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Event aims to bring awareness to crime victims

Crime victims, victims’ advocates, state leaders and other officials will meet Friday at the Missouri Capitol to honor crime victims and stress the importance of victims’ rights. The noon event on the south lawn is part of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week.

“It’s important people are aware of resources in Missouri and other areas in terms of advancements that have been made,” said Mike O’Connell, communications director for the Missouri Department of Public Safety. “It (the event) is held every year to call attention to advancements and talk about the need to remain vigilant.”

The department is one of many sponsors of the event, which includes a proclamation from Gov. Jay Nixon’s office, speeches from the Department of Corrections’ George Lombardi, the Missouri Association of Prosecuting Attorneys’ Eric Zahnd and the Office of Prosecution Services’ Jason Lamb. Tiffani Stone, a crime victim, will also tell her story.

O’Connell said crime victims’ rights have come a long way in the state. Years ago, victims didn’t have the right to be in court and now they’re notified by phone or e-mail when a case changes. Another advancement is the state’s Crime Victims’ Compensation Program, which assists victims of violent crime in paying for medical, counseling and funeral expenses, lost wages and loss of support.

Pam Otto, volunteer and outreach education coordinator with Jefferson City’s Rape and Abuse Crisis Service, said one of her organization’s priorities is to advocate for crime victims’ rights.

“We want to be there to support them throughout their journey to gain independence and reclaim their own strength,” she said.

She believes National Crime Victims’ Rights Week is one way to show that support.

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