Written by Livi Enriquez, Abolish Slavery intern
SANTA ANA, CALIF.—Local officials, law enforcement, victim advocates and community leaders came together at the Fifth Annual Victims’ Rights March and Rally on Friday in Santa Ana. The march and rally were lead by District Attorney Tony Rackauckas and organized by the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.
At the reception held at the D.A.’s Office before the march, shirts decorated by survivors with messages to their attackers were on display. Brochures and pamphlets on victim assistance programs were passed out. Many families had various commemorations to their loved ones from signs to shirts and pins.
“The scars and the healing that goes on occurs much beyond the criminal trials and eventual convictions,” said Andre Birotte, a United States attorney for the Central District of California. “We need to make sure that we’re there for the victims to make sure they have the support and resources, and that we understand their needs long-term so that they can move on and heal and begin new chapters in their lives.”
As a symbol of love and innocence that was taken away from victims, marchers were given white carnations and the option to write a victim’s name on a label and put it on the flower to carry to the march from the D.A.’s Office to the Old Orange County Courthouse. The flowers were laid on a memorial.
A moment of silence was held at the beginning of the ceremony in honor of victims of sexual abuse. During the silence, white doves were released.
D.A. Tony Rackauckas addressed his dedication to helping victims of crime. He said that as a new focal point, his office will be committing to combating human trafficking.
“In the United States, an approximate 17,500 adults and children are trafficked annually,” he said. “It’s a (multi-) billion dollar business.”
Prosecutors will work with law enforcement and the community in the new Human Exploitation and Trafficking (HEAT) unit. The unit was implemented for prosecutors, law enforcement and the community to work together to prevent further trafficking and punish traffickers and johns.
“This is not a conservative or liberal issue,” Rackauckas said. “This is a human rights issue.”
Rackauckas concluded requesting a pledge “to do our part in our own ways, to pursue changes, to bring about change and to prevent new victims.”
Broadcom founder Dr. Henry Nicholas also spoke at the event. In 1983, his beloved younger sister, Marsy, then a student at University of California, Santa Barbara, was murdered by an estranged ex-boyfriend. Nicholas was unaware of how underdeveloped the rights of victims’ families was until the court failed to notify his family of the killer’s release out on bail. Nicholas’s mother, Marcella Leach, was suddenly face-to-face with the killer at the supermarket the same day of Marsy’s funeral.
After her death, Marsy’s family became victim rights advocates, helping out families of victims. Her family realized the vital need of a written legal document outlining certain rights for families of victims. In 2008, Marsy’s Law, also know as the Victims’ Bill of Rights, was passed as an amendment to the state constitution.
The law includes many reforms of the roles of victims’ families in court and the significance of their voice in speaking on the behalf of the victim.