Elbert County prosecutor Brian Sugioka shed tears when he recalled the woman who endured 20 years of abuse before her case was brought to justice.
He was awed when a group of ranchers swallowed their pride to help county officials prosecute a rancher who for years harassed his neighbors.
And he joins the staff of the Elbert County victim assistance program as they humbly watch Jamie Dolin walk through the paces of the judicial system while her husband faces charges in the shaking death of her infant daughter.
Dolin was among the victims recognized April 28, at a victim’s rights week event hosted by the sheriff’s office victim assistance program at the Elbert County fairgrounds. Dolin delivered the keynote speech, sharing the story about the death of her 5-month-0ld baby Marlayna, to raise awareness about shaken baby syndrome.
Victim’s advocates hope her story helps raise awareness about victim’s rights and the services offered at the sheriff’s office.
“This young lady is the strongest young lady I know,” said Sunni Ward, Elbert County victim’s advocate. “I’m honored to give her a platform for Marlayna.”
Ward heads the sheriff’s division that is the first point of contact for victims of crimes in Elbert County. The victim assistance program provides referral and support services to crime victims throughout the county, which in 2011 amounted to 468 primary and secondary victims, according to the sheriff’s office.
About 20 percent of those victims were victims of cases involving crimes against children, including child abuse, sex assault or sexual exploitation of a child, said Sheriff Shayne Heap. The county statistics show that 46 percent of all victims served by the program in 2011 were either victims of child abuse or domestic violence, Heap said.
The psychological impact on and reaction of a domestic violence victim is hard to grasp, Sugioka said. In the case of the woman who went 20 years before reporting her abuser, successful prosecution of the case was thanks to the family photo album, which chronicled the extent of her abuse.
The jury could not argue with two decades of photographic evidence, Sugioka said. Sugioka commends the efforts in Elbert County to protect victims and bring cases to successful prosecution.
“If victims are unwilling to come forward, offenders get away with (the crime),” Sugioka said. “It’s important to send the message to victims ‘we are going to protect you.’”