Sitting in the hot sun in front of the state Capitol building Tuesday, Stockton resident Tashante McCoy-Ham gently placed her fingers on near her wrist as she spoke.
The small patch of skin bore a tattoo of heart donning a pair of angel wings. In the middle of the piece, an elegant letter “T” was inscribed onto her skin.
The tattoo was a tribute to her brother, 31-year-old Terri Lynn McCoy, who died in a Stockton double homicide in 2012. She said the shooting left her and her family seeking to make sense of the death while receiving little support from their neighbors, church groups or local police.
“No one came to provide mental health services or just to check on us,” McCoy-Ham said. “There’s no follow-up.”
She was one of the speakers at the Survivors Speak event held in honor of National Crime Victims’ Rights week. The event was hosted by the Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice, a statewide organization that pushes for more rehabilitation efforts in the corrections system rather than focusing on tough sentences. The group’s founder was a co-author of Proposition 47, the controversial 2014 initiative that downgraded a variety of drug and theft crimes from felonies to misdemeanors.
“Diverse crime survivors of all walks of life prefer a balanced approached to public safety, prefer an approach that focuses on prevention and rehabilitation, as well as the traditional accountability approach,” said Lenore Anderson, a co-founder of Californians for Safety and Justice.
The event is intended to give crime victims a chance to share their stories, heal and make change within their communities, said Christi Ketchum, the Sacramento lead for Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice, a network for victims operating under the larger statewide group.
Attendees gathered at Cesar Chavez Plaza before marching to the Capitol. Many held posters and photographs of loved ones who lost their lives to violence.
The mothers of 17-year-old Jaulon “J.J.” Clavo and 19-year-old Deston Garrett, two Sacramento teens who were killed in separate high-profile shootings, also participated in Tuesday’s event.
“This is healing for us,” said Garrett’s mother, Tanya Garrett. “All of these people, in one way or another, is a survivor.”
Crime survivors like McCoy-Ham and politicians from around the state who support reforms to the criminal justice system also spoke at the event. Musicians took over the main stage, as families and friends gathered around coloring and poem-writing stations that dotted the Capitol grounds.
“We choose to be a victim or a survivor, it’s our choice,” said Nicole Clavo, Jaulon’s mother. “I chose to be a survivor.”