On Friday afternoon, District Attorney Ann Bramsen, County Supervisor Janet Wolf, and County Sheriff Bill Brown came together in the Santa Barbara courthouse’s scenic Sunken Gardens to honor local crime survivors and victim advocates for their outstanding efforts on behalf of crime victims. The event was held in observance of National Crime Victim’s Rights Week (NCVRW), which was established in 1975 to draw attention to the persistent need for private and public efforts that strengthen crime victims’ rights and reduce criminal activity. Last week in Washington D.C., the Attorney General and the Office for Victims of Crime presided over the NCVRW’s service award ceremony, which preludes local events.
“This year’s theme, ‘Crime Victims: Fairness, Dignity, and Respect,’ reminds us of the core rights crime victims want — to be treated fairly with dignity and respect,” said DA Bramsen. “And the District Attorney’s office is dedicated to upholding [these rights].”
Supervisor Janet Wolf presented the Citizen of Courage Award, which recognizes individuals who have shown resilience in the aftermath of a crime, to Susan and Jeff Markowitz, the parents of 15-year-old Nicholas who, in August of 2000, was kidnapped, murdered, and buried in the Santa Barbara hills. The Markowitzes embarked on a tireless five-year search for their son’s accused killer, Jesse James Hollywood, who was finally convicted along with four other men in 2009. “I never dreamt of receiving a Citizen of Courage award…I always thought it would be a mother of the year award,” said Susan Markowitz in her acceptance speech. “We don’t always know why we’re taken down a certain journey, but it’s for a reason,” she later added, as she accepted a hug from a fellow awardee. The Markowitz’s story inspired the 2006 Universal Pictures film Alpha Dog and continues to be told by the pair who, in their own words, “hope to transform this tragedy into a lesson.”
The Citizen of Courage Award also went to 84-year-old Barbara Lee Lomas who in 2007 was bound, beaten, and robbed at gunpoint in her Lompoc residence. Ms. Lomas’s close friend of 22 years, Karen Eimi, spoke on behalf of the victim, who has suffered health issues as a result of the incident. “Barbara is a godly woman…the two men bound her limbs with duct tape and covered her eyes with [it]…she would tell the men ‘Jesus loves you and so do I’…they punched her in the face each time she opened her mouth.” Today, Lomas remains an active part of her community and keeps up her 35-year gig as a hairdresser. “Who will do the ladies’ hair if I retire?” she tells friends. Her loyal clients don’t mind sitting on the floor while the wheel-chair bound Lomas does their hair, says Eimi.
The Victim Service Award was given to the Santa Barbara Rape Crisis Center’s Executive Director of 13 years, Elsa Granados, who was not able to attend the event.
Cozetta Blow, a victim advocate at the Lompoc Police Department in partnership with the North County Rape Crisis and Child Protection Center, also received the Victim Service Award. Appropriately nicknamed “Cozy,” Blow punctuates her speech with her warm, hearty laugh and is known for her compassionate approach in assisting the most vulnerable and reluctant victims of her community. “I’m a ‘do with’ advocate, not a ‘do for’ advocate. If you are doing everything for victims, you are helping them stay victims,” she explains. “Sometimes I need to take mental health days to grieve for my victims, but my girlfriend always tells me, ‘you have this amount of time in bed and then you have to put on your big girl panties and go on.’ That’s what I tell my victims: you grieve and then you push on.”