County Groups To Mark Victims’ Rights Week

In an effort to reach out to the community, bring awareness and assist victims of crime, the Palm Beach Victims’ Rights Coalition will host a series of events to mark 2012 National Crime Victims’ Rights Week starting Monday, April 23.

National Crime Victims’ Rights Week began in 1981 as a way to promote victims’ rights and honor those advocates who provide help to victims of crimes. It will be observed from Sunday, April 22 through Saturday, April 28.

“The event is an opportunity to highlight milestones in victims’ rights in general and the rights created for them,” said Brandy Macaluso, president of the Palm Beach Victims’ Rights Coalition. “It brings awareness to the fact that we have crime in our area and that there are victims of crime living among us. It is also a chance for us to reach out to every crime victim out there and offer them services. We want to make sure they know we are there and we can help them.”

State Rep. Mark Pafford (D-District 88), who will be a keynote speaker at the event, said that he wants to promote victims’ rights awareness in hopes that other crime victims will come forward and receive help.

“It’s important that people understand that there are services available for them,” he said. “A lot of folks live with the pain instead of sharing with someone who cannot only act as an advocate but help them learn to live with what happened.”

Pafford said he has seen the effects that crime can have.

“Personally, I have people around me who will continue to live with that pain for the rest of their lives,” he said. “It’s a tragedy that [crime] happens; it’s made more of a tragedy when people don’t seek help. The more we understand how prevalent assault and other crimes are, the better society is able to help victims.”

Several local organizations will host discussions about victims’ rights, resources for victims and their loved ones, as well as honor those who work to help victims every day. Most events are free and open to the public.

“There are a lot of agencies involved,” Macaluso said, “but the thing they all have in common is promoting victims’ rights.”

The events kick off Monday morning with the opening ceremony at the Clayton Hutcheson Complex at the Mounts Botanical Garden (559 N. Military Trail, West Palm Beach). It begins at 8:30 a.m. with a breakfast and “meet and greet,” followed by a ceremony with remarks from local officials and victims, and recognition of the Victim Services Officer of the Year, as well as a special recognition from the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

On Tuesday, Mounts Botanical Garden will host a ceremony to honor crime victims from 1 to 4 p.m.

“It’s a dedication to crime victims,” Macaluso said. “It’s a chance for victims to come together and share their stories, along with some of the resources victim services provided to help them.”

The organization will also present several awards, including Victim Advocate of the Year.

There are two events on Wednesday. From 10 a.m. to noon, the Aging Resource Center/Area Agency on Aging will hold a workshop on later-life violence, focusing on domestic abuse. Then from 2 to 4 p.m., the Compassionate Friends will gather at Our Lady Queen of Peace Cemetery (10941 Southern Blvd., Royal Palm Beach) to discuss the Angel of Hope and Compassionate Friends.

The Angel of Hope, once complete, will be a beacon for grieving parents who have lost a child. The group is raising money to finance the project. More information can be found by visiting www.our

“They help people who have lost their children,” Macaluso said. “They help those who are grieving.”

On Thursday, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office will offer a professional training seminar titled “Enforcing Victims’ Rights” at PBSO Headquarters (3228 Gun Club Road, West Palm Beach). The training will help bring understanding about the history of victims’ rights, as well as key legal concepts needed to help victims. You must pre-register for the event by calling (561) 966-4288.

The 32nd Annual Awards Luncheon will be held Friday at the Doubletree Hotel (4431 PGA Blvd., Palm Beach Gardens). The event is reservations-only and will feature Pafford as keynote speaker.

Pafford said he is hoping to reach out and promote awareness of victims’ rights.

“It’s an issue that touches a lot of lives,” he said. “If it weren’t such a private matter and people reported issues more, you’d find that there are a lot more victims in society. They are our neighbors and our friends. The more I can do to encourage people to talk about it, the better.”

The week culminates Saturday with the “Giving Crime Victims a Voice Walk,” presented by the Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office starting at 8:30 a.m. at the Palm Beach Shores Community Center (90 Edwards Lane, Palm Beach Shores).

Registration for the walk is free, Macaluso said.

Macaluso encouraged residents, and especially victims of crime, to come out and learn about what resources the Palm Beach Victims’ Rights Coalition can provide. Victims can receive help with legal processes, counseling and other services.

For more information about National Crime Victims’ Rights Week or the Palm Beach Victims’ Rights Coalition, call Macaluso at (561) 966-4288, ext. 118.