By Ashley McLeod
Capital News Service
RICHMOND – Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli kicked off National Crime Victims’ Rights Week with a press conference featuring a former football player who had been sexually abused as a teenager and a man who spent decades in prison for a crime he didn’t commit.
“National Crime Victims’ Week has been a time where we take the opportunity to promote awareness of victims’ rights and services, and to honor crime victims and survivors,” Cuccinelli said at Monday’s news conference. The nation has been commemorating the week every April since 1981.
Cuccinelli was joined by former National Football League linebacker Al Chesley, who was sexually abused by a neighbor at age 13 and spent years hiding that fact. Four and a half years ago, he told someone for the first time what happened, and began healing after a life filled with pain.
“I know now after years of struggling internally that the rape led to many dysfunctional areas and actions in my life,” Chesley said.
He said victims support groups helped him work through his pain. He said it’s important for people, including crime victims themselves, to reach out and help others who have experienced crime.
“I’m so grateful for the work of Attorney General Cuccinelli; I’m so thankful for your support here. And I’m going to continue to do my part,” said Chesley, who was a linebacker for the Philadelphia Eagles. “I wish you all continue to do your part.”
Bridget Trotman also spoke at the press conference. Her sister and nephew were murdered in 2008 during a home robbery in Prince William County.
During and after the trial, Trotman received help from the Victim Information Notification Everyday program, which is operated by the attorney general’s office.
The program kept Troutman up to date on every aspect of the trial, as well as happenings afterward, such as when the man convicted of murdering her family was transferred to another facility or went up for appeal.
Trotman praised the VINE program, saying it helped her understand the legal proceedings and answered her questions.
“I have faith in the resources that have been provided for me,” she said. “I can live my life with confidence because I know that justice will not close her eyes on the state on Virginia, and I know that the VINE program never sleeps.”
Also at the news conference was Thomas E. Haynesworth, who in some ways is a different kind of crime victim. He was wrongly convicted of a string of sexual assaults in Henrico County and Richmond in 1984. Beginning at age 18, Haynesworth spent the following 27 years in prison – until DNA evidence proved his innocence.
While Haynesworth was incarcerated, his brother was shot and killed. Haynesworth said crime has had a large impact on his life – and that’s why he spoke at the news conference.
“I’m here today to support victims of crimes … and to share my story,” Haynesworth said.
Cuccinelli also brought attention to the VINE program, which has been operating for 15 years and has helped more than 11,000 crime victims.
This year’s theme for National Crime Victims’ Rights Week is to reach out to more victims and make people aware of the services available, Cuccinelli said.
“We need to not just focus on the criminals; we need to also focus on the survivors,” Cuccinelli said. “Our office will use the week to create greater awareness of the needs of victims and to show our support, as well as taking time to recognize those who served them.”
On the Web
For more about Virginia’s victim notification program, visit the attorney general’s website – at www.oag.state.va.us – and click on “Programs and Resources.”
The website for National Crime Victims’ Rights Week is http://ovc.ncjrs.gov/ncvrw/.
This article was published by such CNS clients as EmporiaNews.com.