VOICES: Expanding support for Ohio crime victims

As a crime survivor and social worker, I know too well the harm trauma and violence can cause to an individual’s life. For many crime victims, the road to recovery is difficult and complex. But what I have learned is that no one is beyond healing. Every Ohioan has a stake in public safety in our state – together, we can help victims of crimes find healing and stability and make Ohio communities safer.

When I began my healing journey in 2017 at CitiLookout Trauma Recovery Center, the wrap-around services I received saved my life. The people there were my voice until I could find my own. Thanks to their help, I was finally able to escape the endless cycle of trauma and violence I had been trapped in since childhood.

Along my journey, I learned to advocate with my fellow crime survivors and together we helped pass sweeping reforms in Ohio to fix and expand victims’ compensation, grow trauma recovery services, and fund new rehabilitation and mental health services. But there’s more our lawmakers can do to help crime victims in our state.

This year, I’m joining 12,000 fellow Ohio crime survivors in urging lawmakers to expand housing and employment protections for crime survivors and family members of slain victims.

According to a recent national survey, more than half of violent crime victims want to relocate but can’t. More than one in four feared being forced from their home or evicted.

As a teenager and young adult, there were multiple times I experienced homelessness trying to escape my trauma. I would sleep in my car, go from house to house, stay in hotels, or say I was suicidal so I could be sent inpatient somewhere and have a bed to sleep in and food to eat. With nowhere to go and little finances, I repeatedly had to return to my abusers or engage in survival sex. Every day, there are abuse and human trafficking victims facing the same dire choice.

Ohio crime victims need immediate safe housing and the ability to relocate as they recover. Survivors can’t begin to heal if their most basic needs to live aren’t being met.

Currently, crime victims in our state and their immediate family don’t have job protections either if they need to take leave to find safety, attend court hearings, or seek medical treatment. One in six victims of violent crime and one in four people who have lost a loved one to violence lose their job or are demoted for taking time off.

When I was recovering from years of trauma and violence, I had to take time off from work to prioritize my mental health. Many survivors struggle with the physical, mental, and emotional effects of trauma and need time to heal.

When victims have the help and support they need, they can break cycles of trauma and violence. Housing stability and job protections will allow more Ohioans who have been victims of crime to avoid being re-victimized.

We applaud Ohio lawmakers for putting us on a path towards safety and justice. Now, survivors are asking for the protections we need to rebuild our lives, work with the justice system, and provide for ourselves and our families.

Haleigh Young is a human trafficking survivor and a member of Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice. On March 15, Haleigh joined more than one hundred Ohioans for the Survivors Speak Ohio rally and vigil in Columbus.

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