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Berrien County prosecutor's office honors victims of violence

BERRIEN COUNTY, Mich. -

Berrien County agencies hope to give a voice to victims of violence with a new plaque they dedicated Thursday in honor of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week.

“Years ago, there weren’t programs and even knowledge on how to talk to and handle victims and their families,” said the president of the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department Victim Services Unit, Laurie House.

While that’s not the case today, between the victim services unit Laurie House serves, Safe Shelters, the Children’s Assessment Center, and the prosecutor’s own victim witness services program, the prosecutor’s office wanted to enact a visible reminder saying they’re here for victims of violence.

“So today, in celebration of National crime victims’ rights week, we are dedicating a plaque in recognition of the victims in our community. The plaque reads as follows. To the victims of crime in our community, may you find strength and hope as your voices are heard and your healing begins. Dedicated April 2017,” said program coordinator for the prosecutor’s victim witness services program, Carolyn Groen.

“There’s a lot of focus on defendants when there’s reporting of crimes, and people hear about crimes…and a lot of times what gets lost is the victim…and even the services to victims,” said Berrien County Prosecutor Michael Sepic.

“As victim advocates, that’s our main emphasis. We want the victim’s voice to be heard. We want them to be able to heal,” said Groen.

As the flowers in the garden bud, they want victims’ hope to grow.

The blue are for sexual assault victims, the purple are for victims of domestic violence, and the red flowers peeking out of the now hallowed courthouse ground, stand for victims who lost their lives, like the two bailiffs who were killed in July.

By gathering the community together Thursday, the prosecutor’s office is determined to make sure none of them are ever forgotten.

“The plaque and the flowers will remain here as a visible reminder of the losses victims have had to endure but also serve as a symbol of hope for healing that victims can experience,” said Groen.

Here are the links to some of the resources Berrien County provides for victims of violence:

http://berriencounty.org/ProsecutingAttorney/victimassistance

http://www.bcsheriff.org/MAIN/VictimServicesAdvocates

http://www.cfsswmi.org/our-programs/safe-shelter.html

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