By Kim Ogg
Crime Victims’ Rights Week is an unfortunate, yet necessary, time to uplift those who are left to deal with painful new reality in the aftermath of crime. We cannot imagine what sort of strength it must take to deal with life in the wake of such tragedies.
Much like you, I do not often talk about my family’s story. But it is an undeniable part of me– as a daughter, mother and District Attorney.
In 1962 my mother was kidnapped by a serial rapist. She escaped by jumping from his speeding car. That jump saved her life, but stole her sense of true security. The experience led me to a professional career focused on everyone’s safety in Harris County.
Victims are reminded of their nightmare every day. A form of PTSD can engulf survivors and family members left in the aftermath of murder. They express anger, embarrassment, fear, and guilt. While criminals are the cause of victimization, victims can feel brutalized, even re-victimized by our criminal justice system.
This week I was humbled by the stories of heartache and sorrow from Calandrian Kemp and Keith Davis. We often hear the adage, “parents should never have to bury their children,” and it’s true, but listening to the experiences of mothers, fathers, and families who were left standing alone without crime victims’ assistance in the wake of an unexpected death is a reality few of us are strong enough to bear.
I am in awe of the strength required to get up each day following a loved one’s murder.
As Harris County’s District Attorney, it is my legal duty to provide crime victims assistance. More importantly, we feel it’s a moral duty as well. Our Victim Services Division works tirelessly with our community partners to support families. They deserve the dignity of due process and justice; that is at the core of everything we do. My promise to them, to you– and the countless victims that remain nameless – is justice.
We seek that by ensuring these rights:
- The right to information
- The right to due process
- The right to privacy
- The right be present at criminal justice proceedings
There are steps we can still take to protect victims, and that was showcased last legislative session with the introduction and passage of Jenny’s Law.
The law is named for a rape victim who was held in jail for 27 days prior to testifying against her attacker. The prior District Attorney said Jenny “fell through the cracks in the system,” but that is far from acceptable.
Jenny was a real rape victim suffering from mental illness; she committed no crime, yet was incarcerated. The ultimate impact on Jenny will never be fully known.
Jail isn’t for crime victims. I have pledged that no victim of sexual assault will be jailed, and their trauma exponentially increased.
Police and prosecutors enjoy many tools that enable us to successfully solve and prosecute crimes without failing the victims our laws seek to protect
The scars of victimization are always with us, just like they were with my mother; I never saw the physical scars she suffered as a result of her attack until she lost her hair from chemotherapy. But whether visible or not, all crime victims carry scars. It’s up to us to help them heal.