Survivor Night offers help and hope to victimsWritten by Caitlin McGlade | | firstname.lastname@example.org
A collection of leaders from local and state victims’ rights organizations are teaming to educate Toledo’s victims about resources that might lift them from the clutches of hopelessness.
Victims’ Rights Survivor Night will begin at 5 p.m. April 25 at the 911 Training Center on Jefferson Avenue. Until 7 p.m., those affected by crimes from rape to homicide to bullying can visit booths hosted by state and local agencies to learn where and how they can seek help. The free event will also feature a performance by the Toledo Youth Choir and presentations by the Victims of Crime Compensation and the Victim Information and Notification Everyday (VINE).
The idea is to make the confusing process of seeking aid more accessible, as well as to reach out to individuals who do not know what programs can help them, said Russ Simpson of Parents of Murdered Children.
Simpson and his wife, Pat, lost two of their four children to murder.
“In this field, everyone is protecting their little piece of the pie; we want to put down that line, like, ‘I have to protect my program, you have to protect yours,’” said Lynn Carder, program coordinator with the Victim Witness Assistance Program through the prosecutor’s office. “But the bottom line is that we have to provide services to the victims and when you gather everybody together, you’re much more likely to find someone that can help.”
By forming a coalition, the groups can guide more traffic to programs that are underutilized. Simpson said a lot of people are unaware that they might qualify for state funding to cover funeral expenses after a homicide. Or they might not realize that the government runs a victim notification program that tracks a perpetrator’s movements through the different steps of the legal processes. VINE alerts the victim when that perpetrator moves to different facilities or is up for parole, among other actions.
“So many people fall through the cracks,” Simpson said.
Falling through the cracks is easy if there are no formal charges made or if the victim’s aggressor is not indicted by a grand jury, never found or if the crime is a misdemeanor. Victims in these situations don’t end up in the system that puts them in touch with Carder’s program, so she is unable to educate them about their options, she said.
Events like Survivor Night helps to fill those cracks.
“Come on down and ask for services. It doesn’t make any difference whether the crime happened 15 years ago — there are people out there who haven’t seen help for 10 years,” Simpson said.
Cindy Dugan lost her son nearly four years ago. Matthew, known as a gentle and loving jokester with a deep, contagious laugh, was shot in 2008 at a BP station in Toledo. He was the store clerk at the time.
Her son’s killer Anthony Belton was sentenced to death this month.
Dugan uses VINE to easily track developments surrounding the convicted man. She also had the help of victim advocates during the trial.
“It would have been a lot more frightening without that and I don’t think I would have been able to carry on for as long as I did,” she said. “I would have felt very overwhelmed and very lost in the whole process.”
Victims’ Rights Survivor Night attempts to reach out to those who haven’t reported their crimes. She said she understands why people are intimidated by the justice system.
“All I can say is for people to be patient and strong,” she said. “It’s endurance — one day at a time. That’s the way we did it. We thought, ‘Oh, this would be the last day we go to court month after month after year after year.”