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Planting to help crime victims heal
Seeds of Hope event hosted in honor of National Crime Victims Week
Shelby Durden, right, looks for a packet of flower seeds for Heather Porras at the conclusion of the National Crime Victims’ Week event on Friday. The seeds represented “seeds of hope.” - photo by Tom Reed

Since ancient times, people have been planting certain seeds to purify and restore balance to devastated lands.

The practice has been used in places like Chernobyl and Fukushima to absorb toxic radiation from nuclear meltdowns.

Now, the same practice has sprouted an idea to restore hope and heal victims of crime in Hall County.

In honor of National Crime Victims’ Week, the Hall County Solicitor’s Office and the Hall County District Attorney’s Office held an event called “Seeds of Hope” on Friday morning on Gainesville’s downtown square.

Participants were given flower seeds to plant in their gardens to honor crime victims. The flowers will symbolize the healing process victims go through and to show how they, too, can bloom.

“I think it’s beautiful,” said Rebecca Davis, executive director of Children Center for Hope and Healing. “It takes the toxicity out of the soil and gives bloom. As an agency that gives therapy we feel like that’s what we do. We feel that sexual abuse has constant pain associated with it. It’s something that is toxic in people’s lives.”

Davis said people don’t realize how many victims of crimes there are or how many of them are children. She said her office alone helped 1,600 people last year.

“It’s huge. These people they don’t broadcast, ‘Hey, this happened to me,’ so they’re invisible. People think they’re not there. And yet these people are walking around suffering. They’re walking wounded,” Davis said.

Solicitor General Stephanie Woodward said her office sees a lot more crime victims than they used to. She said that until “surprising recently,” victims have little rights in the court systems. For instance, victims did not have the right to be notified when their attacker was released from custody or were given the right to be present during the court proceedings.

Today, victims have more rights, including the ability to speak with the judge about how the crime has affected their lives.

“The truth of the matter is that what happens in court doesn’t make people whole,” Woodard said. “They’ve been affected, and we’re just changing the focus from the shame and stigma because of something that has been done to you. You don’t need to hide, you need to focus on the future because you will be balanced and restored. It’s really separate from the punishment portion.”

In addition to giving out seed packets, Hall County District Attorney Lee Darragh presented Flowery Branch Police Chief Gerald Lanich with the Service to Victims award.

Lanich said everyone who works with victims deserves such an award, and that caring for victims is the job of law enforcement officers.

“I don’t think you forget any of them. They stay with you forever. They surely do,” Lanich said.

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