WA – April 24 to April 30 is National Crime Victims’ Rights Week. The Department of Labor and Industries, Department of Corrections and the Department of Commerce held a Zoom event Tuesday morning to recognize the work done in the state of Washington to help victims.
The theme this year is rights, access, and equity for crime victims. Jorge Barón, the executive director of the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, spoke about the importance of being inclusive of all victims.
“For the communities that we’re serving, I would want to add all victims, no matter where those victims happen to be born,” Barón said.
He also spoke about the things that hold undocumented people back from seeking help when they are victims of a crime. This includes fear of calling the police because they think they’ll be deported.
“Sometimes that fear is justified, not always, because we’re doing a lot of work in Washington to keep immigration and local police separate, but the fear is still there and it’s important we remember that,” Barón said.
Other fears include the belief that using victim resources will damage their ability to obtain legal status in the future. However, Barón said that seeking help when you’re the victim of a crime doesn’t affect the public charge rule and doesn’t affect your ability to obtain documents in the future.
Professor Meg Garvin, an expert on victims’ rights, said it’s important for crime victims to have a voice. She is the director of the National Crime Victim Law Institute. Her organization helps crime victims obtain legal representation in court. Something that is not always welcomed by the courts, but Garvin says it is necessary for victims to have justice.
“Rights are just words on paper until we activate them, until systems have accountability, until someone says, ‘I have a right and the system has to respond to that,’” Garvin said.
Dr. Karen Johnson, the director of the Washington State Office of Equity, said our justice system was designed to discriminate against people of color and until that system is fixed, it’s not for all victims.
“How do we expect a person who has been traumatized and victimized to deal with a broken system?” asked Dr. Johnson.
During the presentation, a state of the state was given to talk about the efforts of legal agencies to fix the justice system.
This includes the passage of Executive Order 2204 that created a plan to eliminate racism and create equity in the system.
Other efforts include making resources available to victims, addressing the epidemic of missing and murdered indigenous women and increasing efforts to test all sexual assault kits in the state.
If you are the victim of a crime you can learn about resources available to you on L&I’s website and apply for benefits.
Article Source: Fox 11