EATON — The Preble County Victim Witness Program held its annual Crime Victims’ Rights Ceremony on Tuesday, April 4, in commemoration of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week.
The purpose of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week is to provide a time of nationwide remembrance, reflection, and re-commitment to crime victims and survivors.
The program opened with a speech from Sheriff Michael Simpson.
“This year the theme for National Crime Victims’ Week is Strength, Resilience, and Justice. This theme reflects a vision of the future,” he said. “It’s our hope that we can instill confidence in you to let your voice be heard. That we can be able to help with what you need, during your time of crisis.”
He added, “Through our system, victims seek justice for crimes committed against them or their families. We seek justice through fair and appropriate sentences for those who admit to or are convicted of a crime. Through justice, many victims may be able to move forward one step at a time. It is through our justice system that healing can begin.
“Healing does not happen quickly, but it is a process. Each and every day, the criminal justice community comes face to face with someone who has been victimized. We see the toll that it can take on our citizens. We see the financial, physical, and emotional wounds that a crime leaves on an individual and their families.”
He continued, “We do all we can to serve you. We build a trust that is needed, for you as a victim and we as a criminal justice system to walk together. Serving you and building trust leads to restoring hope. As a crime victim, you may wonder, ‘Why me? Why my family? Why my friend?’ Your hope and our is, in this crazy world, is that justice can be served, lives can be rebuilt, and faith can be restored. It can be a long, painful journey, but working together certainly makes it possible.”
During the event, three names were added to the memorial tree. They were three people who lost their lives this year as a victim of crime. Sheriff Simpson said, “Each was tragically taken from their families and communities. Tonight we remember them, together with their families and friends. Rest assured that they will never be forgotten.”
“In closing, I speak to the family and friends of not only the three that we remember tonight, but to those who have been remembered in the past and are still remembered today — your loved ones will always be in our thoughts and prayers,” he said. “For those cases that have been yet to be solved, be assured that with the public’s help and support, we will seek every lead and every location to bring those responsible to justice.”
Preble County Commission President Chris Day read a proclamation declaring the week National Crime Victims’ Rights Week in Preble County. He read, “Whereas, National Crime Victims’ Right Week provides an opportunity to recommit to ensuring that all victims of crime, especially those that are challenging to reach and be served, are afforded their rights and receive treatment for trauma as soon as possible. Therefore, be it resolved, that the Board of Preble County Commissioners, hereby proclaim April 2-8, 2017 as National Crime Victims’ Rights Week.”
Preble County native Brittnie Campbell shared her story as a survivor of domestic violence. She explained she met a guy who lived a distance away, online. After talking to him online for an extended period of time, she met him in person. Despite having decided before that she would not get into a relationship with him (due to the distance), they started a long distance relationship that eventually turned short distance when he moved in with her, after threatening to break up with her if they did not move in together.
Living together, she started to find out things about him. He was in debt, because his business was actually a scam. He also could not see his daughter because he had beat up an old girlfriend in front of her. Around the same time he became verbally and emotionally abusive.
It soon turned physical.
She said, “There was no clear reason why he would do this.” He blamed her and always apologized, but he would hit her, slap her, throw things at her, and spit on her.
It got worse as time went on. “He started assaulting me almost daily,” she added. It got bad on Dec. 16, when he beat her so severely she woke up the next day with a headache. “On Christmas Day he beat me on and off all day,” she said. She spilled coffee and he hit her throughout the day.
In the pictures taken that day, she said, “My face is visibly swollen.” Because the abuse kept getting worse, she said, “I knew he was going to kill me.”
She resolved to tell her father one day when she was set to visit him. Her boyfriend would not let her go alone. She had to stop at the store to get something for her father and when she got back to the car her boyfriend was sitting in the passenger seat and would not let her visit her dad. He hit her while she was driving and she pulled over, told him that she would not wreck. She made a run for it when they parked, but he caught her.
When they got back to the house he was taunting her. “But he did not know that I had grabbed a spare key. I threw [the car] in reverse as he punched the window,” she said. She called a friend to go out and there her boyfriend found them and apologized.
She went home with him.
He threw her so hard she ended up under the table, where she blacked out and woke up in extreme pain.
She ended up going to the ER, where she made up a story to explain her injury. She had a brain bleed. On Jan. 23, 2016 she had her first craniotomy. Working in an ER, she knew that it was a very risky surgery.
“If I didn’t have surgery I would die, and I could die in surgery. The outcome seemed pretty grim to me, no matter how I looked at it,” she said.
She felt like if she died, he would get away with what he did to her, but if she survived and did not report it he would never face the consequences of his actions.
The first surgery did not stop the brain bleed so she had to have another craniotomy on Feb. 5. She turned 30 in the ICU.
The risks were higher this time. She prayed to survive so she could see him behind bars.
The surgery was a success.
The success could not last for long. When she was in recovery, he came home looking for a fight. “When he returned home, I knew by his face that something bad was going to happen,” she said. My surgeon was very clear, I could not sustain another head injury.”
She told him she was having heart palpitations and had him drive her to the ER, the one in Eaton, the same one she worked at. She told a coworker that she was having heart palpitations. “She looked right through me,” she said.
Her abuser was arrested in the waiting room by five officers.
Following Campbell’s story, there was time for sharing, where those could share stories of their loved ones. Then Preble County Victim Advocates Brenda Miller and Jennie Baker began the candlelight ceremony. Family members were also asked to stand and represent their loved one. Pastor Justin Wiegand gave the concluding prayer.
Following the ceremony, there were refreshments offered on the first floor of the courthouse. They were provided by Tammy White-Rike “Rocking R Custom Cakes.” There the Clothesline Project was also displayed, provided by the local YWCA Domestic Violence Shelter. It is a way for women affect by violence to express their emotions by decorating a shirt. They hand them on a clothesline to be viewed by others as a testimony to the problem of violence against women.
In past years, National Crime Victims’ Rights Week in Preble County also featured the annual Victim Witness 5K Walk/Run, but due to weather it has been moved Sept. 24.
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH