Victim Impact Statements:  Giving Victims a Chance to Have Their Voice Heard

Nearly 160 women provided impact statements to the Court this past month at the Sentencing of Larry Nassar.  Nassar is the USA Gymnastics National Team Doctor who used his power to sexually assault women on the USA Gymnastics Team.  Each woman took the opportunity to stand before him and explain how the crime he committed impacted them.  These statements were incredibly powerful and it took days for the court to hear all of the women’s statements.   Their statements have shown the world that every victim has a voice and it deserves to be heard.

Victim impact statements allow victims the opportunity to explain to the court how a crime committed against them impacted them physically, emotionally and financially.  The statement from the victim usually includes information the court would not know otherwise.  This can help influence the decision-making process that goes into Sentencing.  A victim may choose to read their statement aloud to the court or have someone else read it for them.

Victim Advocates and District Attorneys often provide a voice for victims by reading their statements aloud in court, when fear, nerves or other emotions make it too difficult for them to read it themselves.  A victim may also choose to have the judge read the statement silently to themselves, if it contains information they do not wish to be shared publicly in open court.  This decision depends on what the victim is most comfortable with and sometimes is a last minute decision based on how full the courtroom is that day or how the victim feels emotionally when the time comes to provide the statement.

In addition to providing valuable information to the court, giving a Victim Impact Statement also has benefits for the victim.  Stating how the crime has impacted them can be a difficult thing to do, especially publicly.  However, it can be very a healing process for some victims. It gives a sense of empowerment and control, in a situation where often victims feel powerless.

If you are a victim of crime and need help with your impact statement you may contact NOVA via the NOVA hotline at 1-800-675-6900 or by via email at novainfo@novabucks.org.  Visit our website at novabucks.org for more information on the services we provide.

Sources:

http://time.com/5116275/gymnasts-victim-statements-lassar-nassar-sentencing/

http://victimsofcrime.org/help-for-crime-victims/get-help-bulletins-for-crime-victims/victim-impact-statements

http://www.justice.tas.gov.au/victims/vis/benefits

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