COLUMBUS, Ohio — More than 100 crime survivors and families of killed loved ones from across Ohio rallied at the statehouse Wednesday for Survivors Speak Ohio. The annual event, hosted by Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice, is to ask for legislation to help support victims.
Pictures of sons, daughters, mothers and fathers were held tightly by their family members. Names were yelled out in honor. Songs were sung to remember the victims of crimes in Ohio.
"Our voices are our power and we change policies," Lavina Bryant, a survivor, said.
Lavina Bryant and many other crime survivors and family members of victims spent the day encouraging lawmakers to address trauma, tackle the root causes of crime and prioritize rehabilitation.
Rukiye Abdul-Mutakallim lost her son, Suliman Ahmed Abdul-Mutakallim, to gun violence in 2015, and has fought for greater protections for victims ever since.
"If we do not step up and save our future, we have no future," she said. "Do not let this cycle of crime continue, because the repeat of this cycle of trauma only gives us more cycle of crime, and we are now at pandemic levels."
There were 170 homicides in Cleveland in 2021, Cleveland police reported. That makes the year one of the deadliest in the past few decades.
"Do you know the next level you have—any idea, any of you?" Abdul-Mutakallim asked. "It is called a sudden tsunami — A tsunami is the next, and what are you waiting for? For all of our children to fall to this man made disease of trauma that we can control? That we can eradicate? I will not stand for it. I shall not stand for it."
Bryant and Abdul-Mutakallim are fighting for additional funding for the state's trauma recovery centers, housing and employment protections after a crime occurs and rehabilitation for those convicted of crimes.
A few legislators on each side attended the event, saying they will work together to help vulnerable communities.
"Just by hearing your stories, we know there is more to do," state Sen. Stephanie Kunze (R-Hilliard) said.
State Sen. Cecil Thomas (D-Avondale) and Assistant Minority Leader Sen. Nickie Antonio (D-Lakewood) also spoke.
"I promise you, as long as I'm in the legislature, I will do everything I can to carry this message forward," Thomas said.
More Ohioans died from firearms in 2021 than any year on record for which is available online, according to the Ohio Department of Health.
In 2021, although the data is considered partially done and may be incomplete, at least 1,823 people were killed involving guns. All of these victims left behind their families.
The day wasn't just about gun violence, but also other crimes like domestic abuse and assault.
"It is important that we are being heard," Bryant said.
Many survivors of crimes deal with trauma but legislation geared towards public safety could make their days even the slightest bit easier, she added.
More than 100 crime survivors and families from across Ohio are rallying at the Statehouse for Survivors Speak Ohio.— Morgan Trau (@MorganTrau) March 16, 2022
This is an annual event hosted by Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice. The group is asking for legislation to help support victims. @WEWS pic.twitter.com/NtbG0JPRwn