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Victims’ Safe Haven Leaders Advocate For Awareness, National Crime Victims’ Rights

Rachel Collins

This week marks the 40th anniversary of the National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, and a local nonprofit organization aims to spread awareness of services it provides to victims. The Marshall County Resiliency Center (MCRC), managed by theMerryman House Domestic Crisis Center, invited local elected officials, law enforcement officers, invested community partners and local media this afternoon to ask for help in increasing awareness. 

Merryman House Executive Director Mary Foley said she recently attended a state coalition meeting in which she learned the latest statistics for Kentucky’s domestic violence homicide, and was “stunned.”


“Domestic violence homicide for Kentucky was up 70% from 2019 to 2020,” she recalled. “Sometimes we get this question, what is COVID-19? What are some of those other consequences? 70% increase in homicide across our state due to domestic violence. So that's just one crime. And that's a crime that there's no do over, those individuals have lost their lives.”


Credit Rachel Collins / WKMS News
A small crowd including local elected officials, local media and community leaders gathered for the 40th annual National Crime Victims Week event outside the Marshall County Resiliency Center in Benton.

Foley looked at the small crowd of officials and community members gathered outside the MCRC and said it takes a community to overcome violence. 

“If you don't have publicly elected officials that are willing to acknowledge the issue of interpersonal crime, and a community committed to being healthy and whole, and everybody doing their part, then it doesn't work,” she said


Resiliency Center Coordinator Jayna Burkey said victims of crime are often overlooked, such as the surviving members of homicide victims, and those who endured burglary, robbery, assault, buillying, stalking and harassment. 


“As victims of crime, you have rights, and often you don't know you have rights. The number one right is the right to due process fairness, dignity, respect and privacy,” she said.


Burkey said she hopes people who believe they might be a victim of a crime, or know they are a victim of a crime and need assistance, will take advantage of the unconditional invitation to call or stop by and discuss the vast services available to them through the program — free of charge. 


“Our community, this little town of Benton, Marshall County is full of resources and people who are ready to stand by and help you go through whatever you're going through,” she said. “It's time to renew our commitments to all victims of crime. And we welcome you to do that here at the Marshall County Resiliency Center.”


Burkey said people in the community will probably begin noticing pink ribbons and pink shirts in support of the victims of crime. She noted Starbucks in Paducah and Murray are collecting donations for the center as well. 


Foley said financial support is, of course, always accepted. But there are other ways community members can offer support as well: donating snacks (granola bars or cookies) and bottled water for the various centers, school supplies, painting supplies and canvases, hygiene supplies, and various other items the shelters frequently need to provide for victims. She noted the decorative bushes outside the center were also donated and placed by a local business. The website provides a wish list of items needed


Another great way to show support for the center, Foley said, is to use it. It’s open to the public  Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 2 p.m. until 6 p.m. She encouraged community members to come have a cup of coffee, enjoy free WiFi, and schedule business meetings or special interest group meetings at the center. One can find the calendar of events for the center here


“Part of building a resilient community is opportunities for that community to connect with one another. And in a pandemic year, it's been really hard to think through what that looks like. But we're hopeful to be rounding the corner, we're certainly going to follow guidelines. So even if you're not a victim of crime, and you have interest in building a resilient community, then utilize this space,” she said. “This community needs the Resiliency Center and the Resiliency Center needs the community. Merryman House operates it, but it does not belong to Merryman House. It belongs to the residents of the Purchase region and certainly here in Marshall County.”

Rachel’s interest in journalism began early in life, reading newspapers while sitting in the laps of her grandparents. Those interactions ignited a thirst for language and stories, and she recalls getting caught more than once as a young girl hiding under the bed covers with a flashlight and book because she just couldn’t stop reading.
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