LAUDERDALE COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) - This week is one dedicated to victims of violent crime.
Advocates from around the Shoals use National Crime Victims’ Rights Week as an opportunity to let surviving victims and family members know that they have rights, and places to go for support.
This year's theme was engaging communities and empowering victims. It's the one time of year the families of homicide victims come together to honor their loved ones.
"It's a very difficult time for them and of course it brings back memories for us and hopefully they are all pleasant memories they are having during this time," said Mary Anne Rippey, president of the Shoals Chapter of the Victims of Crime and Leniency.
Rippey lost her brother and a cousin to crime. Darlene Hutchinson Biehl is a victim advocate, and was a victim herself.
"It's been 27 years since I was kidnapped," Biehl explained. "I was held two days, and escaped on the second day, and it helps me to use that to empower and to help other people."
"We want to focus on the lives of these people who are no longer with us to make sure they are not forgotten," said Lauderdale County District Attorney Chris Connolly. "Our criminal justice system does focus on the rights of the defendant, so all too often the victim is forgotten and we want to make sure that there's justice for that victim and these victims' families."
Biehl said she has learned over the years how to use her experience for the better. She said this week is an opportunity to help victims in the future.
"We want to pay homage to them yes, but we also want to regroup and say, 'what can we do to make it better for the next generation'? How can we improve the law or improve the victim's services so that the next people that have to go through this, unfortunately, maybe have a better experience."
Families lit candles Tuesday night. It was a way to bond through the loss of a loved one to violent crime.