ADEL -- A breakfast to honor and remember victims of crime was held recently at the Circlestone County Club in Cook County in recognition of National Crime Victims' Rights Week.

The event was sponsored by the District Attorney's Victim Assistance Program and the Cook-Berrien Task Force on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault. Attending were crime victims, victim advocates, law enforcement officers, medical personnel and other organizations that assist victims on a daily basis. This week marks the 22nd annual National Crime Victims' Rights Week. This year's theme is "Bringing Honor to Victims."

The nation became aware of what it is to become a victim on Sept. 11, said Bob Ellis, district attorney.

"In that one moment, what did you want to do?" Ellis said. "Did you want to be hugged by somebody who loved you or go off by yourself? Whatever it was, it was an emotional moment."

This is what victims of crime face every day, Ellis said.

"What we have to do, this group, is try to empower them to go on -- to take that victim experience that was tragic and horrible to them and empower them to go on with their lives," Ellis said. "Success many times is not measured by your victories ... success many times for us and for all our victims is what you do after the defeat."

Sarah Surratt, victim assistance coordinator, Victim Assistance Program, recognized different groups as the probation and parole who send notification to the victims letting them know about the perpetrators. Surratt also identified doctors, nurses, EMT personnel and the Children's Advocacy that provides services for Cook and Berrien County.

"The Haven has been wonderful. We'd be lost without them," Surratt said. "They give services to sexual assault and domestic violence victims."

Tanya Oakley, a recent victim of domestic violence, described her experience with her husband, Richard Oakley, who was arrested April 10 for the third time in three weeks on aggravated stalking charges. Shortly after he was arrested by a Lowndes County detective, Oakley was found dead in a Lowndes County Jail holding cell. Officers said the inmate hanged himself with his jail-issued jumpsuit as he waited to finish his processing.

"My husband was a batterer, and from many of the books that I have read recently, I've come to realize that physical battery is not merely an act of aggression." Oakley said. "It's also an act of aggression with a purpose, and that purpose is to control and to intimidate. That's what happened to me."

Oakley said they had only been married for about a year, and the abuse began after about six months. What started as emotional abuse escalated into physical abuse, she said. Her co-workers put her contact with The Haven and used every service they provided.

"Sometimes it takes battered women a few times to get knocked down before we can really get back up and do what we need to do," Oakley said

Oakley said she was at shelters and applied for a temporary protection order, which her husband continuously violated. When he was arrested the second time on April 4 on aggravated stalking charges, his bond was reduced from $300,000 to $30,000 and he was released.

Within a short time, he found her again, broke into the residence and was arrested a third and final time, she said.

Oakley said she wanted to tell her story so that she can help somebody else who might be in her situation.



To contact reporter Rip Prine, please call 244-3400, ext. 237.



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