GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - "Justice isn't served, until crime victims are heard".
That was the primary message at a candlelight ceremony honoring the rights of crime victims Friday morning.
The ceremony at First Baptist Church in Gulfport included crime victims, law enforcers and representatives of various social service agencies.
"To victims and survivors of crime, justice simply means that they are treated with respect, that they are listened to, and actually heard. And that they will have a voice in vital decisions that are made related to their cases, as well as to their lives," said Karla Tye, executive director of the Children Advocacy Centers.
Autumn Bolden-Smith shared a message through music. Her young life was interrupted by violent crime at age 11, when she was sexually assaulted.
Bolden-Smith told the crowd her recovery is ongoing, but that she was able to discover her purpose by returning to church.
"And I began to pray, and worship, and sing again because that took my voice away. I was silent for a long time, so I didn't want to sing anymore," Bolden-Smith said. "I didn't want to be Autumn anymore."
The district attorney encouraged those in attendance to face the challenge of standing up for victims of crime, and hear their voices.
"In the criminal justice system, and in society in general, the voice of crime victims and the voice of children can be drowned out. By the rights of others, by the voice of others, who are involved in that same system," added Bolden-Smith.
The family of 25-year-old Xavier Monroe came forward to light candles on behalf of crime victims. His life was cut short nearly three years ago when he was shot to death in Gulfport.
"We're holding up pretty good, somewhat. You know. We just pray a lot and ask the Lord to show us a way. And with that, we do pretty good," said Eula Monroe Walker, Xavier's mother.
Two awards were presented by District Attorney, Joel Smith. Sgt. Joe Sturm of the Harrison County sheriff's department was honored for his law enforcement work and Tye was presented the community service award.
"Justice isn't served until victim's rights and services are not just celebrated annually, but practiced daily," said Tye.