Sample Opinion/Editorial Column
"Reach for the Stars of Safety and Justice"
For nearly thirty years, countless volunteers and professionals have dedicated their lives to helping victims of crime and making our communities safer for us all. It has not been an easy journey, because its "pilots" and "passengers" are confronted on a daily basis with the human devastation and destruction that violence wreaks on our society. The road to victim justice has led its travelers toward creative, collaborative approaches that recognize the domino effect of crime on individuals, families, and communities, and promote cooperation to ensure that victims no longer fall through cracks in systems that must be designed to protect them.
This dynamic history is reflected in the words of Lieutenant General Omar Bradley, a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under President Harry Truman: "We need to learn to set our course by the stars, not by the lights of every passing ship." For crime victims and those who serve them, the "stars" that have provided the guiding light for nearly three decades comprise the basic concept of "victim justice." Shouldn't people whose lives have been devastated by crime have a voice in seeking justice? Shouldn't our society work diligently to ensure that victims are treated with respect and provided with rights that keep them informed and involved in justice processes? And shouldn't our communities be concerned with holding offenders accountable and providing them with opportunities to "right the wrongs" they have caused by their criminal and delinquent actions?
The answer to each of these questions is a resounding "yes!". The course set by the stars of safety and justice for all is one that recognizes the pain and suffering of crime victims and validates their value as family members and friends who are hurt by crime; as important witnesses who can help hold offenders accountable for their actions; and as community members who are deserving of support and services.
April 22 to 28 is National Crime Victims' Rights Week, a time to reflect upon the significant accomplishments of America's victims' rights discipline, and to pay tribute to the millions of Americans whose lives have been irrevocably marred by crime. Today in our nation, over 10,000 community- and justice system-based programs provide services and support to victims of crime. More than 30,000 laws at the federal, state, and community level help to ensure that victims can participate in justice processes and that individuals and communities are safer.
The year 2001 also marks the 25 year anniversary of the "victim impact statement"a powerful tool that allows victims to define the harm they endured as a result of crime and delinquency and make sure that the justice system and offenders know about the physical, emotional, and financial losses they have suffered. The voices of victims tell us of the control and degradation that confront victims of family violence and sexual assault. They offer insights into the overwhelming fear that victims of child abuse face, often at the hands of someone they know and trust. Victims' voices shed powerful light on the often-hidden crime of elder abuse and neglect that tarnishes the golden years of far too many elderly people in America. And the voices of victims whose loved ones have been murdered ensure that someone is speaking up for the rights of those who can no longer speak themselves.
By reaching for the stars of safety and justice, crime victims and those who serve them perform a public service of immense proportions. They take care of individuals and families who are hurting; they work with communities to prevent crime and promote protective measures that contribute to public safety; and they work closely with justice professionals and agencies to ensure that crime victims remain informed and involved throughout our criminal and juvenile justice systems.
During National Crime Victims' Rights Week and throughout the year, every person in [community] can join in our crusade for victims' rights, victim services, and victim justice. Our individual and community safety depends on such involvement, and our journey toward "justice for all" cannot be completed without the involvement and commitment of everyone. You can join our many initiatives that "reach for the stars of safety and justice" and, in doing so, can make a positive difference in the lives of countless victims who need and deserve your support.
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