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Capital Region News

Albany County Honors Crime Victims

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WAMC photo by Dave Lucas
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Albany County's annual ceremony to honor and remember the victims of crime was held today at the County Courthouse.

Every April since 1981, communities across the country have held gatherings to honor crime victims and the people who advocate on their behalf during National Crime Victims’ Rights Week.

In his opening remarks, Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple emphasized the importance of services and making sure every crime victim has access to support.    "As a community we stand here amongst our families, friends, neighbors, colleagues whose live have been forever altered by crime. Look around you, you're not alone. This is the time to celebrate the progress we have made, raise awareness about victim's rights and provide those services that are desperately needed and to close the loopholes and red tape to make sure that services are  delivered as soon as possible. Advocates face a host of new challenges as they strive to provide services for increasingly diverse populations, especially those with disabilities, LGBTQ victims, older adults, speakers with limited English proficiency. American Indians. Alaskan natives. And others from historically marginalized communities."

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Credit WAMC photo by Dave Lucas
Crime victim Atoria Elem shares her story with those gathered at the Albany County Courthouse.

Then came the traditional reading of the anti-drunk driving poem "Death of an Innocent.”  

Then crime victim survivors spoke.  Atoria Elem was enroute to celebrate her 21st birthday with her family when a car going the wrong way on I-90 hit her car head on.   "I was sedated for four days. But I woke up. I'm alive. Immediately after the crash, when I was beginning to understand all my injuries, I thought I had lost my life as I defined it."

A year later Elem has mostly recovered from very serious injuries.  Mary Walczk survived a brutal rape.  "The woman I am today looks much different than the woman who entered Albany Medical Center in 2017. I was sobbing, riddled with pain, hundreds of miles away from home as I underwent a sexual assault examination in the hours that followed my rape. You see, I'm not from Albany... But a piece of my heart will always be here. That's because my journey really began here. The medical staff, members of law enforcement and members of the district attorney's office, who treated me like one of their own."

Albany County D.A. David Soares says giving victims a platform to share their experiences does one thing.  "It will move other people who are experiencing and suffering in silence to be more vocal about their experiences, even if its not something that's prosecutable, but it will help other people to move through their own personal tragedy."

Awards were given to victim advocates, then relatives of deceased victims were given flags to write their loved ones' names on. An exit procession headed to nearby Academy Park, where the flags will remain on display at the Crime Victims’ Memorial for the next year.

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