when justice is handed down to just one individual, we can feel relieved that guilty criminals are held accountable for their actions, and that our communities are much safer as a result.

Yet today in America, there is a growing population of individuals who believe that "justice for all" must mean justice for victims of crime, and comprehensive, meaningful victims' rights and services. Today, during 1996 National Crime Victims' Rights Week, the rallying cry for victim justice will be heard louder than ever -- in communities large and small, rural and urban, from individuals young and old, representing all races and religions, because criminal justice in America can never, ever be complete without justice for victims of crime.

Consider for a moment the important rights of persons accused of crime in our nation. Our Constitution guarantees them the right to be informed of their rights, the right to counsel, the right to face their accusers, and the right to a jury by their peers, among other significant protections. Yet the Constitution is noticeably silent when it comes to the rights of victims, who often endure great indignities and suffering as a result of criminal acts committed against them.

Victim justice: What do these two words mean in America in 1996? They mean, first and foremost, that victims of crime only want to be treated as well as alleged and convicted offenders. They mean that victims should be treated with dignity, compassion and respect, not only by our justice system, but by all individuals with whom they have contact in the aftermath of a crime.

Victim justice means that victims are no longer treated simply as evidence in criminal and civil proceedings, but as active participants with considerable stake in the outcomes. They are informed of their case proceedings. They are not only allowed, but encouraged to participate in all stages of the criminal justice process. And their voices are heard, so the system and our society can begin to truly comprehend the devastating effects that crime wreaks on law-abiding members of our community.

The accomplishments of our nation's victims' rights movement are truly impressive. In the past three decades, over 27,000 laws have been passed at the Federal and state levels to protect and enforce crime victims' rights. Twenty states have passed constitutional amendments guaranteeing victims the right to participate in the criminal justice process. Every day in the U.S., 8,000 victim service organizations provide information, support, assistance and referrals to victims of crime and their loved ones -- individuals traumatized by child abuse and neglect, rape and sexual assault, domestic violence, hate violence, elder abuse and neglect, drunk driving, and homicide. Here in (your community or state), (describe two or three of your most significant accomplishments).

Do victims in (your state or community) truly receive justice? Not always. But a new day is dawning for victims of crime....a day that begins with the sunrise of fair treatment, continues with meaningful participation and involvement in the justice process, and ends with a sunset of dignity, compassion and respect.

It is a day that results from over 43 million persons in America being victimized by crime each year, individuals who want involvement and information. It is a day when public safety and victim justice become a reality in our homes, our neighborhoods and our communities. And it is a day in which we will all take tremendous pride that victims of crime are no longer blamed for the heinous crimes that are committed against them.

It is a day when VICTIM JUSTICE is no longer a dream, but a precious reality for the millions of people in America who are touched by crime each year.

(Provide a two-sentence description of the author or NCVRW coalition here).

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