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Nixon: State pushing to protect crime victims

Nixon: State pushing to protect crime victims

April 11th, 2014 in News

A display of painted ceramic faces by clients at A Safe Place, a domestic violence shelter in Festus, were on display Thursday at the Crime Victims' Rights Rally. Parents and children were invited to express their feelings through art and in the process are able to "give a face to the violence" suffered by abuse victims.

Photo by Julie Smith

Standing up for crime victims can help energize the justice system and make sure it's held accountable, Gov. Jay Nixon told a group of crime victims' rights advocates at a Capitol ceremony Thursday.

"In Missouri, we've successfully worked to reduce crime and the number of people who are victimized, but we are also committed to helping crime victims who are in need of assistance and services to ease the challenges they may face," Nixon said.

The ceremony was part of National Crime Victims' Rights Week, which concludes Saturday.

Nixon told the story of Catherine "Kitty" Genovese, who was murdered in her Queens neighborhood on March 13, 1964. Neighbors heard Kitty screaming, but no one came to her rescue.

He said the story, which shows bystander apathy, still resonates with him.

"It shows that people are less likely to help people in distress when others are present," Nixon said. "This type of thinking is dangerous and must be overcome."

He touted several of his administration's efforts to support victims of crime - including a bill that changed the law for incapacitated victims; a $10 million initiative in 2013 to help identify and treat people with mental health issues before they reach a crisis point; and a bond issue he proposed this year for Fulton State Hospital.

"It would provide better care for patients and better safety for employees and the public," he said.

Secretary of State Jason Kander highlighted his Safe at Home program, which provides a substitute mailing address for victims of sexual violence and other crimes in order to keep their location confidential.

"Simply put, Safe at Home allows our participants to be safe at home," Kander said.

He said the program has helped more than 2,000 Missourians since it debuted in 2007.

Lisa Saylor, a sexual assault victim, told ceremony attendees that she no longer considers herself a victim, but a survivor.

She was sexually assaulted in January 2012 in her hospital room, and the attack was documented on video.

After seeking counseling, Saylor said she was able to cooperate with law enforcement in order to seek justice.

She said she worries every day the man who sexually assaulted her will return.

She's received outpouring support to help her overcome the assault and advocate for change.

"Thank you to God who is busy restoring my broken heart," Saylor said.

She also thanked her husband, as well the Senate committee that heard her testimony last session for a proposed bill to update Missouri's criminal code.

"We have made progress, but we're not finished," she said.