Victims Rights Ceremony celebrates community, hope


The Merced County District Attorney’s office maintained their annual tradition of presenting the Victim Right’s Ceremony at Courthouse Park on Tuesday. The ceremony, which takes place during National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, is an opportunity for the community to come together in both grief and solidarity.

District Attorney Nicole Silveira began the ceremony by introducing this year’s theme: “How can we help others?”

“It challenges everyone, even those who are outside of law enforcement or advocacy, to find ways to help those who are victims and survivors of crime,” said Silveira. “It is all too unfortunate that we never know when we could be touched by crime, or we could come into contact with someone who has been touched by crime.”
The ceremony was attended by public servants from throughout the county, in addition to the families and friends of those who had been lost to violent crime. The DA’s Victim Witness Assistance Program Manager Crystal Moua spoke on the program’s vision.

“We’re here to advocate for victims rights and to ensure they and their loved ones are treated with fairness and respect throughout the criminal justice process,” said Moua.
An invocation by Pastor Ella Luna-Garza told a biblical story of Jesus being so moved by the grief of the family and community of a man who had passed that he wept.

“Today as we come together, realizing the pain, the aches, the sorrows of our family and our friends, somehow it helps to know that all that is holy, whatever you believe in, weeps with us,” Luna-Garza reflected.
Following the proclamation of Crime Victims’ Rights Week by Merced County Supervisor Josh Pedrozo, speaker Tiffany Apodaca, a co-founder of the non-profit Breaking the Chains, shared how this week had become personal.

“This week is hitting closer to home than we expected at this time. My best friend and co-founder Debra Rush just lost her daughter 30 days ago to a violent crime,” shared Apodaca. “Crime has a profound impact, not just on individuals, but entire communities. It shatters lives, ruptures families, and leaves scars that often linger long after the initial trauma,”

She added: “But amidst the pain and despair, there is also resilience, courage, and hope…we have felt the anguish of loss, the anguish of betrayal, the anguish of injustice, but we have also witnessed the power of solidarity, compassion, and perseverance.”
When time came, families of victims lined up. They shared the names of those they had lost, and placed remembrance cards on the victim tree. It was a solemn demonstration of community, as attendees helped each other by holding branches and comforting one another.

“It brings everybody together so that they can lean on each other, and provide support for each other. It’s something we like to do for the families so that they can feel supported,” reflected Victim Witness Program Manager Moua following the ceremony. “It brings awareness to lost loved ones. … It helps us remember every year that their presence is here, that their life was a beautiful life, and we’re here to honor that.”

MercedMerced CountyThe Merced County District Attorney's Office
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