The 7th Annual National Crime Victim’s Rights Week breakfast, sponsored by lake area victim service providers, including the Camden County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, Kid’s Harbor and Citizens Against Domestic Violence, CADV, was held Tuesday, April 21 at the Church at Osage Hills in Osage Beach.

The 7th Annual National Crime Victim’s Rights Week breakfast, sponsored by lake area victim service providers, including the Camden County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, Kid’s Harbor and Citizens Against Domestic Violence, CADV, was held Tuesday, April 21 at the Church at Osage Hills in Osage Beach.
Representatives from lake area government, law enforcement, victim service providers, probation and parole, social services and more attended in honor of National Crime Victims’ Week Sunday, April 19 through Saturday, April 25.
Camden County Prosecutor Michael Gilley opened the meeting. “These are very serious issues and we take them very seriously in the prosecutor’s office,” Gilley said. “Disturbing and very appalling is the best way to describe what happens to our kids in this community. This is not a city problem, this happens here, and most people never hear most of the accusations and stories.” Gilley encouraged attendees to support the community resources represented at the breakfast.
“Crime victims, under Missouri statute, have a lot of rights. They have the right to be notified of court hearings and ongoing plea negotiations, and we work hard to deal with the victim.” Gilley said he recently met with a statewide victims advocate because Camden County does not have a dedicated victim advocate. “We need a county advocate, but the good thing is we have some good community resources here, and a lot of community support.”
Victim service providers help victims’ rebuild their lives by educating them about their legal rights and options, while helping them to learn to cope with the impact of crime, as well as access victim compensation, develop a safety plan, and navigate the criminal justice and social service systems.

Engaging Communities, Empowering Victims
The 2015 National Crime Victims’ Week theme, “Engaging Communities, Empowering Victims,” provides an opportunity for the community and service providers to recommit to extending reach through a victim-centered approach. By engaging community leaders and organizations in the work to support crime victims, organizers gain new avenues for victims as well as enhance their ability to meet the needs of underserved victims – and help new communities understand the impact of victimization and the assistance that is available – thereby expanding the victim’s options.

Guest speaker Amy Thompson
Guest Speaker Amy Thompson has been a foster adoptive parent since 2000, and has cared for more than 300 foster children through foster care and adoption. Amy and her husband Jeff are the parents of fourteen children, ranging in age from 10 to 26, and the grandparents of two.
They consider themselves the “lucky ones” to get kids in their home. Amy shared horrific stories of the abuse some of the kids that have come to her home have suffered. “The hard part is finding a place to tuck the horrific story away so that I don’t smother them with unwanted attention. I try to distract them and just say ‘hey come on in and meet my chijuajua Pedro,’ and we act like it is a just regular gig in our house, and we are glad they are there. They have just lost everything,” Amy said. “All their stuff has been yanked from them, their home, their parents, their siblings, their friends and it is my job to try to fix it.”
In the long run, Amy said their goal is reunification, and they oftentimes will work with the parents, along with all the agencies towards that goal. “I couldn’t do it without CADV, the judges, the attorney’s and all the agencies, it takes all of us. We are dealing with so much trauma.”
Amy shared an issue that is close to her heart, the youth who are aging out of the system because they turn 18, saying their life can unravel quickly.” Imagine being 18, it’s your last day of school, and you have no family and nowhere to live. What do these kids do?” she asked.
Amy reported that there are more than 510,000 American children in foster care, and by 2020, if things do not change, there will more than 300,000 children who will age out of foster care, and 75,000 of those will be homeless, with no education, family or support. “Not only have they been victims once, but now they are victims twice, because they are left without guidance, resources, or family,” Amy said.     Amy hopes a bill recently brought up in Congress will change their plight.
“We are never going to be able to reverse the affects or suffering of abuse victims, or restore all they have lost, but we need to continue to do the utmost to minimize what they are going through. Justice cannot be done, if the victim is forgotten and not treated justly.”
Amy says foster parents are desperately needed, but they also need respite help to give foster parents a break, or grandparents that can show the kids that they are special, and someone cares about them.
Ending she requested that if any kind of abuse is suspected call the abuse hotline at 800 392-3738.

Kids Harbor
Cara Gerdiman with Kids Harbor reported that Kids Harbor helped 703 children in 2014, which is 10 percent more than in 2013, and she added that if things continue as they are, they are on target to service more than 900 children in 2015. “Although we are not happy we helped that many, it is good that more are talking about their abuse, and we are making contact with them,” Gerdiman said.
Kids Harbor assists victims of child abuse and their non-offending family members as they make their way through the difficult and often frightening process of a child abuse investigation. They serve the Lake of the Ozarks, Fort Leonard and surrounding areas, including 10 counties in Missouri: Camden, Dent, Hickory, Laclede, Maries, Miller, Morgan, Phelps, Pulaski and Texas counties.
Gerdiman reported that one in four girls and one in six boys are sexually abused, and one in five will be solicited online before the age of 18. “All of this can be greatly prevented if we talk to our children,” Gerdiman reminded. For more information about Kids Harbor call 573 348-6886.
Gilley pointed out that Kids Harbor plays a very central role in a case by talking to abused children in a safe atmosphere. “If you have never toured their facility, I recommend you do,” Gilley encouraged.

Angie Fiene, with Citizens Against Domestic Violence, CADV, spoke saying the shelter served 500 victims in 2014, and the numbers indicate they will surpass that in 2015. Fiene reported that 70 percent of women are murdered after leaving a violent partner. “Many ask why a woman doesn’t just leave if they are being abused. It is because it is dangerous. Don’t blame the victim,”  she educated.
CADV provides safe shelter and advocacy services to victims of domestic and sexual violence in the Lake of the Ozarks region.
Fiene advocated the removal of fire arms from homes where there has been domestic violence, saying that it was eight times more likely that a woman will be killed by her partner where there are fire arms in the home. She added that a woman is beaten every nine seconds in America, and the average emergency room visit costs $948. She ended saying that one in four women, and one in seven men are killed by their intimate partner. For more information about CADV call 573 346-9630.
Gilley announced that Fiene was inducted into the Camdenton High School Hall of Fame on Thursday, April 16.
Ending the meeting, Amy Thompson said, “My motto that I have lived by for years is ‘take care of those who are weaker than you and share in love because… I have looked into the eyes of an unwanted or abused child and I found it is always worth it.”