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Crime victims rally on for this Friday

in downtown Sunnyside

Consejo, a Granger-based counseling and referral service, is taking the lead role in staging a rally in downtown Sunnyside that will honor victims of crime and help their families to cope with the tragedies they are experiencing.

Open to everyone in the Lower Valley community, the Friday, April 23, rally at Sunnyside's Centennial Square is a way to honor all victims of crime, according to Norma Jean Rios, a crime victims advocate for Consejo.

More importantly, said Rios, the rally will be used to inform the crime victims' families of the services available to them to overcome their losses. Numerous speakers will also be on hand, she said, to explain how local families can avoid becoming a crime victim.

Unlike past rallies in recent years, there will be no march throughout the downtown area to bring to light the plight of crime victims. Instead, said Rios, Friday's gathering will be focused on enlightening the community about what can be done to make neighborhoods safer.

"Many different groups and agencies will also be present to explain in detail the resources that are available to help families cope with their losses as a result of a crime being committed against them or their loved ones," Rios said.

Among the groups to be represented at Friday's rally are the sponsoring agency, Consejo, as well as individuals from the Sunnyside Police Department, Child Protective Services, Catholic Family and Child Services, the Sunnyside School District and Sunnyside's Promise.

Pastor Bob Widman of Sunnyside's Cornerstone Church is scheduled to lead the opening prayer at the 4-7 p.m. rally.

Rios said being a victim of crime can be a devastating experience, whether it's an assault, a robbery, child abuse or vehicular crime. Other crimes that commonly devastate families include identity theft, kidnapping, property crimes, homicides, loved ones that go missing where foul play is suspected, elder abuse, hate crimes, fraud and even human trafficking.

According to Rios, victims and their families often feel overwhelmed by feelings of shame, grief, anger, helplessness or loneliness. She said experienced advocates, like those that represent her agency, Consejo, are here in the Lower Valley to help people cope with their emotions and to assist them with practical issues that may arise. It's not uncommon, said Rios, for advocates to accompany crime victims and their families to court proceedings, police interviews and to meeting with attorneys.

Bottom line, said Rios, "...we offer emotional support and guidance on how to navigate the criminal justice system.

"As a liaison between families, police, offices of the district attorney, departments of corrections and division of parole, your advocate can help you and your family stay informed about your case," she said.

Rios said the other agencies that are set up to aid crime victims and their families will be detailing the services they are capable of providing at Friday's rally, too.

"We'd like to see a big turnout this Friday. Everyone is invited to be at Centennial Park from 4 to 7 p.m.," Rios said.

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