Community members and law enforcement officials gathered at the 12th annual Cumberland County Victim’s Rights Rally to remember victims of violent crimes.
It was a packed house Thursday night in the gymnasium of the Otterbein United Methodist Church, located at 647 Forge Road, Carlisle. The crowd was treated to hot dogs and other goodies before the program began, as well as a dance performance by student group REACH, Respect Education Through the Arts Challenge.
The evening was dedicated to victims of violent crimes or those were otherwise affected by violent crimes. This week marked the National Crime Victims’ Rights Week. Michelle Sibert, director of the Cumberland County Victims Services Division, said similar rallies and programs are being held throughout the country sometime this week. At those programs, she said the goal is to “honor and recognize” the victims, as well as advocates and people who stand up for victims.
“The goal is ... to lift victims up, give them a name, give them a face, let them know that there are people in the community who support them and are here for them,” Sibert said.
Two speakers spoke of their experiences as victims or their experiences with violent crime. Haven Leckey, 16, was the victim of a sexual harassment in high school. She shared her story with the audience and how her life was changed from those events.
“I still, to this day, go home and go straight to bed because of my negativity that burns my heart,” Haven told the audience.
Tawyna Wagner, of Gardners, also shared her experiences with the crowd. Her grandmother was the victim of a homicide in 2009. She said Sibert asked her to speak at the event, and she had no hesitation to do agree.
“At this point now, I guess I’ve come to the point of acceptance,” Wagner said. “You can’t look for answers, because there aren’t any.”
Several victims’ advocates were also in attendance. Cumberland County District Attorney David Freed provided opening remarks for the program and gave the police departments of Camp Hill, Lower Allen Township, Mechanicsburg, Middlesex Township, North Middleton Township, Shippensburg and Silver Spring Township special recognition for being advocates.
“The job has changed,” Freed said. “It’s never been easy, it’s never been safe, and for these departments to take the extra time to go the extra mile for victims, makes us better at what we do.”
David Spotts, chief of the Mechanicsburg Borough Police Department, remained humble as he accepted an award on behalf of the department.
Detective Rodney Temple of the Mechanicsburg Borough Police Department had a similar mentality. He also received a Cumberland County Victim Advocacy award, something he also said was a part of the job. Nevertheless, he said it was important.
“I think sometimes we tend to forget about the victims,” Spotts said. He said there is a challenge coin at the police department that states “if you want to feel safe, stand behind me,” something he said was for the victims.
“We want them to be able to come to us and feel safe, and understand that we’re going to do our best to try and make things right for them,” Spotts said.