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Battered women's advocate honored at Duluth crime victims' event

Cathryn Curley has devoted 30 years to serving women and children who have been victims of physical, emotional and sexual abuse. She was honored for her work Tuesday as the St. Louis County Attorney's Office hosted a reception acknowledging April...

Cathryn Curley has devoted 30 years to serving women and children who have been victims of physical, emotional and sexual abuse.

She was honored for her work Tuesday as the St. Louis County Attorney's Office hosted a reception acknowledging April 13-19 as Crime Victims' Rights Week in Duluth, as proclaimed by Mayor Don Ness.

Ty Schroyer, St. Louis County victim services director, presented Curley a certificate of appreciation from the county attorney's office for outstanding service on behalf of victims of crime.

"I just know that you've made this community a better place for women, for children, for men, for families,'' Schroyer told Curley, who received two standing ovations from about 50 people in the St. Louis County Boardroom, most of whom work serving victims.

Curley is legal advocacy supervisor for Safe Haven Shelter for Battered Women, which provides 24-hour emergency shelter for battered women and their children. The shelter also provides legal help, transportation to court if needed, support groups and community education, among other services.

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The shelter listens to battered women, believes in them, and helps them heal by giving them the knowledge that they are not to blame for another's violence, Curley said.

"I know I will always be proud and grateful to be a part of the grass-roots group of women that started that shelter,'' Curley said after receiving her award. "Miracles really do happen there. Women finding the courage to come or call in the first place, lives are saved. I think we serve or work with about 1,000 women a year and many women find their way to healing and independence against great odds."

The theme of Crime Victims' Rights Week is "Justice for Victims, Justice for All.''

Ness said the issue of violence against women and children "is near and dear'' to his heart. His mother worked for the battered women's shelter in Duluth for about 20 years and his first job out of college was working for First Witness Child Abuse Resource Center.

Ness said in his proclamation that 23 million Americans are crime victims each year, including 5.2 million victims of violent crime.

"If we're all able to follow through with our commitment to respect and enforce victims' rights, we will gain the respect and the trust of the public that we all serve and, finally, promote confidence in the work that we all do,'' St. Louis County Sheriff Ross Litman told the assembly.

St. Louis County Attorney Melanie Ford said that the Minnesota Crime Victim Reparations Board reported that it provided critical assistance to 1,521 victims of crime in 2007. The board paid out $3.5 million for medical care, counseling services, lost wages and other costs.

Five staff members in the county attorney's office provide services to crime victims. Last year the staff served 2,668 victims of crime in St. Louis County.

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"This week serves to remind us that crime can strike anyone, whether it's a drive-by shooting, a campus rape, arson that leaves people homeless or an auto theft, we're all vulnerable to crime,'' Ford said. "If we do not provide adequate assistance to crime victims recognizing their anguish, pressing for thorough investigation and evidence-gathering, and giving victims the opportunity to participate in the prosecution, plea agreements and sentencing of the crimes, we risk silencing future victims, which may in turn motivate more crime. When we provide justice to victims we are really providing justice to all -- the entire community.''

MARK STODGHILL covers public safety and courts. He can be reached weekdays at (218) 723-5333 or by e-mail at mstodghill@duluthnews.com .

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