For nearly four months, courthouses across Iowa have been closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Recent news reports indicate a plan for some courts to resume hearing cases beginning in July, but continuing to restrict in-person hearings.
We know the COVID pandemic has certainly changed the way we live our lives, but the courts ABSOLUTELY MUST include victims in proceedings, even if the circumstances make it difficult.
As the law stands now, Iowans who become the victim of a crime have no constitutional right to be notified of hearings or proceedings. Certainly, an amendment to our state’s constitution would remedy this problem in the future, and give victims equal access to justice in our courts.
Currently, Iowa crime victims are not provided enforceable rights in the state’s constitution. Marsy’s Law for Iowa is pushing for rights to be added, including things like:
The right to be informed;
The right to be notified, present and heard at court proceedings;
The right to restitution;
The right to reasonable protection from the accused;
And the right to enforce these rights in the criminal justice process.
My name is Sydney Fox and I am the new Advocacy Coordinator with Marsy’s Law for Iowa. I am not new to our organization - I've been working as a Field Director, mobilizing our law enforcement and grassroots coalitions. In my new role, I am looking forward to working with victims and survivors from across the state who are supportive of Marsy’s Law and are seeking an avenue of advocating for victims to have equal access to justice.
In working with survivors, I can provide information for victim service agencies that can provide direct services. Additionally, I meet with victim service organizations to cultivate a clear understanding of how the implementation of Marsy’s Law would be beneficial for crime victims in our state.
Prior to my work for Marsy’s Law, I was a student at Iowa State University where I earned a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Interdisciplinary Studies, along with a minor in Sociology. I am passionate about understanding why and how people do what they do coupled with being driven to continue learning more about inequalities such as gender, race, and social class. Additionally, I held various positions where I advised, advocated for, and empowered students.
I spent a great deal of time interning at Polk County Crisis and Advocacy Services. My work here consisted of assisting advocates whose services focused on aiding survivors of sexual assault and violent crimes through the criminal justice system. My educational background accompanied with previous roles and opportunities has aided me in my time with Marsy’s Law.
I understand that healing is not linear.For those who have experienced trauma, simply having the comfort of enforceable rights can be extremely powerful. When victims have rights that are equally as important as the offenders’, it sends a clear message: they are important, they matter, and they are heard. With Iowa being one of a handful of states that does not have constitutional rights, it is imperative now more than ever that we need to elevate crime victims’ rights to the state constitution.
If you are interested in getting more involved with advocating for victims’ rights, want to get to know each other more, or have any questions or concerns I can be reached by email at [email protected] or by phone at 712-541-2718. Thank you!
We recently presented another “Guardian of Victims’ Rights” award, this time to to Rep. Jon Jacobsen (R-Council Bluffs) for his legislative efforts in helping advance crime victims’ rights.
Iowa crime victims’ know they have a strong advocate in Rep. Jacobsen. He has been a trustworthy, compassionate listener, always stopping to really understand a victims’ story. Iowa victims have found him to be a consistent and vocal legislator who has been dedicated to strengthening their rights.
“Giving Iowa crime victims a voice in the process is not a partisan issue. Giving crime victims a voice in the process is common sense and the right thing to do,” said Jacobsen. “No victim should be made to feel that their rights are less than the person who perpetrated the crime against them. I will continue working to move this legislation forward.”
Thank you Rep. Jacobsen to your commitment to victims' rights in Iowa.
June 12 - June 19 is recognized as Elder Abuse Awareness Week in Iowa. Studies show that 1 in 10 seniors in America experience mistreatment or abuse. We know that seniors can be susceptible to becoming victims of crime and that it even oftentimes goes unreported.
ALL crime victims deserve to have their rights protected in our state’s Constitution. This will ensure that victims have rights that are equal to the constitutional rights of the defendant. These constitutional protections for crime victims would include the following rights:
- the right to be informed of their rights
- the right to be treated with fairness, dignity and respect;
- the right to reasonable protection from the accused;
- the right to be notified, be present and be heard at court proceedings;
- the right to notification of the status of the offender
- the right to restitution;
- and the right to enforce these rights in the criminal justice process.
Several organizations across the state posted videos discussing the most common forms of Elder Abuse. Click to watch the informational videos:
Elderbridge Agency on Aging - Financial Exploitation
Heritage Area Agency on Aging - Physical Abuse
Milestones Area Agency on Aging - Self-Neglect
Seniors who become victims of crime deserve equal constitutional protections. You can find more info here: https://www.agingresources.com/
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt the lives of Iowans and Americans across the country, it's been evident that the situation is dire for those in domestic violence situations.
Staying at home with abusers, the state of the economy and financial struggles have created new and increasingly tense situations. At the same time, shelters have been concerned about outbreaks of the virus.
What can be done?
Well first of all, if you are in a bad situation there are places to turn - please seek help immediately.
Additional resources are also locally available to help Iowans recover from this pandemic. COVID Recovery Iowa is providing free services to all Iowans - confidential counseling at no cost, activities for children, groups, stress management activities and skills to name a few. Call their 24/7 toll free hotline at 1-800-447-1985 or visit covidrecoveryiowa.org
And finally, information on how to support older survivors during COVD-19. They state, "As victim advocates and programs navigate supporting older survivors through the COVID-19 pandemic, collaboration, creativity, and compassion will be key. Socially isolated older adults are at a higher risk for abuse, but social distancing is not the same as isolation. Here are some tips for programs to consider when providing supports for older victims of crime and abuse in a time of social distancing."
We will get through this... together.