Marsy's Law for Wisconsin Hosts Milwaukee County National Crime Victims’ Rights Week Virtual Roundtable
Survivors, advocates work to educate Wisconsinites about their rights under the new crime victims' constitutional amendment enacted one year ago
MADISON – In recognition of National Crime Victims' Rights Week (NCVRW), Marsy's Law for Wisconsin on Monday held a virtual roundtable discussion focused on educating Wisconsinites about their rights under the new crime victims' constitutional amendment enacted one year ago. The annual observation of NCVRW comes just after the one-year anniversary of last year’s decisive victory for victims’ rights in the spring election, when 75 percent of Wisconsin residents cast votes in favor of the crime victims’ constitutional amendment commonly known as Marsy’s Law for Wisconsin.
Local domestic violence survivor Natalie Hayden kicked off Monday’s panel discussion by describing her own experience navigating the criminal justice system prior to the passage of Marsy’s Law, saying, “there were many aspects of the process where I felt entirely invisible… it really allowed me to appreciate Marsy’s Law, that can now add visibility to those things that were so faulty and invisible in my process.”
Other participants in Monday’s event included victim advocates and legal system stakeholders, who addressed some of the ways the new crime victims’ constitutional amendment has empowered crime victims in Wisconsin’s criminal justice process.
“Marsy’s Law aims to empower victim voices and choices by providing notification of rights… notification of proceedings, and also choices about what might or might not happen—by providing opportunities to be heard at proceedings,” said Assistant Attorney General Miriam Falk, who served as moderator.
“One of the many ways that we’ve used Marsy’s Law to help protect victims is to, first of all, give them some anonymity in the process, by using a different name or referring to the victim as ‘victim one’ for example in the criminal complaint, so that the victim’s identity isn’t out there and open for the public,” added Matthew Torbenson, Deputy District Attorney for Milwaukee County.
Carmen Pitre, Executive Director of the Sojourner Family Peace Center expanded further on a victims’ right to privacy under Marsy’s Law. “They should get to decide what information gets shared, and who gets to see that information,” said Pitre. “Lots of times, survivors have said other people in my life don’t know about what’s happening to me, and I don’t want to be forced into a situation where the system gets to broadcast this news about me.”
Marianna Rodriguez Director of UMOS Latina Resource Center addressed the role that advocates play in helping victims navigate the legal system. “With advocates, we play several roles here—one is to provide emotional support for victims,” said Rodriguez. “Victims are very afraid. They’re very overwhelmed, unsure, confused, and may not understand fully what to expect of systems.”
“As it relates to victim rights, I look at them as human rights,” said Reggie Moore, Director of the City of Milwaukee Office of Violence Prevention. “In terms of treating people with dignity, respecting their rights, not violating them, and ensuring that they have access to equal justice and protection under the law.”
“National Crime Victims’ Rights Week is a wonderful opportunity to shine a light on victims’ rights here in Wisconsin,” said Marsy’s Law for Wisconsin Outreach Director Nela Kalpic. “As we reflect on the first year of Marsy’s Law in action, we’re so grateful to all of the stakeholders who participated in this panel and helped us educate Milwaukee County residents about their rights under the crime victims' constitutional amendment.”
Monday’s panel discussion was the first of three such events taking place in Wisconsin throughout NCVRW. A list of future events is available on the Marsy’s Law for Wisconsin website.
You can watch a video of today’s roundtable below:
About Marsy’s Law for Wisconsin
Marsy’s Law for Wisconsin is a grassroots coalition that has developed a unique proposal to give victims of crime equal rights in our state, building on Wisconsin’s laws and history of leading on this issue. Marsy’s Law is named after Marsalee “Marsy” Nicholas of California who was stalked and killed by her ex-boyfriend in 1983. Only one week after her death, Marsy’s mother and brother, Henry T. Nicholas, walked into a grocery store where they were confronted by the accused murderer. The family, who had just come from a visit to Marsy’s grave, was unaware that the accused had been released on bail. In an effort to honor his sister, Dr. Nicholas has made it his life’s mission to give victims and their families constitutional protections and equal rights.