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Honoring Survivors and Lost Victims

On Sunday night, people from all walks of life gathered together on the front steps of the Utah State Capitol for a candlelight vigil to support those who have experienced the tragedy of a violent crime, as well as to honor the victims who lost their lives.

A Victim Centered Approach

Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes attended the event, sharing the importance of having a victim-centered and trauma-informed approach in the criminal justice system and the continuous efforts of the Attorney General’s Office to incorporate it into their work.

“A victim’s experience with the criminal justice system can mean the difference between supportive and healing experience versus one that exacerbates their initial pain and trauma. Criminal acts can often strip victims of a sense of control, not to mention a sense of safety, security, self-confidence, and self-worth. Making sure victims are advised of their statutory rights, informed of the status of their case, and reassuring them along the way that they have done nothing wrong, that they are not at fault, these things can empower them to begin taking back their own lives,” said Attorney General Reyes.

The Attorney General’s Office has a unique opportunity to work with victims throughout almost every stage in the criminal justice system, from investigation to prosecution. Taking a victim-centered approach helps to minimize re-traumatization and provides victims with a compassionate and nurturing space in which to navigate the criminal justice system.

Listen to Attorney General Reyes’ speech below.

Stories from Survivors

During the candlelight vigil, survivors shared their experiences with abuse, trauma, and how they overcame their past.

Coming up on its 20th anniversary, four survivors of the Columbine High School shooting and bombing shared their experiences that fateful day on April 20,1999. Sarah Bush, Will Beck, Laura Hall, and Tami Diaz, who were all students at the time of the tragic incident, have together formed Rebels for Change, an organization that works to make schools safer for children. They each shared their separate stories and spoke about what it means to be a victim and the hope and healing that victims can look towards.

Listen to their stories below.

Jenny Andrus, a professor at the University of Utah who currently teaches writing and rhetoric, as well as studying and reaching domestic violence, is a survivor of domestic violence herself. She shared her story of emotional and physical abuse. She spoke on how emotional abuse is often overlooked but can have the same horrible consequences as any other type of abuse. She spoke on the importance of the victims advocate program utilized by law enforcement.

Listen to her story below. Be advised of potential trigger warnings.

Sidney Andrews, a current Salt Lake Community College student studying Criminal Justice, shared her story on surviving sexual and emotional abuse by her step-father for 13 years. Andrews emphasized the importance of the victim advocate programs, and how her advocate was with her every step of the way through the court case and through her own healing. She spoke on the need for victims to have a voice, and how that voice was able to be heard through her family and advocate.

Listen to her story below.

Brielle Decker is a former member of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS) and was the 56th wife of Warren Jeffs, a former president of the FLDS Church. Decker spoke about her sexual abuse and about the importance of understanding trauma as a way to protect your families and become compassionate towards others. Decker has since created the Dream Center, a transition point and a place of healing for those who have left the FLDS Church. The Dream Center aids hundreds of people each year.

Listen to her story below.

Current Legislation to Aid Victims

Lastly, Representative Angela Romero spoke about the current legislative progress made for victims and about what you can do to help advocate for victims.

Listen to her speech below.

HCR 6 Concurrent Resolution Designating May 5 as Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, and LGBT+ Awareness Day highlights data related to missing and murdered indigenous women, girls, and LGBT+ and calls on the people of Utah and interested groups to commemorate the lives of those lost on May 5.

HB 234 Marriage Amendments increased the minimum age of marriage to 18. In certain circumstances, court authorization and consent by a parent or guardian may permit a lower age, but in all other circumstances, a person must be 18 years of age to legally marry.

SB 103 Victim Targeting Penalty Enhancements, otherwise known as the hate crimes bill, provides an enhanced penalty for a criminal offense committed against a victim based on age, ancestry, disability, ethnicity, familial status, gender identity, homelessness, marital status, matriculation, national origin, political expression, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, service in the U.S. Armed Forces, and status as an emergency responder.

