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Victims’ rights awareness event set for Saturday
April 12, 2018

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Those who commit crimes make the news. Those who are victims of those same crimes too often endure the aftermath alone or in silence.

The State Attorney's Office for the 20th Judicial Circuit will be among organizations nationwide to mark the divide with a National Crime Victims' Rights Week event to be held this year on Saturday at Centennial Park.

The event will be held from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. and will involve more than 20 local law enforcement and community agencies collaborating with the State Attorney's Office.

"This is going to be the biggest year yet," said Samantha Syoen, State Attorney's Office spokesperson. "This is the first year we have had a grant and will have tables set up with information for guests to learn more about community resources that are available for them."

The grant was provided by the Office for Victims of Crime, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice.

National Crime Victims' Rights Week was started in 1981 with President Reagan. It is held to "raise awareness of victims' rights and services, highlight local programs, celebrate progress achieved, and honor victims and the professionals who serve them," according to the organization's website.

The State Attorney's office has been involved for decades with this remembrance and, since 2001, has partnered with local law enforcement, groups such as Mothers Against Drunk Drivers, and local shelters to raise awareness of the programs available to all victims who feel they are in the dark. The Cape Coral Police Department and Lee County Sheriff's Office are among the agencies scheduled to take part.

This year's theme is "Expand the Circle: Reach All Victims."

"This theme really stresses the need to bring the community together and give public information to victims and their families. They need to know that there is an incredible support system for them and they should not hesitate to reach out for help," Syoen said.

National Crime Victims' Rights Week is a platform for victims, and for anyone effected to learn about the many different local, state, Tribal, national, and federal victim assistance programs that they may not otherwise know about.

Chief Assistant State Attorney Amira Fox will kick things off and then give way to many guest speakers, including those in law enforcement, survivors of crime, and testimonies from victims' families as well.

"It is important to give victims and their families a voice. National Victims' Rights Week is a way to make sure they are not forgotten," said Fox in a prepared statement.

The ceremony will end with the releasing of butterflies, a moving moment for those victims and their families to release the pain of the past.

"It is a very emotional and moving moment. The symbolism of letting go, and remembering that life goes on and to free your spirit of the bad is a big part of the healing process," said Syoen.

This event is free to the public and will also include face painting, arts and crafts, and teddy bear making for children.

Centennial Park is at 2000 W First St., Fort Myers.

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