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.
Clay County Victim Witness Coordinator
I am a retired law enforcement officer, at both the city and county levels. I spent nearly 40 years in my career, protecting our communities and working with survivors of sex abuse and sexual assault. Countless times I have sat across the table from victims of crime, interviewing them and trying to build a trusting relationship with them as they are reeling from the trauma of what has happened. Absolutely no one asks to be the victim of a crime. Many people do not understand what it’s like when they are thrust into this new reality.
It is through my work in this field that I have come to realize just how much victims are falling through the cracks. As these victims are trying to move on and pick themselves up from a situation they did not ask to be in, they are revictimized by the process all over again. They do not get notified of hearings when they need to be present to help them heal. They are silenced when they deserve to be heard.
The Iowa Legislature must address this problem and elevate victims’ rights to the state constitution. Putting victims’ rights right alongside the rights of the defendant will not diminish those protections, it will only give victims equal footing in terms of the judicial process.
There is no doubt in my mind that the crime victims I have worked with over the years absolutely deserve the right to be protected from the convicted, the right to be heard at trial and the right to be notified of parole or escape of the convicted.
I do not take amending our state constitution lightly. I understand and respect the work that went into developing our state constitution. That being said, amending our state constitution is not a new concept. It has been done to correct injustices at the highest level. I truly believe that is how dire the situation has become for crime victims.
I will continue to advocate to our local legislators and any who will listen. We must pass a crime victims’ rights amendment during the 2020 session.
Former Mahaska Co. Sheriff Deputy, Former President of Sheriff and Deputy Association
“Thank you for letting me come to the capitol with you.”
That was the message we received from Shal, a crime victim survivor and our friend, who devoted her entire Tuesday to traveling to the State Capitol and talking to legislators about the need for a crime victims’ rights amendment in Iowa.
All we could do was hug her and say, “No Shal, thank YOU.”
There is no better person that a legislator can hear from than a constituent, an Iowan who has been thrown into the criminal justice process in our state and has the firsthand experience of what a nightmare it really is.
Since the legislature has started their 2020 session, we are organizing “Takeover Tuesdays” – getting groups of people together who are interested in changing our system for the better, giving crime victims’ constitutional rights.
We understand that not everyone can take time off work or school to drive to Des Moines and talk to their legislator. That’s okay – there are other ways you can get involved. It’s as easy as a click of your mouse to send an email to your legislator, you could pick up the phone and give them a call, you could pull them aside at a local forum in your town, you could even just sign our online petition – no action is too small, no work is too insignificant.
We know brave survivors like Shal are the backbone of this organization. But the rest of us must follow their lead and push for change, for our voices matter too. At any given moment someone we love may become the victim of a crime and be thrown into a criminal justice system that favors the convicted. Now is the time for a crime victims’ rights amendment and we need your help.
The start of the 2020 legislative session gets underway next week, and I could not be more excited about it.
Arm-in-arm with the best volunteers and interns, our team has worked all summer and fall to lay the groundwork to have a successful session at the capitol. The only way we will be able to move this monumental piece of legislation forward is with your help. Constituent voices like yours are critical in demonstrating the importance of constitutionally protecting Iowa’s crime victims. Legislators want to hear from their neighbors, from survivors, about how badly this is needed.
Starting on Jan. 21st, I will be organizing supporters like you to join us at the statehouse to meet with legislators on every Tuesday of the week — I’m calling it “Takeover Tuesday.”
This kind of outreach to your elected officials is a simple process, yet extremely effective. You should not feel intimidated to get involved.
Here’s what you can expect:
-Show up at the Capitol building on Tuesday and find our team in the rotunda (you can’t miss us in our purple shirts). Stay all day or as long as you’re able. Even a quick stop over your lunchbreak is helpful.
-We will help you find your state representative and senator and submit a slip of paper, requesting a meeting.
- Your elected official will come out of their respective chamber to speak with you. This will be an easy conversation where you introduce yourself and explain why you are at the Capitol advocating for a crime victims’ rights amendment.
-The legislator will listen to you respectfully, provide any feedback and you will leave literature with them, which we will provide for you.
We’d love to have you join us every Tuesday at the capitol. If you feel more comfortable attending a local legislative forum in your hometown, we can accommodate that as well. Please reach out to me directly at [email protected] or (515) 505-0737 for more information or to sign up today. Together we can make sure crime victims receive the protections they deserve.
Thank you for your help – Levi.
Hello! I’m Leah and one of the Field Directors for Marsy’s Law for Iowa. I am excited for this opportunity to work toward equal rights for crime victims in Iowa.
I am a graduate from the University of Northern Iowa, with a degree in Interactive Digital Studies with an emphasis in Digital Imaging and Digital Visualization, and with a minor in Graphic Technologies. My past work experience includes graphic design work at a digital marketing company, and at a Fortune 500 company. In addition, I was an event designer at Conference Event Management for marketing and client’s event communications, which also included responsibilities in planning events, being an on-site trip director, building client website, attendee management and other event needs. I’ve also supported other small businesses and non-profits as a Freelance Graphic Designer.
My desire to make a difference brought me to Marsy’s Law for Iowa. Since 2012, I have been very heavily involved with my family through a non-profit founded by my brother, Opportunity on Deck. This organization serves Central Iowa communities by providing free-of-charge meals and athletic opportunities for children in nine different sports, summer camps, and through college visits and scholarships – all at no cost to the participants. Through Opportunity on Deck, I gained experience in marketing, graphic design, website building, organizational development, leaderships, coaching and mentoring.