The candlelight vigil was held as a part of the National Crime Victim’s Rights Week. For additional events and opportunities, check out https://attorneygeneral.utah.gov/national-crime-victims-week/.

To listen to the full candlelight vigil:


Check out the media coverage below:

KUTV: National Crime Victim’s Rights Weeks Honors Victims with a Candlelight Vigil

National Crime Victim’s Rights Week

In commemoration of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week (NCVRW), April 7–13, 2019, the Utah NCVRW committee and supporting organizations will hold several events to raise awareness about crime victims’ rights and introduce the community to important resources and services.

According to the most recent Bureau of Justice Statistics’ National Crime Victimization Survey, U.S. residents age 12 or older experienced 3.1 million violent victimizations and U.S. households experienced an estimated 13.3 million property crimes in 2017.

This year’s theme – Honoring Our Past. Creating Hope for the Future. – encourages recognition, honor, and respect toward crime victim advocates, allied professionals, and selfless volunteers who have courageously worked for increased rights for crime victims. This year’s theme invites us to look toward a future of inclusive, accessible, and innovative resources and services for survivors.

The Utah NCVRW committee and supporting organizations lead communities throughout the state in their annual observances of NCVRW by promoting victims’ rights and issues and honoring crime victims and those who advocate on their behalf.

National Crime Victims’ Rights Week kicks off Saturday, April 6, 2019 with a Utah Grizzlies game. This event will be followed by a Candlelight Vigil, Sunday, April 7, located on the south steps of the Utah State Capitol. Survivors of crime will be highlighted and as well as those in our community that are advocating for expanded support and services to communities affected by crime. 

Below is a complete list of events and opportunities to support and advocate for those whose lives have been affected by crime:

  • Saturday, April 6: Come out for Utah Grizzlies Night at the Maverick Center to kick off our NCVRW. Game starts at 7:00 p.m. and tickets are $10 each.
  • Sunday, April 7: Join us for a Candlelight Vigil at the Utah State Capitol to honor the lives of lost victims.
  • Monday, April 8: The Utah Museum of Contemporary Arts will host a “Healing Through Art” night starting at 6:00 p.m.
  • Wednesday, April 10 – LGBTQ2S Night: The Sorenson Unity Center is showing a special screening of “Leitis in Waiting” – a feature documentary and short film about a group of transgender
    women rising to find their place in a South Pacific kingdom. Screening starts at 6:00 p.m. and is located at 1383 South 900 West in Salt Lake.
  • Wednesday, April 10: Children’s Justice Centers (CJC) will host a Multi-disciplinary Day statewide. Contact your local CJC for more information.
  • Saturday, April 13: Join us between 11:00 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. for a Fun and Festive Family Day with resources, cultural activities, music, and food trucks at Jordan Park – home of the International Peace Gardens.

All events, except the Utah Grizzlies game, are free and open to the public. For additional information about this year’s NCVRW and how to assist victims in your community, please visit the NCVRW Facebook page.

“For too long, the victims of crime have been the forgotten persons of our criminal justice system. Rarely do we give victims the help they need or the attention they deserve. Yet the protection of our citizens – to guard them from becoming victims – is the primary purpose of our penal laws. Thus, each new victim personally represents an instance in which our system has failed to prevent crime. Lack of concern for victims compounds that failure.”

President Ronald W. Reagan – April 1, 1981, on signing the Proclamation declaring the First National Crime Victims’ Rights Week

Utah NCVRW works with the following organizations throughout the state:
Utah Museum of Contemporary Art; Peace House; PIK2R; Utah Pride Center; Salt Lake City Mayor’s Office; Salt Lake City Police Department; Restoring Ancestral Winds; Duchesne, Tooele, Wasatch, Uintah/Daggett, Carbon/Emery, Weber/Morgan, and Utah County- Children’s Justice Centers; Una Mano Amiga; Centro Civico Mexicano; Circle the Wagons; Creative Healing 4 Survivors; Utah Organ Donors; Sego Lily Center for the Abused Deaf; Mexican Consulate; and Sorenson Unity Center Health Choice of Utah.

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