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Empowered Survivors

A few months ago, I noticed a post on social media about a woman from Davenport who was surprised with the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Award for Outstanding Public Service Benefiting Local Communities.

 

Dr. Kit Ford, founder of Argrow's House, was being recognized in Washington, D.C. for her incredible effort to “multiply good” in her community, in our state and country.

Shortly thereafter, I reached out to Dr. Ford on a swing through eastern Iowa, where I was meeting with Marsy’s Law for Iowa supporters and making new connections. Dr. Ford graciously agreed to meet with me and learn more about our efforts in Iowa to give victims of crime constitutional rights.

It was during that trip that I was able to tour Argrow’s House in Davenport and get a firsthand understanding of Dr. Ford’s incredible impact on the community and the life-changing experience she is offering for survivors of abuse and violence. Argrow’s House is a safe space where survivors come for healing and support. Part of their efforts to empower the women they support includes the production of incredible soaps and bath products which give the women a place to create and also earn a wage.

 

photo courtesy of Argrow's House 

 

Since my trip, Dr. Ford and Argrow’s House have become active partners in our efforts for victims’ rights in Iowa. It has truly been an honor to work with this organization and their incredible survivors who continue to find new ways to empower themselves and others. As they now lend their voices to our cause, their voices will create positive outcomes for others.

 

I hope you'll visit their page and support their mission. 

 

Thanks for reading, 

Eric 

Marsy's Law for Iowa State Director

Meet Mary Kate

We're continuing the introductions of our valuable team this week. Please meet our newest addition, Mary Kate. 

Meet Sydney

The Legal System Was Supposed to Protect Us

During National Crime Victims' Rights Week this year, brave victim survivors, Leigh and Audrey shared their story. You can watch the media account here or check out their opinion piece that ran in local newspapers. For Leigh and Audrey, there is power in sharing their story and using their voices for change. 

 

Meet Sarah

 

Hello! My name is Sarah Shambrook and I am the Political Director for Marsy’s Law for Iowa. I oversee the day-to-day operations of our field team to ensure that we are speaking with Iowans all across the state with a vested interest in crime victims’ rights and gaining knowledge from their combined experience, stories and beliefs along the way.

 

After graduating from Drake University (Go Bulldogs!) in 2015 with a degree in Law, Politics & Society and Rhetoric, I spent three years working as a paralegal in a heavy litigation firm. There I realized the detrimental effects laws could have on everyday people if the laws and policies were written without a concern for how they would affect different types of communities and people. I decided that instead of working within the confines of the law, I wanted to be a changemaker to help write and pass better policy with an understanding of how the language of the law may be carried out in different communities.

Marsy’s Law for Iowa affords me the stellar opportunity to not only see the legislative side of policy making, but also be immersed into the campaign trail of talking with and learning from everyday voters and community leaders across the state to make sure the policy we recommend is mindful of individual community needs and concerns – plus it’s bipartisan, so who can beat that?

 

I’m a firm believer that law and society have a cyclical relationship, and my hope for Marsy’s Law for Iowa is that we can work together with the state and survivor/advocate community to ensure that victims and survivors of crime are afforded the basic constitutional rights we all deserve to ease even the smallest burden of dealing with the (albeit confusing, tricky and sometimes unfair) criminal justice system. Affording victims of crime constitutional rights in Iowa helps to signal a culture change in our state to show those going through a system that they did not ask to be a part of that we believe you, we know this is hard, and we are here to help.

 

I look forward to meeting you and hearing why you care about crime victims’ rights!

 

Sarah

 

You can reach me at sshambrook@marsyslaw.us

Meet Levi

Meet Rob

 

Hi there! My name is Rob and I am one of the Field Directors for Marsy’s Law for Iowa. I will be working in the eastern part of the state – including areas like Cedar Rapids, the Quad Cities, Waterloo, Dubuque, Burlington and everywhere in between.

After graduating from Grinnell College in 2018 with a degree in Psychology and Policy Studies, I worked on an Iowa Congressional campaign. Seeing the strategic planning in the office and having direct contact with voters was a great learning experience.

My long-term goals relate to public health and health equity, especially in how they relate to built environments. In addition to sharing the importance of crime victims’ rights and the need for it in Iowa, I look forward to traveling the state and learning more about rural challenges to health and ways to improve it.

I’ve been at this job for a few months now and I am having a great time sharing this important cause with Iowans all over the state. I look forward to meeting new people every day and working for constitutional rights for Iowa crime victims.

I hope to meet you soon!

Rob

You can reach me at: rmarkofranks@marsyslaw.us

Treye's Life Was Cut Short

The Blythe Family continues to use their survivor voices for positive change. Dustin Blythe recently wrote the following opinion piece which ran in the Iowa Falls Times Citizen about his son, Treye. Thank you to Dustin and all of Treye's friends and family for the work they do in Treye's name. 

 

 

 

April 7 – 13 is National Crime Victims’ Rights Week across the country. This is a time to raise awareness for victims’ services and promote laws that are designed to protect and help victims of crime.

