Voice of Victims
Maryland Independent

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In an effort to give victims organizations and services more exposure in the communities being served, the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services held community awareness fairs around the state during April 10 to 16 in recognition of National Crime Victims Rights Week.

This is the first year that the fairs have traveled around Maryland setting up in the parole and probation offices in Silver Spring, Baltimore, Waldorf and on college campuses in Hagerstown and Salisbury.

"This is the first year we've done it regionally," said Danielle Lueking, spokeswoman for the department of public safety and correctional services. "We wanted to get out into the communities."

The event also offered a chance for agencies to network, although many of the groups have established relationships.

Jennie Boden, executive director of the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault works closely with the state's 18 rape crisis centers, including Waldorf-based Center for Abused Persons and Walden in Lexington Park.

In addition to pushing for tougher sexual offense laws, the group provides legal services for victims through its legal institute and trains law enforcement, social workers, forensic nurses and others who are involved in sexual assault cases. MCASA is preparing to launch a campaign against sexual violence on college campuses.

Founded in 2002 by Roberta Roper, the mother of 1982 murder victim Stephanie Roper, the Maryland Victims Resource Center strives to aid victims of violent crimes in all ways.

The organization was founded in October 1982 as the Stephanie Roper Committee and Foundation Inc.

It was 20 years later that it, along with sister organization, joined to become the current center, which is dedicated to serving the interests of crime victims in Maryland.

The center was born from the Ropers' treatment by the criminal justice system following their daughter's death, said Kim Truitt, a victim advocate with the center.

"The court system can be overbearing," Truitt said. "We make sure victims get everything they are entitled to. So much is going on when you have lost a loved one, your head is spinning.

"We step in to help [victims and their families]," she said.

The state's division of correction victim services also has a wealth of programs designed to give victims some power over devastating situations.

The division will help with victim impact statements that are used to address the emotional, financial and physical pain a crime has caused; it operates other services like VOD or victim/offender dialogue, a program that allows victims to speak with the offender under a therapist's supervision; the Victim Information Notification Everyday or VICE is an automated phone service allowing victims to get information on an offender; the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board works with victims to receive monetary assistance following a crime. Other services are available as well.