“I am now his voice,” Sockwell told the crowd. “I will continue to speak for him until I have no breath left in me.”
And Sockwell is just one of the many victims of crime being honored this week, as part of the National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, with this year marking the 25th anniversary of the federal Victims of Crime Act of 1984.
Wednesday’s candlelight vigil served as a commemoration of the community’s efforts toward raising awareness of victims’ rights and their access to the judicial system.
“This is to recognize that all victims of all categories have access to justice,” said Christina Conti, chair of the Alliance for Victims’ Rights and organizer of the event.
The 1984 act helped establish a means to bring victims of crime justice past punishment of the criminal, helping fund state programs to cover their medical care, counseling and lost wages, as well as aiding them in their navigation of the judicial system.
Locally, the Reno and Sparks community was shocked by the disappearance and murder of Brianna Dension last year, but she and her family represent only a fraction of the number of victims nationally. According to a 2003 study by the National Center for Victims of Crime, there were 24.2 million criminal victimizations of people over the age of 12 in the United States alone.
Former Washoe County District Attorney Cal Dunlap served during the initial stages of the Victims of Crime Act and has since seen it and the demand for it grow.
“Awareness has been elevated,” Dunlap said. “It provides vital help and services during some of the most acute stages for victims, when it is most traumatic.”
At the ceremony, key community members were honored for their efforts in aiding victims’ rights, including David Spillers of Digiprint in Reno for helping print fliers in an effort to find a missing person, and the entire Reno Police Department Family Crimes Unit.
Sockwelll, who hopes to enter the criminal justice system herself, said she feels strongly that this commemoration is an important cause.
“We need to remember all victims, not just in Reno but in the country,” she said. “We need to speak out for them.”
For more information about the Alliance for Victims’ Rights, visit their Web site at www.allianceforvictimsrights.com.