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Retired Mahaska Co. Sheriff's Deputy Don DeKock Supports Marsy's Law

Too often, crime victims in Iowa fall through the cracks. They aren’t notified of what’s going on in the judicial process and are left without a voice.


A Burden No Parent Should Bear

As a parent, it sometimes feels like the worry is endless, especially when you send a child off to college for the first time. That’s how I felt when I sent my son Treye off to Cedar Falls when he was 18. Treye was always a good kid, but like any parent, I still worried about alcohol, his studies, and how he would adjust to college. Never in a million years did I think I would need to worry about my son being murdered. But that’s what any person thinks before they’re a victim of a crime - that stuff would never happen to me or my family. 


In 2006, Treye was at a party in Cedar Falls when a fight broke out. Treye was not involved in the fight, but when coming to the aid of someone he barely knew, he was tragically stabbed in the heart. 


Burying a child is a burden no parent should ever have to bear. Navigating a court system that is built to favor the person who murdered your child is nearly as difficult. In our situation, the breakdown came with notification. In two cases, I was not notified of hearings in Treye’s case. In fact, one of them I became aware about from a friend who texted me. 


A crime victims’ rights amendment would bring balance back to the judicial system as far as victims are concerned. We should have as many rights as the perpetrators of crime. These would be very reasonable things like the right to be notified of hearings, the right to be heard in all proceedings and the right to reasonable protection from the accused, among others. 


Families and victims who are suffering the loss of a loved one should not feel revictimized by Iowa’s court system, yet that’s what is happening. People who are committing crimes already have their rights enshrined in our state constitution. It's long past time for those who become victims of crime and their families to have reasonable rights as well. 


Dustin Blythe

Clive, Iowa

The Worst Day of My Life - Vanessa McNeal

“The worst day of my life wasn’t the day I was sexually assaulted, it was the day I had to be deposed.”


“His rights matter more than yours.” - Leigh And Audrey

Leigh and Audrey weren’t informed that the man who raped and tried to murder them was out of prison. They were told that “his rights matter more than yours.”


Before and After

I recently directed a documentary about sex trafficking called Grid Shock which provided me the opportunity to meet with many crime victims and survivors in our state. Ever since meeting with these people, listening to the way they have not only been abused by a criminal but then are treated poorly by our criminal justice system, it has lit a fire in me to speak out about crime victims’ rights. 

For a person who becomes the victim of a crime, their life is marked as a before and after. Everything in your life is measured before the incident and after - it changes everything. Who you are, how you see the world, who you trust is all turned upside down. No matter how many good or bad choices a person has made in their life, they never ask to be a victim. 


The current law in Iowa may seem adequate. That is until a person is directly impacted, then they realize how broken it really is. Victims going through the criminal justice process are revictimized. The current law in Iowa is not enough. Each and every day victims are falling through the cracks of a system that is set up to fail them. There must be more enforcement and protections for survivors of crime. The answer is an amendment to our state constitution outlining victims’ rights. 


These rights would include the right to be heard at trial, the right to be notified of the status of their offender, the right to restitution, among others. Putting these rights in our constitution should not be controversial. It hurts no one. It only brings justice. 


Having constitutional rights for victims is imperative in Iowa. Victims and survivors need to know they’re important, they need to know their stories matter and that they’re being listened to. It means everything to these survivors to have a say in their lives when so much has been taken away from them. 


Nothing is more common sense than passing a constitutional amendment for crime victims’ rights. 


Get involved in our efforts today. 

Vanessa McNeal


Vanessa McNeal MSW is an award-winning documentary filmmaker and founder of Story Maven Media, a nonprofit media company elevating social issues through documentary filmmaking.

We Don't Have to Wait

In 2017, I became the Crime Victim Witness Coordinator for Clay County. On a daily basis I work with victims in our communities – your loved ones, someone you work with, our neighbors. Day in and day out, I work to form a bond with these victims, I know how important it is for them to feel like someone is in their corner, that they’ve been heard and someone is fighting for them.


As a Victim Witness Coordinator, I have countless stories of victims in Clay County of people who will carry the scars of their events with them for the rest of their lives. It is my hope that by the time each case is over, the victim involved has regained some confidence and trust to be able to move forward with their life. I believe there is still much to be done by way of crime victims’ rights in our state and by making victims equal with the defendant in the eyes of the court, they would have a stronger voice and could be heard.


The Iowa Legislature must pass a crime victims’ rights amendment to our state constitution this session.


The rights of the accused are specific and clear in our constitution – the right to remain silent, the right to an attorney, among others. Adding a crime victims’ rights amendment to our constitution would do nothing to change those rights, it would simply add rights for the victims.


These enumerated rights are: 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 assert these rights in the criminal justice process.


The most rewarding part of my job is seeing a victim’s reaction when the defendant gets sent away. When the court sides with the victim it’s like a weight is lifted off of them and you can actually see it. I know through firsthand experience that the current laws on the books are not good enough for Iowa crime victims. We don’t have to wait to give victims their power back in the system, we can do it today.


Sheryl Lee

Clay County Victim Witness Coordinator