D.A.’s Rep Tells Civic Meeting Crime Victims Are Not Forgotten
By Marsha Sereno
In an ongoing effort to provide support to the community, the Informed Voices Civic Association invited Amanda Voytek, Director of Counseling Programs, Counseling Services Unit from Brooklyn D.A. Charles Hynes’ office, to address that issue at their April 17th meeting.
Voytek informed the audience that April 22-28 has been designated National Crime Victims Rights Week. It is a week that is intended to highlight the experiences of crime victims and to encourage all of our communities nationwide to support their needs. Voytek went on to provide a bit of history of the crime victims rights movement
"The fact that we have an event like Crime Victims Week is a reflection of how far we’ve come as a country. Twenty five years ago there was no such thing as a crime victims rights movement. In fact, there was no recognition that crime victims had rights," she said. Our criminal justice system largely focused on crime and the criminals who committed it. In 1984, Congress initiated the Victims of Crime Act which began providing funding for treatment and compensation and community-based programs to address the needs of crime victims."
She described how in 1974, before the rest of the nation had caught on that crime victims were a population that needed support, the first victim’s assistance program was started in Brooklyn by the District Attorney’s office.
Voytek is responsible for running the Counseling Services Unit, the successor of that very first ground-breaking program. She described the types and frequency of the multitude of crimes that are committed in the United States every hour and stated that "one of every seven Americans will experience the physical injury, financial loss or emotional trauma of victimization in his or her lifetime."
"Crime does not discriminate. Crime victims are all of us!" she declared.
Under Hynes’ leadership, she believes that they have built one of the finest prosecution-based programs for victims of crime in the country, providing not only physical assistance but comprehensive counseling as well.
She provided assurance that the victim’s voice will be heard and that support is available every step of the way. Voytek spoke of "barrier free access" to the justice system for the disabled, including other services, such as interpreters and ambulettes made available to those in need.
Other programs described by Voytek included: The Baby Safe Haven Program which allows parents of newborns unable to care for them to leave them with someone in a hospital or firehouse instead of abandoning and endangering the child. The babies are then placed in suitable homes. Anonymity is guaranteed, as is freedom from prosecution.
She also spoke of the Crime Victims Board, a New York State Agency that reimburses crime victims for specific items (i.e. medical treatment, medicine or glasses, replacement of essential items, funeral costs up to $6,000. etc.).