Updated Fri, Apr 11, 2014 2:34 pm
The Meigs County Victim Assistance Program is recognizing National Crime Victims’ Rights Week with a new tradition.
They asked local churches and schools to donate shoes for a parking lot display that runs along the Ohio River in Pomeroy, Ohio. Each of the 679 shoes represents a victim of a Meigs County crime in 2013.
“This is a tough walk for the victims and I think the shoes represent that,” said Theda Petrasko, director of the Meigs County Victim Assistance Office. “Not just what they go through at the time that this happens, but what they continue to go through. The more horrific it is, the harder and longer that that walk is.”
The display, which will be up from April 6-12, runs for about 1000 feet. Each shoe has a tag that begins with "I am a victim of" and is followed by the crime, such as kidnapping, domestic violence, endangering children, theft, and rape.
One of the shoes was donated by former National Association of Victims Assistant president, Rhonda Barner. The tag placed on that shoe said “I was a victim of someone abusing drugs.” The Meigs County Victim Assistance Program reports that drugs were an underlying factor of more than 90 percent of the cases on display.
“Many of these shoes represent a domestic violence situation generated by either alcohol or drug abuse or by people trying to get cash so they can feed their drugs,” said Meigs County prosecuting attorney Colleen Williams.
The victims display is creating an impact. One local bar owner, Charlie Geary, called it eye opening.
"Every night, I sit upstairs and look out the window and I can't believe the people that come by get out of their cars and they'll look at each and every shoe,” he said. “And it ranges from little babies up to adults that these crimes have taken place. Rapes and murders and god only knows what else."
Christina Will and her 2-year-old daughter were taking a walk when they stopped by the display to pay respect to the victims.
"It is so heartbreaking that there's been 679 victims in the small Meigs county area,” she expressed. “It’s important for us to remember and recognize that there is crime and we need to do something about it. That could be my daughter you know."
Many donated shoes that were considered nice, every day wear were given to a local community service. Along with the shoe display is a clothesline project, in which artistic, therapeutic t-shirts made by individuals who have had crimes committed against them are hung on clotheslines above the shoes.
The Victims Assistance Program is pleased with the impact of the display and will put it up again next year. Their hope is that there will be less shoes.
"It really brings home how many different people we've had to serve through our office,” Williams said. “It just kind of indicates how many different things have gone through that people are a victim of and how we're trying to bring some justice back to them and also get them if any way possible back to where they had been before the crime had occurred."