I am eager to use my desire to make a difference, to use my skills, and grow as a result of working for Marsy’s Law for Iowa.
Welcome to the team, Leah! You can reach her at [email protected]
We know this time of year can be busy with holiday parties, school concerts, volunteering, gift-giving and everything in between. It’s also a time when legislators are meeting with constituents, gathering ideas for the next legislative session which begins in January.
We want to make sure a crime victims’ rights amendment is a priority for our state legislators when they head back to Des Moines which is why we are having a HoliDay of Action. Every day, we are seeing new supporters come on board to help in our efforts, and we want to make another push to get more supporters who will contact their legislators, asking them to move forward on our bill.
On Tuesday, Dec. 17, we will work from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., reaching out to Iowans across the state. We will also be stamping and labeling postcards that have been signed by supporters that will be mailed to legislators during session. At the end of the day, we'll host an open house with refreshments and prizes (more info to come).
Would you be willing to help us? We understand it’s a busy time of the year, but even a 30-minute shift will help us push a crime victims’ rights amendment forward. You can come into our office in Des Moines, or it’s something that can be done from your home.
Our team recently had the opportunity to present the “Guardian of Victims’ Rights” award to two tremendous legislators who have been working with us on behalf of Iowa crime victims for quite some time. You may recall, we presented a Guardian of Victims' Rights Award to Rep. Marti Anderson earlier this fall.
From day one, Rep. Megan Jones from Sioux Rapids has been a crucial supporter of victims’ rights in Iowa. We’re thankful for her willingness to speak with Iowa crime victims and continue to press this issue forward in the legislature.
Sen. Zach Whiting from Spirit Lake has put victims over politics and worked to bring the issue of crime victims’ rights to the forefront at the capitol. Iowa crime victims have come to rely on Sen. Whiting’s unwavering support and for that, they are truly grateful.
We joined with some of our local supporters to present the awards to these deserving legislators. You can see them pictured here -our staff Levi and Sarah along with the Clay County Sheriff Chris Raveling are pictured with Rep. Jones.
Former Dickinson Co. Victim Witness Coordinator and current County Treasurer Kristin Rowley, Spirit Lake Police Chief Jeff Hanson, Dickinson County Sheriff Greg Baloun, Arnold’s Park Police Chief Alan Krueger and our staff person Levi Larson are here with Sen. Whiting.
Thanks again to these dedicated public servants who are standing up for Iowa crime victims. We look forward to presenting even more awards in the future.
Last week, our team had the honor of attending the annual fundraising gala for Argrow’s House in Davenport. If you remember, Argrow’s House and Marsy’s Law for Iowa have been working hand-in-hand to pass a victims’ rights amendment in our state.
We were proud to be a sponsor and attend this lovely evening. It was fun, educational and eye-opening.
We heard from Christian Rainey, the Executive Director of M.A.D USA, Inc. (Men Against Domestic Violence). He helped to illuminate how young boys and girls who grow up in homes where domestic violence occurs psychologically associate that domestic violence with love and think it’s healthy. His organization aims to combat that notion by educating high school students about what healthy relationships really look like.
We also met Bill Jenkins, author of What to Do When The Police Leave: a guide to the first days of traumatic loss. Bill’s 16-year-old son, William, was shot and killed as a part of an armed robbery at the local restaurant where he worked in 1997. Bill was able to help our team see the real-life struggles of crime victims when they are afforded no voice in the legal process. Bill was also an integral part of passing Marsy's Law in Illinois.
One of the biggest highlights for the Marsy’s Law team was meeting some of the women who are employed, making soap and bath products, by Argrow’s House. The women each make $11 per hour and as employees of Argrow’s House, they’re given the means and support to leave their unsafe situation.
It was an incredible night that our team will not forget. The best news of all: Argrow’s House made a huge dent in paying off their $40,000 mortgage on their house! They are still collecting donations and soap sales to help fully pay it off. They make great corporate gifts or gift bag type gifts! Here is the link to the list of retailers who sell Argrow’s House soaps. Thank you for supporting this worthwhile cause.
Marsy’s Law for Iowa
Recently we announced we would be presenting the “Guardian of Victims’ Rights” awards to Iowa leaders who have been instrumental in fighting for crime victims’ rights. We presented the first award to Rep. Marti Anderson (D-Des Moines) for her lifelong dedication to helping advance crime victims’ rights.
It’s only fitting that Rep. Anderson is the first honoree of the Guardian of Victims’ Rights award as her entire working life has been committed to helping victims of crime. Whether it was her time as a social worker, director of the Polk County Victim Services or the founding director of the Iowa Attorney General’s Crime Victim Assistance Division, no one brings more dedication or experience to this issue than Marti.
Our team was able to present the award to Rep. Anderson at her legislative coffee. Pictured here presenting the award is Marsy’s Law for Iowa supporter Tiffany Allison from Des Moines, Marsy’s Law for Iowa victim coordinator Mary Kate Leister, Marsy’s Law for Iowa political director Sarah Shambrook, and Rep. Marti Anderson.
Rep. Anderson said, “Throughout my professional career, I’ve worked with victims, advocates, and lawmakers to establish rights and services for crime victims. What is needed now is permanency and constitutional standing for those legal rights. We cannot chance that a future legislature will take away a victim's right to be notified, present, and heard regarding the criminal case. We must take the next step and pass a crime victims’ rights amendment to our constitution.”
Thanks for all you do for crime victims, Rep. Anderson!