GUEST EDITORIAL: The Strength of a Victim
Kenneth R. Buck
Weld County District Attorney
The dictionary defines a victim as someone who has been deceived, duped or destroyed.
At the District Attorney’s Office, we have a different definition. To us, a victim is
someone who has suffered—sometimes physically, sometimes financially, always
emotionally because of the crime committed against them. Some are victims of theft,
some are victims of assault, others are victims of rape, but regardless of the crime
committed against them, the victims we work with exhibit a common characteristic—
The Victim Witness Unit within our office is made up of twelve compassionate and
dedicated individuals who work with victims daily. This unit, the gem of the office,
serves as a bridge between the victim and judicial system as they listen to, work with, and
help victims understand the process they are about to go through. Without the strength of
the victims or the passion of the Victim Witness Unit, justice cannot be fully achieved.
By its very name the judicial system serves one purpose: to seek justice. A victim of
crime plays a vital role in achieving success in that purpose. Although the most important
responsibility a victim has within the judicial system is to give truthful information about
their perpetrator, their role in the judicial process does not end there. Thanks to the
Victims Rights Act, victims of crime now have rights within the judicial system; rights
that enable victims to exhibit their strength.
Among the rights now afforded to victims of crime are the right to be informed of the
progress of the case, the right to confer with prosecuting counsel, the right to attend
sentencing hearings and the right to restitution. The most important right however, in my
opinion, is the right to be heard. And when a victim speaks in court about the crime
committed against them, you truly get the opportunity to see how strong they are.
If you don’t think that it takes strength to speak in court as a victim, put yourself in the
shoes of a young girl speaking about the sexual assault she endured while her perpetrator
sits less than 10 feet away. Imagine retelling the crime, in every detail, to a jury box of 12
strangers who will decide whether or not the defendant is guilty based on the evidence
and testimony provided.
There is another opportunity, perhaps even more moving than trial testimony, for a victim
to exhibit their strength—sentencing. Victims, and their family, have the right to address
the court and their perpetrator directly during the sentencing hearing. Through statements
made to the judge or through letters read to the court, very few things are as emotional as
a victim relaying how the crime affected him/her. There is an immeasurable amount of
courage shown when a victim, after receiving justice through a guilty verdict, looks their
perpetrator straight in the eye and tells them how the crime affected them—not defeated
them. That takes strength. And that strength should be celebrated.
National Crime Victims Rights Week is April 23-27. Weld County’s kick-off event for
this week will be held on Friday, April 20, at Aims Community College with speakers
and victim service agencies from Weld County participating. This is a good opportunity
to get involved and learn more about the progress that has been made in the area of
victim’s rights. It is a good opportunity to learn about the true strength of a victim.