On Thursday, April 7, 2016, Director Sheila Creaton Kelly of the Victim Services Unit (VSU) recently hosted the second annual Victims’ Rights Month Commemoration. The event was very well attended and is a testament to the DOC’s commitment to protecting the rights of victims and the important work that the VSU does on a daily basis.
Commissioner Carol Higgins O’Brien welcomed the attendees and spoke about the DOC’s zero tolerance policy for domestic violence. The Commissioner also took the opportunity to ask staff to remember the victims.
The staff at Old Colony Correctional Center (OCCC) in Bridgewater received a special recognition at the event for their work to assist VSU throughout the year. In addition, OCCC helped to facilitate a victim/offender months ago; this required a great deal of compassion and hard work from many staff. Superintendent Lisa Mitchell and some of her staff were in attendance to accept the award.
Deputy Commissioner Kathie Chmiel spoke about the importance of having a balance between the deference we show the victims of violent crime and the offender rehabilitation.
Assistant Deputy Commissioner Carol Mici recognized the VSU staff for their difficult job and acknowledged the importance of treating each victim as an individual. Director Kelly echoed the sentiment and remarked that each case the VSU handles is unique and difficult and requires personalization. Victims are often forced to relive perhaps the most difficult moments of their lives each time an offender is moved or considered for parole. She read a review from a victim thanking the VSU from the bottom of their heart for taking the time to listen to their concerns.
The keynote speaker was Danielle Sicard, a survivor of domestic violence. Ms. Sicard shared her personal experience and how she escaped an emotionally and physically abusive relationship that escalated to an attempt on her life. Ms. Sicard shared her insight regarding how the violence she endured has permanently impacted her daily life and how it affected her family and relationships. Ms. Sicard also gave the audience information regarding the myths that surround abusers while educating the attendees about the characteristics often found in abusers. Her words were riveting and she graciously took time to answer all the attendees’ questions about her ordeal.
The event was truly poignant for all who attended.