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The resilience of crime victims – hope for us all (opinion)


Submitted by Christopher J. Hicks, Washoe County District Attorney | y en Español

Washoe County District Attorney Chris Hicks

Even in this time of shared crisis, it is important to recognize that April 19-25 is National Crime Victims’ Rights Week — a week that challenges the nation to confront and remove barriers for all victims of crime.  

It is a time to recognize victim advocacy groups that have pushed for victims’ rights and gained ground across the nation.  Moreover, it is a week to honor those who have survived, or who are presently enduring, being a victim of crime.  This year’s theme – Seek Justice, Ensure Victim Rights, Inspire Hope – is just too important to be forgotten, even in the face of a worldwide pandemic.  On the contrary, it is the last part of the theme, “Inspire Hope,” that compels me to write today. 

I have been a prosecutor for nearly 18 years.  On countless occasions during that time, I have had the honor of helping victims of crime.  Victims of all ages, from across many communities who have faced life-altering circumstances, who have been gravely injured emotionally and physically, who have lost loved-ones, and who have been unwittingly pulled into an unforgiving system weighted more heavily than many know in favor of the person who victimized them. 

And despite what they endured, the resounding quality I have deeply respected of so many of these victims is their resiliency.  Their ability to move forward in the face of significant adversity.  As a society, we can all most certainly admire and draw upon that resiliency in the crisis we face now. 

I once read that another way to look at resilience is that it is, simply, hope.  Hope and faith that things will be better.  Hope is the fuel that crime victims burn as they work to put their lives and their homes back together.  Hope for justice, hope for protection, hope for healing.  Their hope is mobilizing and powerful.  It energizes my office every day, and the men and women I lead are better for it. 

But, it is more than hope that we see, it is strength.  Resiliency is also the ability to bend and not break.  To face challenges and bounce back.  To make your voice heard, even when too few are listening and to tell your truth even when the experience is painful.  

Due to Covid-19, our world, our country, and our community now have our own overwhelming obstacles to face.  Like crime victims, this is through no fault of our own.  We are at the mercy of this horrible disease and must depend on those leading the response to take the right and necessary steps to get us through this crisis.  

The stakes are high.  As policymakers consider drastic mitigation ideas such as releasing inmates from prison to minimize exposure to the disease, they mustn’t forget the resiliency and strength a crime victim has already exhibited in the face of that inmate’s crimes.  And, they mustn’t forget the innocent future victims who may fall prey to those released.  In the last month alone, nearly 500 new victims have been added to my office’s charge.  Crime does not stop, protecting our community must not stop.

Perhaps our own experiences resulting from the Covid-19 crisis afford us a unique opportunity to exercise greater empathy and support for victims of crime.  Of equal import, it also gives us an opportunity to draw upon their strength in inspiring our own hope as we conquer this pandemic. 

This is written in tribute to O.R. a child sexual assault victim who recently lost her battle to survive the abuses committed against her.  Her pathway to justice was full of courage, resilience, and hope.  Christopher J. Hicks is the 37th Washoe County District Attorney.

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