 

On Feb. 19 of this year, my son Treye would have turned 31. Instead, his life was cut short in 2006 when he was 18 years old. Treye was murdered in Cedar Falls coming to the aid of someone he barely knew.

 

Treye’s family and friends woke up to our worst nightmare. On top of it all, we were thrust into a system where the scales are tipped in favor of the accused. Because of this experience, I know how important it is for the justice system to treat victims and accused criminals equally, which is why I support constitutional rights for crime victims.

 

Marsy’s Law is a proposed amendment to Iowa’s constitution to give victims of crime equality in our state’s justice system. Commonsense provisions such as providing notice of all proceedings; allowing victims to be present at trial; to be present and heard in any proceeding involving a release, sentencing or parole; notice of any release or escape of the defendant and the right to restitution. These things were not always afforded to our family as we navigated the justice system.

 

Our constitution specifies rights for the accused—things like the right to remain silent or the right to an attorney. Yet rights are not outlined for victims, and they need to be.

 

I would never wish for anyone to experience what our family and friends have gone through. This National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, and every week, we must recognize that Iowa crime victims are innocent and deserve basic protections in our state’s constitution.

 

Dustin Blythe

Clive

Ensure That Laws Cannot be Changed, Diminished or Ignored.

Rep. Jon Jacobsen from Council Bluffs, recently penned the following opinion piece in honor of National Crime Victims' Rights Week. Rep. Jacobsen has been a longtime supporter of our efforts and we're thankful for leaders in the Iowa Legislature like him. 

 

Gov. Reynolds recently declared April 7 – 13 as National Crime Victims’ Rights week in Iowa. This is a time to draw attention to Iowans who have been the victim of a crime, help support them in their recovery process and shine a light on legislative policies that can help strengthen a victims’ standing.

 

During my time in the Iowa Legislature, I’ve worked hard to ensure that victims have a level playing field and a voice in the criminal justice process. No one asks to become the victim of a crime and it should be one of the most basic tenets of our society to protect those victims.

 

This is why I support giving Iowa crime victims constitutionally protected rights.

 

Iowa is only one of 14 states that does not have rights in our constitution to protect victims of crime. There is an ever-growing coalition of Iowans – law enforcement, locally elected officials, legislators, county attorneys, victim survivors, and others – who support a crime victims’ rights amendment in our state.

 

These are fundamental rights that victims could come to expect at all times regardless of what county they live. Things like: the right to be treated with fairness, dignity and respect, the right to be notified, be present and be heard at court proceedings, the right to reasonable protection from the accused, the right to notification of the release or escape of the accused, the right to restitution and the right to enforce these rights in the criminal justice process.

 

No victim should be made to feel that their rights are less than someone who perpetrated a crime against them. Putting rights for victims in our state constitution, right alongside the rights of the accused, would ensure that laws cannot be changed, diminished or ignored.

 

As the country celebrates National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, we should reach out to those who may be hurting or struggling after being the victim of a crime. We should also push for change and encourage policies at all levels that give a voice to the victims in our state.

Rep. Jon Jacobsen

Council Bluffs

On The Frontlines

 

Guthrie County Sheriff Marty Arganbright has been a tremendous supporter of Marsy's Law for Iowa. In honor of this National Crime Victims' Rights Week, Sheriff Arganbright wrote the following opinion piece. Thank you for all you do for the people of Iowa and Guthrie County, Sheriff. 

 

Being the Guthrie County Sheriff is a privilege that I don’t take lightly. I am reminded on a daily basis of the value of all law enforcement officials in our county and how we are the frontlines of many terrible situations.

 

A significant portion of my job is spent working with victims of crime and their families. Oftentimes, law enforcement is involved much deeper than simply investigating crimes. We work with crime victims and their families every day, many of which have never navigated the criminal justice system before. As we work with these individuals, we forge a connection and help to be their voice when they are not in a position to be heard. And too often, they’re not being heard.

 

Currently, Iowa has laws on the books to help protect victims of crime. These statutes give victims the right to be notified and present at any court proceeding, allow them the opportunity to be heard at sentencing and parole hearings, the right to reasonable protection from the accused, the right to be notified of any release or escape and the right to restitution.

 

Just statues are not good enough, victims deserve permanent rights they can count on, regardless of where they live. Victims deserve constitutional rights.

 

When I arrest someone, I must read them their Miranda Rights – the accused is afforded very permanent and clear rights in our state’s constitution – as they should be. But victims also deserve rights that carry the same weight. A victim should never feel like their rights are less than someone convicted of a crime against them.  

 

Marsy’s Law would provide these constitutional rights to crime victims in Iowa. It would essentially take our good victims’ rights law and make it permanent and enforceable in our state’s constitution.

 

No one knows if or when they will become a victim of a crime. If something terrible ever happened to you or someone you love, wouldn’t you want your rights enshrined in the constitution? Wouldn’t you want to be sure you have the right to be heard – the right to be protected – the right to be notified – no matter what.

 

Sheriff Marty Arganbright

Guthrie County Sheriff