Student advocates for victims' rights
April 24, 2008
Last week, April 13-19, was National Crime Victims’ Rights Week (NCVRW). UW-River Falls senior Beth Ashton played a large role by raising public awareness about victims’ rights and services.
Ashton interns with the St. Croix County Victim/Witness Assistance Program, which is a part of the District Attorney’s Office and is responsible for creating local events and activities for the week.
This year, the agency planned to hold a ceremony outside of the Hudson Government Center, but poor weather forced them to abandon the event.
Ashton and her colleagues made up for that by creating an NCVRW display table at the front entrance of the government center. The display included a poster with this year’s theme, “Justice for Victims, Justice for All,” along with public information brochures with information about domestic violence, restraining orders, resources and contact information. Passers-by could pick up ribbons and bookmarks pertaining to victims’ rights.
In collaboration with St. Croix County District Attorney Eric Johnson, the agency sent out a letter to the editors of all St. Croix County newspapers regarding the rights of crime victims in Wisconsin.
Ashton said she believes it is important to get information about crime and victims’ rights out to as many people as possible. In fact, this year’s NCVRW theme is “Justice for Victims. Justice for All.” The theme was chosen to promote a system of justice that inspires equity, according to the St. Croix Valley Alliance Against Family Violence. It declares that justice for all cannot be achieved without justice for victims of crime.
Ashton said the slogan is appropriate because it reinforces an important point.
“Crime is a universal issue that affects many people, anyone can be the victim of a crime,” Ashton said. “Victims’ rights are everyone’s rights.”
With campus crimes, it is also essential that the campus community gains awareness and take an active role Ashton said.
The work of Ashton and her colleagues is a local piece to a regionally and nationally historic puzzle. In 1980, Wisconsin became the first state to pass a Crime Victims’ Bill of Rights. Since then, every state and the federal government have established statutory rights for victims. To date, 33 states, have passed constitutional amendments that protect those rights, according to the letter sent out by Johnson and Ann Gustafson, Victim/Witness Assistance Program Coordinator.