Morris County Observes 42nd National Crime Victims’ Rights Week
Published on April 28, 2023
Prosecutor’s Office Hosts Recognition and Remembrance Event
Law enforcement, elected officials and community leaders joined the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office (MCPO) in observing National Crime Victims' Rights Week by honoring the victims and professionals who support them, while highlighting the progress that has been made in light of the challenges still to be overcome to raise awareness for victims’ rights in the face of crime.
View more photos from the event on Morris County's Official Flickr Account.
“All too often, the rights of victims are lost in the noise that bombards us every day. This week it is our privilege to again call attention to those who have suffered and again to confirm our commitment to their protection and enforcement of their rights as well,” stated Morris County Prosecutor Robert Carroll.
Marking its 42nd anniversary this year, Congress annually declares one week in April as Crime Victims’ Rights Week. This year’s theme, “Survivor Voices: Elevate. Engage. Effect Change,” calls upon communities to amplify the voices of survivors and create environments where survivors have the confidence that they will be heard, believed, and supported. Morris County Commissioner Director John Krickus presented a framed proclamation to Prosecutor Carroll declaring April 23-29, 2023, National Crime Victims’ Rights Week in Morris County, which the Board of County Commissioners adopted at their public meeting later that evening.
“The struggle for Victims’ Rights has been heavily rooted in Morris County for decades… We gather again to remain vigilant; to ensure the rights and needs of victims are not pushed aside. Today, we reaffirm that we will defend and expand the hard-fought rights of crime victims everywhere,” said Director John Krickus.
Other speakers at the conference included Rhett Hackett, survivor and President/Co-Founder of the Humanity Preservation Foundation and host of the HandsOFF Talk Show (a weekly television show on the RVNTV network); Senator Anthony Bucco; Chief Michael Koroski, Morris Plains Police Chief and Vice President of the Morris County Police Chiefs Association; Alexis Rachel, Coordinator of the Morris County Sexual Assault Response Team and the Forensic Nurse Examiner Program (SART/FNE); and Maria Vinci Savettiere, Esq., Executive Director of Deirdre’s House and Chairperson of the Morris County Multidisciplinary Team.
A survivor of child sexual abuse, Hackett went public with his story on the Oprah Winfrey Show in 2010 when he was one of 200 men featured on a special that underscored the prevalence and long-term effects of male sexual abuse. The appearance placed him in the spotlight, prompting him to advocate for victim rights’ full time. He launched a nonprofit organization called the Humanity Preservation Foundation to focus on domestic violence, child abuse and bullying. He and his team host numerous events and prevention education programs, lead outreach efforts aimed at connecting childhood trauma and addiction, and offer a recovery platform, “Recovery Your Way,” as an extension of their services.
“In this country, we have a problem with asking for help—we don’t do it. I tell my team all the time, and I tell fraternity brothers and schools: You are not the law, and you are not the therapist. There are professionals in the community able to help. Let’s direct (victims) to them, because they are going to help in the best way possible, so they (the victims) don’t revictimize themselves,” stated Hackett.
The Morris County Sexual Assault Response Team collaborates with law enforcement to assist survivors who wish to report their assault but may be fearful due to their own criminal history or immigration status. SART/FNE Coordinator Alexis Rachel acknowledged the level of coordination in Morris County among law enforcement, child welfare agencies and the organizations investigating crimes and providing services on behalf of survivors, especially during Covid-19. She commended the Jersey Battered Women’s Service (JBWS) Crisis Response Team for ensuring survivor safety and access to shelter, the Victim/Witness Unit for striving to maintain a continuity of care and services, and Deirdre’s House for taking child victims under their wing and connecting them with highly trained child specialists.
“Sexual violence is one of the most interpersonal forms of crime, as it is both physical and psychological in nature, and is the most underreported,” remarked Rachel.
Her team aims to empower victims by treating them like patients and reassuring them that they are safe and have control over how things progress. Resources and information for future services are provided so they can seek support when they are ready. The Forensic Nurse Examiner Program will be expanded with the implementation of a Non-Fatal Strangulation Response Team later this year for greater survivor outcomes.
Chief Koroski added that the Morris County Police Chiefs Association’s mission is to care for its officers in the form of resiliency training and wellness programs, as they experience trauma similar to that of survivors.
“As chiefs our primary focus will always be prevention and deterrence of crime, and we hope that we can stop just one more heartless act of violence that shatters our communities,” said Chief Koroski. “We must work on not only prevention, but preplan to build our community’s resilience, and it is the partnerships with those gathered here today that are the foundation of that resiliency.”
Senator Bucco praised everyone on the work they do and voiced concerns that the victims’ rights movement has lost momentum a bit in recent years, a statement that was echoed by Executive Director Savettiere.
“Victims’ rights have had a setback… We really have to listen very carefully to victims’ voices, as they can be very quiet and very reluctant. Because when a victim needs to come forward, they are in a very vulnerable state. They don’t necessarily want to tell their story, but are compelled to for various reasons, it’s part of their own healing process and need to seek justice,” said Savettiere.
Deirdre's House is a nationally accredited child advocacy center, and the only location in Morris County where child victims of abuse and neglect can receive comprehensive services all under one roof, and at no cost. Here, they can undergo forensic interviews and trial preparation with law enforcement, receive medical examinations and treatment from a pediatric abuse specialist, and receive clinical counseling services in both English and Spanish. Since opening in 1996, the center has provided service to over 43,000 children.
“I would like to commend Morris County law enforcement officers and victim/witness service providers who work collaboratively and comprehensively among our agencies, and continue to bring a high level of sensitive services to our victims and survivors, especially Sheriff James Gannon and his team who provide vital support services to law enforcement, victims and survivors in our ongoing efforts to reduce crime and its impact on our communities,” remarked Prosecutor Carroll.
Last year, the MCPO dedicated a stepping stone near the victims’ tree outside of the Administration Building as a symbol for victims taking the first step towards healing. The victims’ tree is lit annually during National Crime Victims’ Rights Week to serve as a beacon of hope. This year, a wreath adorned with a “2023 in Recognition and Remembrance” ribbon was also placed next to the tree.
To learn more about support services and resources that are available, visit the MCPO’s website and Facebook page.
Media inquiries concerning this press release should be directed to the MCPO’s Public Information Officer Meghan Knab by emailing [email protected].
Photo 1: (l-r) Rhett Hackett, Chief Michael Koroski, Commissioner Director John Krickus, Prosecutor Robert Carroll, Alexis Rachel, and Maria Vinci Savettiere.
Photo 2: (l-r) Director John Krickus and Prosecutor Carroll.
Photo 3: (l-r) Prosecutor Carroll, Rhett Hackett, and Commissioner Director Krickus.
Photo 4: Prosecutor Carroll (back) and Senator Anthony Bucco.
Photo 5: (l-r) Prosecutor Carroll and Maria Vinci Savettiere.
Photo 6: The 2023 Recognition and Remembrance wreath.