VALDOSTA — Victims of crime gathered Thursday to observe Victims Rights Week at an annual luncheon sponsored by Victims Services with the Lowndes County District Attorney’s Office.
The week marks the 31st Annual National Crime Victims Rights Week and the 30th time it has been observed in Lowndes County.
“I think it recognizes that families are hurting and that we are here to help them,” said Carla Williams, Victim Services coordinator. “It’s very important for them to know that we care, and this ceremony is just an opportunity to take a moment to recognize that their family member matters and that their lives mattered.”
The event recognizes the victims of violent crime who died in 2014. Williams said some victims’ families come every year, and it gives them the opportunity to connect with other families who are going through similar experiences.
The family of Wilbur and Anisa Mobley attended. Wilbur and Anisa were sibling Valdosta State Prison correctional officers who were shot and killed outside their Morven home in September.
“It’s still fresh. It’s a hard pill to swallow,” said Earlene Davis. “They were my niece and nephew, and we miss them.”
Derrick and Erin Willis spoke at the event to raise awareness about child abuse and brought along their daughter, Bella.
“She was adopted, but she was a victim of child abuse by her birth parents,” said Erin Willis. “She was shaken at five to six weeks of age, and we adopted her. She will have a lifetime of issues to deal with.”
Southern District Attorney David Miller shared what he feels are recent positive developments in the Georgia General Assembly regarding victims’ rights.
“We doubled the amount of money available to the Criminal Victim Compensation Fund covering funerals. Historically, it’s been $3,000, and now it’s doubled to $6,000,” said Miller.
Counseling services have also been expanded to cover family members of victims of violent crime. Efforts have been made to provide safe havens for victims of sex trafficking. Laws covering harassing phone calls have been extended to all types of electronic communication, Miller said.
“I think it’s important to recognize that victims do have rights in our justice system,” he said.