SALINAS, Calif. - "They lost their rights and who is gonna speak for them? Their voices cannot be heard from the grave," said Debbie Aguilar of A Time for Grieving and Healing.
Thousands of family members who've lost loved ones to violent crime are getting ready to speak up in Sacramento on Tuesday. On average, five people are murdered everyday in California. That's according to recent information from California Attorney General Kamala Harris. Because of statistics like that, local survivors of violent crime victims plan to push for more help from lawmakers.
On Monday night we found out what these survivors are asking for during this week's march. We sat down with Aguilar, who said she plans to make sure those new families who've lost loved ones, get the help they need.
"We are just so much more powerful when the voices are more than one mother, father, aunts, brothers, sisters," Aguilar said.
Aguilar is the face of a local group called A Time for Grieving and Healing which advocates for survivors of violent crimes in Monterey County. Every time she goes to Sacramento, she takes a new batch of grieving family members with her, because she said there's never a shortage of people who've lost a loved one to violent crime. Her own son Stephen was shot and killed in 2002.
"Seeing my son's photo enlarged and displayed with thousands of others, is bittersweet," Aguilar said.
On Tuesday, Aguilar will take almost 60 people to the state capital to ask for more help from the California Victim Compensation Program. The program states it works to help thousands of victims and family members every year, spending millions covering medical expenses, mental health treatment and relocation costs for those who ask for help. Aguilar said there's always more to be done and she regularly checks in with other cities to see what they're doing to combat violent crime.
"How they became effective, so that we can bring them back home," Aguilar said.
For Aguilar, marching on the steps of the capital is also a networking experience, to connect families with other resources around the state.
"You see in the sea of faces that you're not alone," Aguilar said.
Last year, the Attorney General's Office reported that on average 22 people are raped in California every day. It's important to note many violent crimes go unreported.