Crime Victims’ Rights Week is observed

STEUBENVILLE – Those who help victims of crime gathered Thursday at the Jefferson County Justice Center to commemorate National Crime Victims’ Rights Week.

Jefferson County was one of 10 counties in Ohio to receive a $1,000 grant from the Ohio Attorney General’s Office to purchase bracelets that state, “I support victims’ rights,” and for brochures detailing the help that is available throughout the county, said MaryAnn Donnelly, A Caring Place Children’s Advocacy Center director/advocate.

County Prosecutor Jane Hanlin said those who help crime victims have very difficult jobs. She said TV shows depict a crime and how it is solved in an hour. But that isn’t the way it is in real life, she said.

“You change the life of a victim from being a victim to being a survivor. You try to stop similar things from happening to other people. I am so grateful for the work you provide to the community every day,” Hanlin said.

State Sen. Lou Gentile, D-Steubenville, presented two state proclamations for victims’ rights week.

He said awareness of victims’ rights is essential in the justice system.

“It is important to create awareness and recognition that victims of crime know there is a support system in place to help,” Gentile said.

Michael Thomas of Steubenville, whose son Demitrius was stabbed to death in July, thanked those who work helping victims of crime in helping him deal with his son’s death.

He said the help he received doesn’t take away the pain but the experience has made him stronger to continue fighting to help stop the violence in the community for the sake of his son. He said he didn’t want to lie down in self-pity but, rather, begin a mission to stop the violence on the streets.

County Sheriff Fred Abdalla said there was no crime victims’ office when he became sheriff nearly three decades ago. He started an office staffed with four or five volunteers to help crime victims, especially rape victims.

“It is heartbreaking to talk to a woman who is a victim of rape. Some live with the rape all their lives. Rape is one of the most unreported crimes in the country,” he said, adding women fear how they will be characterized when they have to testify in court.

Abdalla turned to Thomas and said, “To Michael, nothing will ease your pain.”

He said Demitrius Thomas was playing basketball at 11 a.m. on July 25 and dead 12 hours later.

Abdalla said he hears people talk about closure.

“I hate the word closure. There always will be the pain but at least there is peace of mind to know the person responsible for a crime is answering for it.”

Victims of crime can contact the victims assistance coordinator at the county prosecutor’s office at (740) 283-1966.