National Crime Victim Rights week MAM luncheon honored Victim Support Networks within Santa Clara County law enforcement
Mothers’ Against Murder (MAM) is a California registered non-profit organization established in 2003 by Roger Vernon Smith, a local community leader and philanthropist who, tired of hearing about the sufferings of families of murder victims, brought together a celebration honoring survivors of crime and crime victim advocates. He ended the National Crime Victims’ Rights Week with an award ceremony tied into his own experience with friends and family who had experienced the loss of a loved one through violent crime. Smith has begun to bring organizations together in order to help build a stronger, more experienced and proactive victim advocacy group to help families during their time of need.
The Mothers Against Murder (MAM) Executive Director, Margaret Petros said, “I had 20 years experience, starting as a volunteer, advocate, claims specialist, and 18 years as a manager of the SCC Victim Witness Assistance Center.” Some of her main goals throughout the years have been to help the criminal justice system acknowledge the need to help victims of murder and violent crime by strengthening programs to help the victims.
Petros said, “The luncheon event today, and the acknowledgement of those who stand up every day to protect victims’ constitutional rights, to treat them with respect and dignity, is one example of how to bring positive changes to better serve crime victims.”
With April 19-25, 2015 being National Crime Victim Rights week, the luncheon honored victim support networks within Santa Clara County law enforcement agencies and non-profit networks helping victims of violent crime. Petros said, “We must take more time to listen to crime victims/survivors, and those professionals who truly care about bringing justice to so many victims who suffer in silence.”
The main goal of MAM is to provide immediate and compassionate support, to advise with financial resources, press relations, and guidance through the justice system process. “We strive to reduce the pain and suffering of the murder victim’s family,” Petros said. “This is a painful and consuming job, but it’s rewarding to see families get the help they need and years later to see them healed.”
2015 Unsung Hero Awards went to:
South Bay Coalition to End Human Trafficking Coordinator Sharan Dhanoa.
Santa Clara Police Chief Mike Sellers with the Santa Clara County Police Chief’s Association.
Asian Americans for Community Involvement Legal Advocate Cindy Luu.
Morgan Hill Police Department Community Solutions Domestic Violence Detective Mindy Zen.
Mothers’ Against Murder (MAM), Paul J. Bains, who is a Senior Police Chaplin for Palo Alto and East Palo Alto Police Departments.
Santa Clara County Deputy District Attorney, Carolyn Powell.
Santa Clara County Probation Department Victims Service employees, Suzette Sanchez and Irma Lara.
Santa Clara County Sexual Assault Response Team (SART), Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Dominga Villagomez.
Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office Detective Kelvin Mah #2055.
Silicon Valley FACES – Victim Witness Assistance Program, crisis intervention counselor Janet Childs.
U.S. Department of Justice Victim Witness Unit Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Meyer.
YWCA Silicon Valley, Domestic Violence Department Volunteer Sherrill Johnson.
Each Honoree has strived to help victims of violent crimes achieve justice through law enforcement agencies, as well as non-profit and volunteer support groups who help provide grief counseling and support to victims in a thoughtful and caring way.
Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen spoke about how the District Attorney’s Office is focused on providing services for victims. Rosen said, “The fact is, crime victims are anyone who’s lives have been negatively impacted by crime.” The District Attorney’s Office, along with the leadership of D.A. Jeff Rosen, are teaming up to help develop a comprehensive service to help victims of violent crime. With the help of Santa Clara County, two Justice Centers have been opened. The centers, located in the Northern and Southern parts of Santa Clara County, were established to help Domestic Violence Victims get help.
“As we do our jobs, we must never forget to find ways to see the trauma that defines traditional crime victims,” Rosen said. “Let’s always work together to help each other maintain and ignite the energy that we have, like the first day we had on the job.”
The Milpitas Police Department knows all to well the damages that domestic violence can bring to a home. On Tuesday, February 24, a 21-year-old female victim was attacked by her 28-year-old boyfriend, Geronimo Gomez Gutierrez. During an argument Gutierrez struck the female victim while trying to take their daughter from the home.
According to Milpitas Police Lieutenant Raj Maharaj , “Within minutes, Milpitas Police officers arrived on scene and started to search for Gutierrez in the area.” The officers located Gutierrez on the 1300 block of Edsel Drive, who at the time was still holding the knife he had threatened the victim with.
Maharaj said, “Gutierrez refused to comply with the officer’s directives to drop his knife, and Gutierrez was eventually contained to a driveway in the 300 block of Carnegie Drive.” It was then that Gutierrez produced a second knife, and held both to his throat, and threatened to cut his own throat. Taking quick action, a crisis negotiator began to talk to Gutierrez for over an hour about his problems, and how they could help him. Maharaj said, “As negotiations deteriorated, officers implemented a plan to disarm Gutierrez and arrested him.” Gutierrez was apprehended without injury and booked into the Santa Clara County Main Jail on felony domestic abuse charges.
Event photos by Amy Nilson