EATON — The Preble County Victim Witness Program held the annual Preble County Crime Victims’ Rights Ceremony on Tuesday, April 9 in honor of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week 2019.
During the ceremony, three names of crime victims were added to the remembrance tree.
The ceremony began with Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Eric Marit speaking on the theme of “Honoring our Past and Creating Hope for our Future.”
“When I was putting my thoughts together for what I was going to say this evening, the theme hit me that there is deep meaning to this community with this theme. I would like to take some time to talk about your input and what you do to contribute and your voice in this year’s theme,” Marit said.
“Everyone has a different way of honoring our past. Some people create memorials, there’s 5Ks, scholarship funds – this program tonight is the Preble County Prosecutor’s Office and the Preble County Victim Witness Program’s way of honoring you as victims, fighters, and family members. We thank you all for being here tonight.
“Unfortunately, tonight we will be adding three new names to our tree. It is a somber way of adding and honoring three lives cut short by the bad decisions of another. Which is the path that set us all here this evening, a bad decision made by somebody else.
“Your status as a survivor, victim, and family member of a victim lends greater power to your voice. Your stories are real, your experiences are real, and your opinion garners greater attention from those in power. Use the fact that you are now an educated victim to share your voice, your position, and your feelings with those in positions to make changes here locally.”
Preble County Commissioner Denise Robertson presented Victim Witness Advocate Brenda Miller with a proclamation naming April 7-12 National Crime Victims’ Rights Week in Preble County.
Crystal McKown shared her story, involving several incidents of domestic violence and abuse in her life. It began when she was molested as a little girl and later date-raped as a teenager. She kept both of these incidents a secret until years later. According to McKown, this led to several unhealthy relationships as she became an adult.
She detailed the domestic violence she endured at the hands of several abusers.
“I realized that I do deserve happiness, true happiness. I’m not quite sure what my happiness is yet, but everyday I work towards it. In July I started training to walk the annual Victim Witness 5K and in September I did it and in November I spoke at [my abuser’s] sentencing. That feeling I got when I crossed that finish line and when I spoke about his abuse and how it effected me was the same feeling as when I found my friend’s grave — accomplishment, true happiness, and most of all peace,” McKown said. “Peace within myself. I will be starting school soon to become a Victim’s Advocate myself. I want to give back to the community what I received. I was never able to do this before because I was told how dangerous it was. I’ve learned to not doubt myself anymore, because no matter many times it took me to leave, when I did the outcome ended happy. It was a long and sometimes terrible road to get where I am now, but I wouldn’t change it.”
The event also featured special music by Something Good, a time of sharing, Pledge of Allegiance by Eaton Police Detective Pete Wray, and a concluding prayer by Community of Faith Pastor Jeff Travis.
The Clothesline Project was also displayed on the first floor of the courthouse and provided by the local YWCA Domestic Violence Shelter. It is a vehicle for women affected by violence to express their emotions by decorating a shirt. They then hang the shirt on a clothesline to be viewed by others as testimony to the problem of violence against women. It becomes a healing tool for the survivors and en educational tool for those who view the project.
The 11th annual Victim Witness 5K Walk/Run will be held on Sunday, Sept. 29.
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH