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Crime Victims Week marked

Published 11:38am Friday, April 26, 2013

Local citizens came together this week to mark National Crime Victims week and remember those who have been affected by violent crime, domestic violence and sexual assault.

Larry Nichols, a certified local counselor who runs Red Hills Counseling Services, was the keynote speaker at a special event held at the First United Methodist Church.

Nichols spoke about the roles that anger and drug abuse play in violence, particularly in the household. Angry and aggressive behavior is not something people are born with, he said. Instead, it is learned as a child develops into an adult.

He said he believes it is therefore the duty of concerned citizens to promote healthy relationships at home and in the workplace, in the hopes of stopping a cycle of destructive behavior that hurts the community.

In his welcome address, Sheriff Wiley Griffin touched on this year’s theme for Crime Victims Week, “New Challenges, New Solutions.” He noted how all 50 states have some form of legislation addressing domestic violence, and the fact that there are more than 10,000 victims’ services organizations throughout the United States.

“From a law enforcement perspective, our biggest challenge is to reassure the victim that reporting the abuse is sometimes the first step in stopping the abuse,” the Sheriff said.

Larry Nichols
Larry Nichols

According to Griffin, about 50 percent of violent crimes associated with domestic violence are not reported, so not all victims receive the help they need. Griffin said law enforcement wants to assist victims’ services workers in helping crime victims.

“We want to know more about them, how we can best help them and bring in resources that will help break the cycle of violence in each family,” Griffin said.

Both the Sheriff’s Office and the office of District Attorney Joe Mulholland employ people who focus on helping the victims of crime.

Margo Brenton, who works for the D.A.’s office, said she and co-worker Nan Hernandez often provide help to victims of domestic violence, aggravated assault or murder, sexual assault or child abuse. Law enforcement agencies forward documentation about crimes to the Victims’ Services offices.

“My No. 1 priority, above all else, is to represent victims and make sure people who are impacted by crimes be as satisfied as possible with the outcome of those crimes’ prosecution,” Mulholland said.

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Some of the things Mulholland’s office does for victims includes helping them with counseling, getting temporary protection orders to keep any offenders away from victims, and getting them help with funeral expenses in the event a life is lost.

In the past couple of years, the Teresa D. Young Foundation has also been assisting with victims’ services.

“We work closely with the district attorney’s office to assist victims with things such as jobs, moving to a safe house, obtaining counseling and food,” said Crissy Young. “We’re also starting to help victims of elder abuse.”

Misty Young said the foundation also plants to hold a youth summer camp this June at Gibbs-Miles Apartments in Bainbridge. In addition to fun activities, games and sports, community leaders will also talk to the children about topics such as bullying and having respect for others.

Three Bainbridge High School students — Sarah Anne New, Hannah Lambert and Allison Whittaker — performed a lyrical dance to the song “The Rose,” famously sung by Bette Midler in the movie of the same name. The song refers to each person having the power to grow love from a seed to a rose that blooms in the spring.

To end the ceremony, those in attendance had the opportunity to write special messages on paper tied to balloons, which were then released into the sky. Words by Kirsti A. Dyer, a California doctor who specializes in helping people deal with life challenges, loss and grief, were read aloud.

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“As you watch the balloons disappear out of sight, feel the balloons lifting away the problems, the pain and the unwanted emotions,” Dyer wrote. “Let the old memories be cast into the air. A secret message of hope and renewal will be heard by the wind.”

Randy Mosley, pastor of First United Methodist Church, said a prayer and a moment of silence was observed for the victims of the Boston Marathon attacks and the deadly fertilizer plant explosion in the town of West, Texas.

April is also Child Abuse Prevention Month, a topic local victims’ advocates are also passionate about.

Pinwheels, the new national symbol for child abuse prevention, were recently put up in front of Dehildren Realty on Shotwell Street.

On Thursday, representatives from the District Attorney’s Victim’s Services Office, the Sheriff’s Office, the Teresa D. Young Foundation and the local chapter of Court Appointed Special Advocates presented information to students and others at the Bainbridge State College Student Wellness Center.

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