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Sean D. Reyes
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Honoring Survivors and Lost Victims

On Sunday night, people from all walks of life gathered together on the front steps of the Utah State Capitol for a candlelight vigil to support those who have experienced the tragedy of a violent crime, as well as to honor the victims who lost their lives.

A Victim Centered Approach

Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes attended the event, sharing the importance of having a victim-centered and trauma-informed approach in the criminal justice system and the continuous efforts of the Attorney General’s Office to incorporate it into their work.

“A victim’s experience with the criminal justice system can mean the difference between supportive and healing experience versus one that exacerbates their initial pain and trauma. Criminal acts can often strip victims of a sense of control, not to mention a sense of safety, security, self-confidence, and self-worth. Making sure victims are advised of their statutory rights, informed of the status of their case, and reassuring them along the way that they have done nothing wrong, that they are not at fault, these things can empower them to begin taking back their own lives,” said Attorney General Reyes.

The Attorney General’s Office has a unique opportunity to work with victims throughout almost every stage in the criminal justice system, from investigation to prosecution. Taking a victim-centered approach helps to minimize re-traumatization and provides victims with a compassionate and nurturing space in which to navigate the criminal justice system.

Listen to Attorney General Reyes’ speech below.

Stories from Survivors

During the candlelight vigil, survivors shared their experiences with abuse, trauma, and how they overcame their past.

Coming up on its 20th anniversary, four survivors of the Columbine High School shooting and bombing shared their experiences that fateful day on April 20,1999. Sarah Bush, Will Beck, Laura Hall, and Tami Diaz, who were all students at the time of the tragic incident, have together formed Rebels for Change, an organization that works to make schools safer for children. They each shared their separate stories and spoke about what it means to be a victim and the hope and healing that victims can look towards.

Listen to their stories below.

Jenny Andrus, a professor at the University of Utah who currently teaches writing and rhetoric, as well as studying and reaching domestic violence, is a survivor of domestic violence herself. She shared her story of emotional and physical abuse. She spoke on how emotional abuse is often overlooked but can have the same horrible consequences as any other type of abuse. She spoke on the importance of the victims advocate program utilized by law enforcement.

Listen to her story below. Be advised of potential trigger warnings.

Sidney Andrews, a current Salt Lake Community College student studying Criminal Justice, shared her story on surviving sexual and emotional abuse by her step-father for 13 years. Andrews emphasized the importance of the victim advocate programs, and how her advocate was with her every step of the way through the court case and through her own healing. She spoke on the need for victims to have a voice, and how that voice was able to be heard through her family and advocate.

Listen to her story below.

Brielle Decker is a former member of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS) and was the 56th wife of Warren Jeffs, a former president of the FL