“They’ve been through enough” Crime Victims Council offers help
Survivors of crime have an ally in the Crime Victims Council.
The CVC’s mission is to provide free confidential services and advocacy for the rights, welfare and empowerment for all
Suzanne Beck, executive director of CVC for 27 years, and Emily Rieser, senior outreach educator and advocate for the
past three years, recently spoke at a press conference in the college’s News Writing class to explain how the CVC works.
“Victim advocates already work at the Lehigh County Courthouse, one for adult cases, and a separate advocate who helps
with victims of juvenile offenders,” Beck said. “Because most preliminary hearings in neighboring Northampton County are
held at the individual district courts, the victim advocates there already travel to district offices for hearings.”
Advocates sometimes use preliminary hearings as a chance to introduce victims to the staff and let them know the
services that are available, which is why traveling to preliminary hearings can be crucial.
If the case moves forward to county court, advocates can continue to help victims, including with victim impact
statements if a defendant is being sentenced, Beck said. Sometimes, advocates read the victim impact statements in court, if
a crime victim does not want to attend a hearing.
“It's the first time in court for many people,” Beck said. “It's a scary experience. Many don't know what to expect, what's
the next step, what happens now, how long it might take. People get their education of the criminal justice system from TV.
Unfortunately, it doesn't work like that.”
Rieser explained that CVC advocates are on-call on nights and weekends, and can begin their relationships with crime
victims as early as accompanying victims when they report their incidents to police.
“We ease a victim through this process as much as possible,” she said. “They've been through enough.”
If a victim goes to an emergency room to report and be examined after a sexual assault, the victim’s clothing is often
confiscated as evidence, Rieser said. The CVC offers a care package, which includes a change of clothes and toiletries such
as toothbrushes, toothpaste, and soap. Snacks are also included because the examinations and report filings can be a long
Misconceptions and stereotypes exist about people who commit crime, and it is not helpful when these stereotypes are
reinforced, especially by professionals, in the criminal justice system, Beck said.
Not all offenders are the same. They look like and can be anyone — a father, grandfather, uncle, brother, neighbor or son.
They are everyday people. They can have strong social ties in the community. People who commit acts of sexual violence
are male and female, span a variety of backgrounds and ages, and are often employed and educated.
Many rapists are known to the victim. Locally, 72 percent of sexual assault victims served by CVC last year knew their
Crime knows no age. “Victims stem from preschool to senior citizens,” Rieser explained. “Sexual assault can happen at
any age. Middle and high schoolers face an increase of bullying at school, cyber bullying, and date rape.”
Victims compensation is another branch of CVC services. If a victim sustains a physical injury during an assault, the
compensation fund can be used to help pay medical bills.
The CVC’s resources are available to victims even if the victim chooses not to report it to law enforcement. However, the
compensation fund can only be offered under three conditions: the injury must be the result of an assault, a police report
must be filed within a certain timeframe, and the victim must not have been part of illegal activity, such as a drug deal gone
Advocates for the CVC are bound by the court to report any allegations of child abuse. Otherwise, the victim can remain
anonymous if they choose.
The CVC holds several fundraising events to educate the community, find volunteers, and collect donations. April is “Victim
Awareness Month” and magnetic teal ribbons are sold to the community and handed out to law enforcement.
Every September, the CVC’s largest fundraiser, Rally Through the Valley, takes place. Motorcyclists from all over the area
show their support by starting a 60-mile road-ride at Nazareth Borough Park and ending the trip at Emmaus Community Park.
This year marked the 18th year of the event.
There are also seasonal plant sales with poinsettias sold during the winter and a wide variety of spring flowers in the
warmer months. Hundreds of roses are donated to the CVC. The council groups the roses by the dozen, wraps them in
cellophane, and ties school-color ribbons around the bouquet to be sold at graduation ceremonies for local colleges and
universities. People can call ahead and have a special message written on a card to accompany the bouquet and stop by the
CVC stand to pick up their personalized gift on graduation day.
“People buy these flowers as seasonal gifts anyway,” Rieser said. “By purchasing them from us, the community is also
helping our organization.”
The CVC owns a plot of land called Memorial Tree Grove near Cedar Crest College, where trees have been planted to
honor deceased victims. The council added a paved walkway that leads to a pavilion. Pavers can now be purchased and
engraved in honor of more victims.
“If you think of something bad happening to you as a drop of water in a pool, that small drop is going to affect that entire
pool of water,” Rieser said. “It’s going to create that entire body of water to ripple out. Not only is the victim a victim, but
everyone around them is, too.
“I love what our organization does for victims of violence, but I’ve never wanted to be out of a job more than this one. I
wish it didn’t have to exist.”
Anyone who needs help from the CVC can stop by one of its two PFA offices. Its main office is on the third floor of
Lehigh Valley Courthouse at 455 Hamilton St. in Allentown, and its other location is at Northampton County Courthouse,
669 Washington St. in Easton, on the lower-level Room L113. Advocates are available for face-to- face counseling.
CVC also operates a 24-hour Victim Hotline at 610-437- 6611. All calls are anonymous and confidential.