HARRISON – On Sunday, April 24, more than 30 participants came out to mark the inaugural National Crime Victims’ Rights Week Walk/Vigil held at the Poet Outdoor Center on Mid Michigan College’s Harrison campus. Intermittent rain threatened to dampen the event, but the dedicated walkers and community supporters paid no heed and did what they came to do: support those who have been victims of sexual assault or domestic violence.
Indoors, participants signed up and had access to pamphlets offering information on various topics, including “A Guide to Personal Protection Orders,” “No Excuse for Elder Abuse;” and two support organizations: Rise Advocacy-providing safety and empowerment to survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault; and Michigan VINE which provides offender custody/court status information, victim notification services, and a victim resource directory.
Clare County Prosecutor Michelle Ambrozaitis began by thanking everyone in attendance, and recognizing the local service providers among them, referring to many of them by first names only: “Angelina from R.I.S.E. [formerly Women’s Aid Service] which donated signs along the walk that provide statistics with regard to crime victims; Terrah [Johnson], the new executive director at the Child Advocacy Center; and Undersheriff Miedzianowski representing the Clare County Sheriff Department.
“And we wouldn’t be here without my awesome team: Chief Assistant Eilisia Schwarz, victim advocate Kim Keeley who coordinated the event; Annette and Stacy G. and Dusty and Ashley; and other attorneys Mark [Webb] who handles violent crime under a grant, Kaitlyn [York] who handles CSC cases.”
Ambrozaitis expressed her appreciation for her staff attending, adding that they work hard for the citizens of the community.
“Every year we recognize National Crime Victims’ Rights Week to bring attention to crime victims’ rights,” she said. “And now, more than ever, this is so very important, since we have criminal justice reform legislation that is swinging in favor of defendants as opposed to protecting the rights of the victims going through the system.
“Crime victims are our family, they’re our friends, they’re our neighbors, and they’re our community members. And while we can never truly understand the depth of their trauma and the impact on their lives, we can ensure that equitable, inclusive, culturally appropriate and gender-responsive services are available to help them. By enforcing victims’ rights, expanding access to services, and upholding principles of equity inclusivity for all, we can enable crime victims to find the justice that they seek in whatever form that may take.”
Ambrozaitis closed her comments by once again thanking everyone for their attendance, and saying, “Let’s walk before we get rained on.”
With the knowledge that they were supporting a greater purpose, and the promise of ending the walk with cookies and snacks, the participants headed off through the trail lined with informational and sponsorship signs.
Ambrozaitis had informed at the April 20 meeting of the Clare County Board of Commissioners that the trail signs and banner would be gathered after the walk and installed along the roadway in front of the Clare County Building for the entire week so that those who were not part of the walk/vigil might still see who the sponsors were and become more aware.
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