HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — Dauphin County officials gathered Friday at the county courthouse to honor and remember victims of crime and highlight the resources available for them.

The Victim Witness Assistance Program organized the event. They help victims and their family members navigate the criminal justice system by pairing them with advocates who walk with them through the process of seeking justice.

“It’s important to have an advocate there with you who understands the workings of the system, who knows what each step in that process looks like and to be a shoulder a cry on, to air the frustrations, to make sure that when you have something to say, that it’s heard by the people who need to hear it,” assistant director David Zayas said.

Kenneth Martin, a family member of a victim, spoke at the rally. Martin’s mother was murdered in 2019, and he talked about how the family’s victim advocate helped them.

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“Having the advocate as in Cory, she actually prepped us for a lot of things that you would hear. She was letting us know that the process isn’t one like on TV where it’s open and shut,” Martin said.

County officials and survivors of crime came together to plant seeds in pots to be placed at the courthouse around the base of the light placed to honor crime victims.

Zayas said it is a physical representation of a metaphor victim advocates often use with victims. They talk about planting seeds during a dark time which grow into a brighter future.

“When you’ve experienced a tragedy all of a sudden, it can feel like there’s nothing left in your future, in your life, so the most important part of what we do is planting those seeds of encouragement, of hope,” he said.

Martin said his family’s victim advocate was a “rock” for everyone.

“It was a difficult time for all of us, so having Cory there as our advocate, times where my brother or my sister, we couldn’t talk to each other because we’re all going through the same hurt, we could reach out to Cory,” he said.

This is the first time officials have been able to hold this rally in person in two years. With the criminal justice system coming under a lot of scrutiny, they wanted to spotlight survivors, whom they said are not always part of those conversations.