It’s no secret that the last year has been a time of great challenge for crime victims and their families. The pandemic has resulted in more social isolation, economic uncertainty, and anxiety that experts say has triggered an increase in domestic violence, sexual assault and child and elder abuse.
This pandemic-driven increase has strained resources and limited in-person outreach and care, putting added pressure on victim service providers and their organizations, impairing their ability to adequately help victims and their families. Additionally, law enforcement personnel, first responders and our communities are struggling to meet the increased need.
During the 40th anniversary of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, I am urging Idahoans to join others across the nation to purposefully consider what we, individually and collectively can do to improve community safety and wellbeing.
The 40th anniversary is an important milestone in the victim’s right’s movement. The work of many committed individuals and organizations has produced meaningful advances for victims’ rights, specifically here in Idaho. In 1994, when voters overwhelmingly approved a Victims Rights Amendment to the Idaho Constitution, the Gem State moved to the forefront of granting stronger rights to victims in our criminal justice system, including a voice in the process, the right to be present in all legal proceedings, and to be treated with respect, fairness, and dignity.
The amendment also guaranteed victims the right to be notified of legal proceedings and developments. From this, Idaho established its own VINE network (Victim Information and Notification Everyday), an extremely successful system operated by county sheriffs that helps keep victims informed and more secure, throughout the process.
Before, during, and following my time in the Idaho Legislature, I have been committed to supporting victims: from voting in support of financial allocation and resources to aid victims to co-sponsoring policies like Marsy’s Law for Idaho and its goal of making rights for victims stronger and equal to those afforded the accused.
Last year exposed an even greater need. The number of those seeking help has increased, with one Boise shelter reporting an 84 percent increase in calls related to domestic violence. There is so much more work to be done, and National Crime Victims’ Rights Week is an opportune time to engage and help make a difference.
The theme for 2021 is “Support Victims. Build Trust. Engage Communities.” This is a powerful, succinct message designed to activate individuals and leverage community support to help the tens of thousands victimized in the past year. It calls on victim service leaders, businesses, healthcare providers, religious leaders, and social and civic groups to collaborate to ensure victims get the help and support as they transition from victim to survivor.
Attend events in support of NCVRW. Across the community organizations are planning safe, socially-distanced events. The Nampa Family Justice Center is hosting a candlelight vigil Saturday night at the historic Caldwell Train Depot.
Make a donation. Most of the victim support organizations are non-profits and the increased demand for services has severely strained budgets and resources used for shelter, medical treatment, and counseling services.
Contact decision makers at the local, state and federal levels—they need to hear from Idahoans committed to assisting victims. Now is the time to make telephone calls, write letters or send email urging elected officials to keep victims and their support networks at the forefront of their policy and budgetary decisions. Your voice matters!
As a community, we all have a role in protecting and supporting crime victims, their families and the systems that provide much needed support, security and healing. Let’s get busy.
Cherie Buckner Webb is a former Idaho legislator who served three terms in the Senate and one term in the House. She is the founder and principle of Sojourner Coaching, and serves on the College of Western Idaho Board of Trustees, is a member of the Board of Directors for the Women’s & Children’s Alliance in Boise. She is also a board member for the Andrus Center for Public Policy and the Northwest Area Foundation.