Community Day Kicks Off Victims' Rights Week in Charlottesville
Parents and children could get DNA and fingerprinting kits, learn how to respond to bullying, and find out tips for home safety and self-defense.
"We got a grant from a national organization that allowed us to provide some of the items for information and giveaway. And the event today is about empowering victims and teaching people how to avoid being victims of crimes," says Denise Lunsford, Commonwealth's Attorney for Albemarle County.
Just outside the Pavilion, the non-profit Help Save the Next Girl hosted a live chalking on the Free Speech Wall of a mural depicting Hannah Graham, a University of Virginia student who was abducted from the Downtown Mall and murdered. Artist Jane Vance sketched out the mural as a way to send a message to the community to take action against violence.
"We are some tens of yards from where Hannah was last seen. So, this is a poignant piece of work to do for save the next girl," says Jane Vance, vice president of Save the Next Girl and local artist.
Volunteers say they're hopeful this mural serves as a reminder of the Charlottesville community's loss.
"To bring a message of responsibility for one another and community involvement and personal safety to this very place," says Gil Harrington of Help Save the Next Girl.
Gil Harrington knows the pain a predator can cause a family. Her 20 year-old daughter, Morgan, was abducted from Charlottesville in 2009 and killed.
Police say a forensic link connects Morgan's case to the suspect in Graham's death in 2014.
"It really is going to bring Hannah back to life and show the Charlottesville people another glimpse of who she was as a person and, you know, her incredible traits that we've heard so much about," says Marissa Tonachio, of Help Save the Next Girl.
Vance and a team of dedicated Help Save the Next Girl volunteers are promoting personal awareness to create a safer society.
"Being aware. Being aware that predators exist and you can't pick them out of a crowd," says Tonachio.
Harrington also emphasizes the importance of a community focused on safety for all.
"And to bring a message of responsibility for one another and community involvement and personal safety to this very place is an important one," says Harrington.
Vance says the work of Help Save the Next Girl is leaving a positive legacy from such a painful loss.
"And for me, personally, starting this on a drizzly day, you know seeing raindrops hit what is Hannah's cheek and her face and seeing her first come to life, there's some mix of incomprehension and outrage that drives me," says Vance.
Many of the college students involved say they feel a connection with Hannah Graham and are aware of the reality that violence does not discriminate and can happen to anyone.