We recently wrapped up National Crime Victims’ Rights Week in America (April 18-24). The week is an opportunity to shine the spotlight on victims of crime and those that fight for them.
In Delaware County, our commissioners recognized the week on a local level with an official proclamation, and victim advocates put up a display to honor survivors. Community outreach is still on hold, and a popular event that, unfortunately, had to be cancelled this year, is the annual Walk-A-Mile-In-Her-Shoes. In fact, had it not been for COVID, that event would be happening tonight as part of Delaware’s First Friday activities.
As you may recall from years past, Walk-A-Mile-In-Her-Shoes is a quirky event where participants walk to raise awareness about sexualized violence toward women. Many men opt to wear high heels, and it’s a fun way to bring awareness to a serious subject. Well, this year we can’t gather as a large group, but that doesn’t mean we can’t show support for victims.
To that end, I challenge each of you to Walk A Moment. That’s right. The challenge is to walk wherever you are, for any length of time, and share a picture of yourself doing it. The challenge started earlier this week, but there’s still time to participate before it ends on May 9. Our regular event may be cancelled, but we can still raise awareness and show victims they are not alone, and that is very important. And if you’re a Facebook user, tag our office to show your support.
We need to keep spreading the message of awareness, love, and support for all victims of crime, including sexual assault. You never know who may need to hear it. You never know when it could make a difference, and yes, you never know what goes on behind closed doors. COVID-19 has led to the cancellation of many events. It’s led to quarantine and modified ways of doing things. It’s also led to victims having less access to important support systems, trusted friends and family, and in some cases, victims being trapped inside with abusers.
Last year, our office saw 26 defendants who were charged with sexually-oriented offenses. Those cases involved a total of 29 victims (three male, 26 female) and carried 99 separate charges such as rape and gross sexual imposition. More than half of our jury trials involved charges of sexual assault. Victims deal with the challenge of finding healthy ways to live with the crimes perpetrated against them. While prosecutors work to fight for victims in the courtroom, advocates work tirelessly to support victims outside of the courtroom — and these are the services and support that need trumpeted through the community. A resounding “we are here to help,” and we refuse to be silenced by a virus.
So, it’s in that spirit, the spirit of determination, that I hope you will join me in walking a moment. I challenge you to take part in this year’s virtual event to Walk A Moment wherever you are! It’s so very important to have a stable presence, a constant support that’s always available for when a victim is ready to come forward. To that end, I invite you to join me in being part of our community support system. Whether you walk around the block, to your mailbox, or even if you choose to do a full mile as we’ve done in years past, let’s “virtually” Walk A Moment together and raise awareness for an important issue.
This year’s Walk a Moment challenge is open to everyone. It’s free, and you still have time to participate before it concludes on May 9. Full event details can be found on our Facebook page. Take a picture or video of your walking moment and post it to #WalkAMoment2021Challenge.
You can also email your pics to us at [email protected], and we will post them for you!
Are you up for the challenge? We hope so, and we look forward to “virtually” Walking a Moment with you!
Melissa A. Schiffel is Delaware County prosecutor.