Over 100 attend NCVRW Luncheon April 5

The VAP National Crime Victims’ Rights Week Luncheon April 5 brought 120 people, including staff, to Portage Country Club.

VAP Board Vice-President Jennifer LeFleur opened the luncheon, with help from the Akron Police Department Color Guard, and introduced Board member Rev. Richard McCandless, who provided the invocation.

VAP Executive Director Leanne Graham introduced the keynote speaker, David Voth.

Mr. Voth,, executive director of Crime Victim Services in Allen and  Putnam counties, spoke of the need for Marsy’s Law, which would include crime victims’ rights in the Ohio Constitution. Members of the campaign for Marsy’s Law for Ohio are gathering the 305,591 signatures needed by July 5 to put the proposed constitutional amendment on the November Ballot, Mr. Voth said.

“We believe that victim rights must be meaningful with the same importance as defendants’ due process rights,” Mr. Voth said, adding that those rights would not usurp defendants’ rights. For example, victims should have the right to object to trial delays, but they couldn’t control the speed of hearings and decisions.

“Reducing victim trauma is a value,” Mr. Voth said. “There must be a balance that includes the victim’s voice, but not a veto.”

After Mr. Voth spoke, Director Graham announced Ohio Rep. Emilia Sykes as the recipient of the Rev. Dr. Robert Denton Outstanding Victim Service Award. Rep. Sykes was not able to attend the luncheon.

Victim Assistance Out and About

During March and April, our Director of Community Engagement, Jan Apisa, and Marketing Coordinator, Gina Mace, were in the community, talking about our mission and services.

March 10 – Bath Volunteers for Service – Jan – presentation on  VAP services

March 14 – Akron Ward 2 Watch Captains meeting – Jan – presentation on  VAP services

March 22 – Revere Community Care  — Jan – presentation on Human Trafficking

April 5 – NCVRW luncheon – informational display – Gina

April 6 – Healthy Senior Expo – informational table – Gina

Victim Assistance Program in the News

Victim Assistance Program was in the news several times in the past two months. The mentions included the following editorial during National Crime Victims Rights Week by Executive Director Leanne Graham, which appeared in the West Side Leader and the Hudson Hub Times.

Guest Column: Observing National Crime Victims’ Rights Week

Published: April 6, 2017 1:28 A.M
All this week (April 2-8) we join advocates across the nation to observe Natrional Crime Victims Rights Week.
This year’s theme is Strength, Resilience, Justice.

During this week, Victim Assistance Program honors crime victims and thanks the advocates who hold them up until they find their own strength and discover their “new normal.”

Our victim advocates staff our 24/7 hotline, at 330-376-0040. They also staff offices in the Akron Police Department, Summit County Clerk of Courts, and Barberton, Stow and Akron municipal courts, where they provide crisis intervention in person from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.  We also have advocates with offices in the Akron Detective Bureau from 4 p.m. to 8 a.m.

We celebrate the resiliency of the human spirit, as our advocates and trauma counselor walk beside victims on their journey from hardship to healing; from victim to survivor.

Our advocates assist clients in completing paperwork for protection orders and victim compensation. They accompany clients to ex parte, evidentiary, grand jury, and other court hearings.  They also respond to crime scenes at the request of law enforcement.  Our licensed counselor provides trauma therapy, free of charge, for ages 5 through adult.   

We will continue to advocate for justice for crime victims by assuring their rights under Ohio law are being upheld.

Our advocates make sure that crime victims who choose to exercise their rights receive information about the case and the offender, from investigation through arrest and conviction or acquittal, apply for allowed restitution so they may be made whole, and are heard before sentencing or parole.

During National Crime Victims’ Rights Week and always, we are here for victims of crime, trauma and crisis.

Sincerely,

Leanne Graham, Executive Director of Victim Assistance Program

Here are links to other stories that ran during March and April

March 5 – Akron Beacon Journal; Ohio.com – Mardi Gras Benefits Akron’s Victim Assistance Program https://goo.gl/JPlPYW

April 6– Akron Beacon Journal; Ohio.com – B1, Marsy’s Law Seeks to Give Crime Victims a Voice https://goo.gl/Ni9ipv

April 10 – Akron Beacon Journal; Ohio.com – Good News section, Advocates receive national honors. https://goo.gl/0j5Vyf

VAP Staffer Testified Before Ohio House Commmittee on Dating Violence Law

A bill that would allow dating violence victims to apply for protection orders against their aggressor passed the Ohio House Feb. 28.

It has been referred to the Senate’s Justice Committee

On Feb. 9, Victim Assistance Program Director of Services Mickey Valdez gave testimony on HB1 before the House Civil Justice Committee

Sponsored by Rep. Emilia Strong Sykes (D-Akron) and Rep. Nathan H. Manning (R-North Ridgeville), HB 1 would include dating victims as protected partners under the State’s domestic violence civil protection order law.

