Victims of crime to be honored with 5k

Burlington County Prosecutor Robert D. Bernardi recently that victims of crime would be honored locally with a 5K Strive For Survivors Fun Run and a Sunset Candlelight Vigil on Saturday, April 27 as part of a nationwide effort to pay tribute to this historically underserved population.

Celebrations are planned throughout the country as part of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, which runs April 21 to April 27.

This year’s theme — New Challenges. New Solutions. — is meant to celebrate the spirit that has advanced the progress of crime victims’ rights.

“Victims have not only suffered injustices at the hands of criminal offenders, but also for years were disregarded by the criminal justice system,” said Prosecutor Robert D. Bernardi. “This week allows us to recognize their strength and determination to reclaim their lives. It also provides an opportunity for the criminal justice system to examine our efforts and improve our approach to identifying victims and serving all of their needs.”

Only 30 years ago, crime victims had no rights, access to crime victim compensation, or services to help rebuild their lives. They were often excluded from courtrooms, treated as an afterthought by the criminal justice system, and denied an opportunity to speak at sentencing.

Yet through decades of advocacy and hard work, the movement has come a long way.

Today, all states have enacted crime victims’ rights laws and established crime victim compensation funds. More than 10,000 victim service agencies help victims throughout the nation. Every year, states and localities receive millions of federal dollars to support these services.

But National Crime Victims’ Rights Week reminds us that many challenges remain. Crime victims’ rights are not universal and are often not enforced. Only a small percentage of victims receive crime victim compensation, which is usually limited to victims of violent crime.

According to last year’s National Crime Victimization Survey, more than 50 percent of violent crimes were not reported to police from 2006–2010. In addition, a 2011 report called the Use of Victim Services Agencies by Victims of Serious Violent Crime showed that only 9 percent of violent crime victims received needed services in the 1993–2009 timeframe.

Advocates also face a host of new challenges as they strive to provide culturally competent services for increasingly diverse populations (e.g., seniors, teens, immigrant populations) and victims of newly prevalent crimes (e.g., trafficking and technology-related stalking and identity theft).

Locally, residents are encouraged to show their support for crime victims by participating in the fun run and candlelight vigil at Smithville Park in Eastampton on Saturday April 27.

Registration is at 5:30 p.m. and the fun run begins at 6 p.m. To register online, visit http://sfs2013.eventbrite.com/#

The first 100 pre-registered participants will receive a free Stride for Survivors T-shirt. The candlelight vigil will follow the run.

The Stride for Survivors run will also recognize Denim Day, which is celebrated across the country as an opportunity for individuals to wear jeans to raise awareness about the misconceptions that surround sexual assault.

“The Stride for Survivors run is an opportunity to honor victims for their strength and resilience,” said Burlington County Sheriff Jean Stanfield, “and to recognize the many individuals and organizations that provide support to crime victims and their families.”

Stride for Survivors is jointly sponsored by CONTACT of Burlington County’s Sexual Assault Services, the Burlington County Sheriff’s Department, the Office of Victim Witness Advocacy in the Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office, and Providence House Domestic Violence Services of Catholic Charities.

In addition to the Fun Run and Candlelight Vigil, the BCPO’s Office of Victim Witness Advocacy will pay tribute to victims with our 26th Annual Crime Victims’ Rights Breakfast on Wednesday, April 24th.

During 2012, services were provided to crime victims in New Jersey on more than 594,000 occasions. Burlington County provided services to more than 3,000 victims on more than 15,000 total occasions. This assistance ranged from providing referrals for services to helping secure admission to a shelter/safehouse.