Last updated: April 09. 2014 1:39PM - 670 Views
By Megan Kennedy mkennedy@civitasmedia.com

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On your mark, get set, race!

Runners, walkers, and those in between met outside the Preble County Courthouse Sunday, April 6, to draw awareness for National Crime Victim’s Rights Week, as well the Preble County Victim Witness Program.

“We wanted something that the family members of our victims that have especially lost a loved one to a crime in Preble County to keep them in their memory, or to keep their memory alive, and to have that support of other family members, so they can all come together and get strength from each other,” said Preble County Victim Witness Program Director, Brenda Miller. “It’s just snowballed,” said Miller of the 5k. Miller said she has noticed an increase in attendance each year the event has been held.

The event has increased in size so much, in fact, portions of streets were closed for those participating.

Racers traveled from the courthouse, down Main St. to Camden Rd., turn onto the exit of Fort St. Clair, through the Fort, exit the entrance, and back to the courthouse.

The program is to “let people know we’re here to help them whether it be through court advocacy, protection orders, emotional support, just to bring awareness to our program. A lot of people don’t know there’s a Victim Witness Program here in town,” said Miller. “Victim’s Rights have come a long way in the past 30 years. Victims now have a voice, they never used to have a voice.”

Victims have the right to attend court hearings, they have the right to speak in court, while before, victims were unwelcome. “But I think things have just evolved to where it’s necessary to have victims involved. It’s necessary to know how they feel about the crime and what they would like to see throughout the prosecution. Back in the day, I don’t think that was really considered,” said Miller. Now, however, Miller believes the courts do take the victim’s into consideration in terms of sentencing, “especially our prosecutors; they meet with the victims and ask how they feel about the case and what they would like to see happen, and they take that into consideration when they present that to the judge,” said Miller.

Four barriers Miller believes separates victims and the services the Victim Witness Program offers is transportation, lack of knowledge, economic standing, and potential shame for the crime.

Also held this week, was the Victim Rights Candle Light Ceremony.

“Most of your counties try to do something for National Crime Victim’s Rights Week,” said Miller. “And a lot of them have candle light ceremonies.”

Miller began working with the Victim Witness Program in 2008 after working as a Corrections Officer at the Preble County Jail for 13 years. “I’ve been on the inmate’s side of it, and now on the prosecution’s side,” she said. “[At the County Jail] I had to be someone that I wasn’t, someone that didn’t really fit my personality because you have to be stern, you have to be consistent with the inmates, and on this side, I get to be more compassionate and caring towards the people that I work with.”

Miller said working with inmates made her stronger, better able to work with her current clientele.

National Crime Victim Rights Week is held April 6-12.

The Victim Rights Program office is located at 123 S. Cherry St. in Eaton.

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