Mickey told the committee dating violence victims are excluded from the current law because they don’t live with their aggressors.

“. . . dating violence affects victims of all ages including adolescents and college-age adults, a fact that is commonly overlooked and currently unaccounted for in legislation,” Mickey said.

The bill passed in the House Feb. 28.  It was referred to the Senate’s Justice Committee March 7.

You can read Mickey’s testimony here.

25th Mardi Gras Raises Record Amount

mardi gras staffThis year’s Mardi Gras Gala was our best ever fundraiser, bringing in $131,000 overall. Over 400 people attended the sold-out March 4 event held at The Tangier in Akron.

Our April Victims’ Rights Luncheon generated $2,550 however all of these funds supported the expenses associated with event.

During March we billed out over $120,000 for our various ongoing Government Grants, which include: VOCA (Victims of Crime Act), grants for VAWA (Violence against Women Act) and JAG (Justice Assistance Grant) thru the Office of Criminal Justice Services, along with local City of Akron programs.

Foundations contributed $5,500 funding thru the Women’s Endowment Fund and Bath Volunteers for Service.  Various individual and corporate donations amounted to $1,500.  The ACME Community Cash back program for this year amounted to $223 thanks to all of those who mailed in their ACME receipts.

Advocate Spotlight

Shannon Conrad Wokojance and Alexandra Potter, Victim Assistance Program advocates assigned to the Akron Police Department, room 935, received the National Organization for Victim Assistance 2017 Exceptional Victim Advocate Award for community-based advocacy.

The advocates’ photos and nominating information was posted on the NOVA web page during National Crime Victims’ Rights Week.

Shannon recently celebrated her third year anniversary with Victim Assistance Program. Alexandra will celebrate her first anniversary in August.  Both were excited to receive the letter from NOVA, informing them of the recent honor.

“I’ve always thought advocacy was my calling,” Shannon said. “My aunt always said I would be the one in Washington, fighting injustice.”

She said she is pleased that her three years of hard work has been nationally recognized.

“I’m so grateful for the opportunity to work here,” Shannon said. “This is my second home and everyone here is my family.  I wouldn’t get through the day if I didn’t have the people sitting next to me.”

Alexandra knew she wanted to work in the criminal justice field.  She wasn’t sure how until she was offered an advocate job with the Rape Crisis Center of Summit and Medina Counties.

“I didn’t join this field with an exact plan,” she said. “I just knew I wanted to make a difference.”

Before joining Victim Assistance Program, Alexandra worked with the Rape Crisis Center and Battered Women’s Shelter of Medina and Summit Counties.

After joining Victim Assistance Program, Alexandra worked with Akron, Cuyahoga Falls, and Barberton police departments, Akron General Medical Center, Summa Health System, and the Summit County Prosecutor’s Office to develop the PATH (Providing Access to Healing) Center at Akron General Hospital.  The PATH Center provides “quality, trauma-informed, compassionate care to victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, elder abuse and neglect for Summit and surrounding counties, while ensuring the quality of evidence collection,” according to the PATH Center website.

“Anyone who works in the field of victim services knows that our job is often selfless and thankless,” Alexandra said. “We don’t do this work for the recognition, the money, or an award. In all reality, the hours are sometimes long and erratic, the stories are heart wrenching, and vicarious trauma is inevitable.

“Despite the obstacles we face, we will always meet that one person, that one family, that one colleague who re-ignites the fire inside of us to keep striving for better- not for ourselves, but for those we serve,” Alexandra said.

From the Director’s Desk

Welcome to the first of what will be a monthly newsletter, keeping you up to date on what’s happening at Victim Assistance Program.

In 2016, our advocates and trauma counselor helped 5,489 victims of crime, crisis or trauma, some of whom are still receiving services. So far this year, they have added 1,863 new clients, many with ongoing cases.

We want to do more. We know there are portions of the population who are targets of certain crimes and can benefit from specialized services, including teachers and adults over 60.  We know that the family of homicide victims can benefit from specialized programs as well, such as support groups.

To add those and other services, we need to increase revenue and revenue sources. 

In hopes of doing that, we have hired a full time grant writer to apply for every dollar for which we are eligible, and a marketing coordinator to raise our profile in the community.  We’re hiring a Director of Advancement to increase philanthropic support and execute fundraising initiatives, among other duties.

The comment we hear most when we meet people at an event is, “I hope I never need Victim Assistance Program.”

Not only will we be there for them if they do need us, through the generosity of donors, foundations and other sources that can help us increase our revenue stream, we can add services for older adults, teachers and survivors of homicide victims as well.