By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Guest column: How would you help crime survivors?
Guest columnist

By Keith Edwards

Each year, millions of Americans are victims of crimes. In 2022 alone, there were 6.6 million violent victimizations against people age 12 or older and 13.4 million property crimes, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

In Georgia, a crime took place every two minutes and 35 seconds in 2022, based on a report from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. That includes a total number of 36,705 reported violent crimes and 165,531 reported property crimes. In Liberty County, 1,172 crimes were reported to all law enforcement agencies operating in the county, including sheriff ’s offices, police departments, campus police, and any other agency designated as a law enforcement agency.

But numbers don’t tell the full story. Many survivors don’t immediately — or sometimes ever — tell what happened to them. The reasons are incredibly personal and complex. If there is an ongoing threat of physical, emotional, or financial abuse, a crime survivor may think reporting the crime can make things worse for them. Reporting may also be complicated and compromised if the perpetrator of the crime is a family member, friend, intimate partner, or boss. Survivors may also think they won’t be taken seriously or get the help they need, a feeling that can be exacerbated by cultural or language barriers or a mistrust of the criminal justice system.

Survivors of human trafficking have not always been treated as crime victims, for example. In fact, they used to be viewed as suspects and were often prosecuted for prostitution. As a law enforcement officer and as a board member for Tharros Place, a local nonprofit serving underage survivors of human trafficking, I am glad we have evolved beyond this antiquated thinking.

The theme of this year’s National Crime Victims’ Week (April 21-27) is “How would you help? Options, services, and hope for crime survivors.” When a survivor has the courage to tell their story, we should all be prepared to listen, empathize, and help. Are you prepared to help a crime survivor? If not, how will you become prepared? And how will you help educate others in your community about how to be ready?

This year’s observance is not just a time to recognize the vital work of professionals and volunteers who help victims and raise awareness of victims’ rights and services, but it’s also a challenge to the caring people in our community to create safe environments for crime survivors. It’s a way to remind survivors that they’re not alone. And it’s a call to action that any of us could be the one who can provide potentially life-saving hope — and courage — to someone who desperately needs it.

Keith Edwards is a patrol watch commander for Savannah Police Department and a member of the Board of Directors for Tharros Place, a local nonprofit serving underage survivors of human trafficking.

Sign up for our e-newsletters