By Isaac Reese
617 Media Group
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Hundreds of crime survivors and families of murdered loved ones from 35 cities across Ohio gathered at the statehouse atrium last week, urging lawmakers to expand support for crime victims and make communities safer.
Crime survivors were joined by elected officials, including Reps. Tavia Galonski (D-Akron) and Brett Hillyer (R-Uhrichsville), at Survivors Speak Ohio – an annual event organized by Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice (CSSJ) – with families holding photos of murdered loved ones and advocating for public safety reforms.
Ohio members of CSSJ are leading the fight for historic safety reforms in the state. Most recently, they helped secure two major legislative wins: SB 36, which allows more victims to qualify for compensation and SB288, which provides opportunities for incarcerated individuals to succeed after release, reducing the chances that they will return to prison.
Ohio members of CSSJ led successful efforts to fund eight Trauma Recovery Centers across the state, bringing comprehensive services and critical support to crime victims in underserved communities.
“Ohio is proving its commitment to standing with crime survivors and improving public safety,” said Haleigh Young, crime survivor and member of Ohio Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice, who escaped human trafficking. “But there is more we can do. Housing and job security are basic needs that must be met to put crime survivors on the path to recovery.”
In an emotional press conference, Haleigh and other crime survivors called for extension of employment and housing protections so victims can safely relocate, access medical care and support law enforcement investigations. They also called on lawmakers to expand programs that provide support and trauma recovery services for crime victims.
“We are urging our elected leaders to take the next steps toward ensuring those most harmed by crime and violence are given the support they need to heal and feel safe again,” said Candace S. Williams, Ohio director of the Alliance for Safety and Justice. “When we don’t prioritize the needs of victims, they remain vulnerable, and the cycle of crime continues. This year lawmakers can ensure that crime victims have basic protections needed to rebuild their lives.”
According to a national survey, the majority of crime victims and their loved ones do not have job protection if they need leave from work to prioritize their safety or deal with victim-related matters. One in six victims of violent crime and one in four people who have lost a loved one to violence lose their jobs or are demoted for taking time off.
Many victims also lack access to safe housing or the means to relocate to safety. More than half of violent crime victims want to relocate as a result of their victimization, but are unable to do so, and more than one in four feared being forced from their home or evicted.
“Ohio crime survivors know firsthand how crime and violence destabilize families and communities and how unaddressed trauma makes the road to recovery so difficult,” said Aswad Thomas, gun violence survivor and national director of Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice. “By coming together and making our voices heard, crime survivors turn pain into purpose, ensure lawmakers understand our priorities, and build better public safety and justice for our communities.”
Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice is a national network of crime survivors, including almost 12,000 members across Ohio, joining together to create healing communities and shape public safety policy.
With more than 180,000 members and growing, including chapters and leaders across the country, Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice is building a movement to promote public safety policies that help the people and communities most harmed by crime and gun violence. For more information, visit: https://cssj.org/.