(Phoenix) – When we hear about crime, most often the stories are about catching or prosecuting the bad guys responsible. Yet, there is another large group of people who are deeply affected: the victims of those crimes.
This year, April 23 through 29, 2023 is National Crime Victim’s Rights Week. It is an opportunity to recognize the advocates who work closely with crime victims, as well as a time to acknowledge the pain and recovery involved for those who have been deeply affected by the actions of another person.
Under the leadership of Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell, caring for victims remains a top priority. Already in 2023, the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office (MCAO) has served 8,334 victims in 4,390 cases through its Victim Services Bureau.
“It’s important that all of us in the criminal justice system remember that we are a part of the healing; we are there to give a voice to somebody who may not have a voice or may not be able to speak, because of their condition or maybe they are too young. And if it not handled well, we contribute to the pain; if it is handled well, we contribute to the healing,” said County Attorney Rachel Mitchell.
In a recent sexual assault case prosecuted by the Maricopa County Attorney’s office, Ilya Smith, a victim of sexual abuse, shared how the criminal justice system helped her healing.
“One thing that I had not anticipated in participating in the criminal process was that it would become part of my healing process. Telling my story in my own words, both on the stand and in my Victim Impact Statement at sentencing, was a step in taking my power back. I hadn’t really understood the extent of disempowerment that my sexual assault caused until I raised my voice and told my truth. Perpetrators will try to take your voice away and break your credibility and this can feel like perpetual victimization; the prosecutor’s office and my court appointed victim advocate helped provide me with a forum to tell my story in a safe and respectful space,” said Ilya.
Dan Levey is the Executive Director of the Arizona Crime Victims’ Rights Law Group. Levey’s brother was murdered in 1996 and since then, Dan has been advocating for victims in Arizona and across the country. Levey says Arizona has some of the most exemplary victims’ rights laws in the country.
“Our constitution says that victims have a right to be treated with fairness, respect and dignity,” said Levey.
Watch the video below as Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell and Dan Levey as they share their experiences as leaders in the community advocating for victims’ rights.