Crime Victims' Rights Week to honor those impacted by violence

Monday, April 22, 2013 - 2:00pm

Local law enforcement and community leaders will spend the next week acknowledging those impacted by violence.

National Crime Victims' Rights Week began Sunday and runs through Saturday.

The federal government says only half of all violent crimes are reported to the police. That is because victims often feel afraid or ashamed to talk.

"That's one of the biggest reasons why we get involved, said Racheal Hebert, Executive Director of the STAR Center and a partner in Crime Victims' Rights Week. "Because when people really see criminal justice professionals coming out and supporting victims, it makes them have more trust in the criminal justice process, and really feel like they're going to be heard."

Crime Victims' Rights Week is a collaboration between law enforcement and non-profits to put a show how crime affects people in the community.

"And we also like to pay respect to those victims in our community that have experienced crime," Hebert stated, "because, as you can imagine, it's a really troubling experience."

A troubling experience that too many of us can relate to.

"I definitely think this community is very aware of crime victims," she said, "given that we have a high crime rate in Baton Rouge. And I think the community is willing to help, but they just need to know how to plug in."

By combining resources, crime victims do not have to work as hard to find out where to go to get the support they need. That is especially important for a group like the STAR Center, which deals with sex crimes. Hebert said nearly two-thirds of rapes go unreported. In 2012, the Baton Rouge Police Department investigated 70 reported rape cases, which would mean 140 people felt too scared to tell officers about what happened to them.

The STAR Center works with 500 clients each year.

Through National Victims' Rights Week, people who are afraid to speak up can find other ways to help themselves survive violence.

"And I think that's why this week is so great," Hebert said, "because people in the community are able to come together and really gather around the victims, and learn what the real issues are, and learn how to help."

The FBI, which monitors crime statistics at national and local levels, considers sexual assault, aggravated assault, homicide, and robbery to be violent crimes.

More than 2,500 violent crimes were reported to the Baton Rouge Police Department last year.

The STAR Center will sponsor Denim Day for the first time on Wednesday, April 24. Denim Day is an international movement is response to an Italian court decision in 1999, which found a woman partially at fault for her own rape because of the jeans she wore the night of her attack.

Women wear jeans in solidarity, Hebert said, "to raise awareness to not do victim-blaming, and to not be involved in saying that, 'just because someone was wearing jeans, doesn't mean they weren't raped.'"

The East Baton Rouge District Attorney's Office will host a victims' recognition ceremony at noon on Thursday, April 25, in North Blvd. Town Square.

It will also host a victim services fair at the Mall of Louisiana on Saturday, April 27, from 11:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. Several local victims' rights agencies will be on hand to present information about the services they offer.

For more information, call the East Baton Rouge District Attorney's Office at (225) 389-3400. 

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