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Students Opposing Substances (Guest Blog)

By Stormey Barton, a member of the MADD National Teen Influencer Group

Howdy, I'm Stormey Barton, Founder of Students Opposing Substances (SOS) and a member of the MADD National Teen Influencers. Parents and kids both staying on the same page about alcohol requires effort and commitment. From my own experiences I have seen that it is much more difficult for me to build trust with my parents if they have no idea about where I am, who I'm with, and what I'm up to after school and on the weekends. 

Communicating expectations every day or night before the kid leaves the house is vital. And that is something that was important for me to capture in my program when I was starting SOS. By signing the contract to join SOS, parents and students are able to talk about alcohol and the expectations for drinking are set. SOS has helped me, and over 1,000 other students bring up the white elephant in the room and set clear rules of the house.

For more information about SOS or how to bring SOS to your school, visit our website at www.studentsopposingsubstances.com


Victims Again

It was 9:30 p.m. on November 18, 2011. The traffic light had just turned green as Fran and Steve Granado moved through the intersection in Sierra Vista, Arizona, when their pickup truck was violently hit from behind. The blow caused the backs of their heads to hit the glass in the truck’s rear window, shattering in into pieces.

Fran recalls thinking, “I thought we had been shot at.”

The couple was transported by ambulance to a nearby hospital. Fran suffered trauma to her head and a blow to the left side of her face. Steve, who had to be loaded into his ambulance on a stretcher, had sustained injuries to his neck, lower back and left leg. They were released the next morning with orders to attend physical therapy for their injuries.

The driver who hit Fran and Steve was charged with a DUI the night of the crash. However, Fran and Steve were shocked to find out that the police report indicated the Granados had sustained only minor injuries. Their injuries were much more than “minor.”

After several weeks of physical therapy and no word about the case from authorities, Fran decided to go to the police station to try and get some answers. She was told they could not give her any information because the case was pending a grand jury. Fran periodically checked back and each time was told the same thing. When she asked if she could meet with the police officer in charge of her case, she was denied. They waited to be notified of the court hearing but no word came.

More than a year had passed and Fran and Steve were exhausted from trying to get justice for what happened to them. Their attorney couldn’t get any answers either, and the Granados grew frustrated. They were victims of the crash, and now, as Fran shared, “we were victims of our injuries and victims of neglect [of justice].”

Then, Fran contacted MADD Arizona and spoke with Victim Services Manager Jason Frazier about their case. He tried tirelessly to get justice for the Granados, and was eventually able to find out that the offender in their case had already been to court. She had plea bargained her case and had been sentenced. Their case was closed and could not be reopened. The Granados had been denied their right to appear in court to give their statement to the judge. They were completely left in the dark.

This past November – three years after the crash – the Granados were granted mediation on their case. Fran shared that she is still in disbelief that all this has happened. The offender in their case never showed any remorse for the crash she caused that severely injured the Granados, while Fran and Steve are reminded daily of that night. They both have anxiety. Fran has headaches daily, experiences pain in her shoulders and has difficulty walking for long periods. Steve has not been able to work full time since the crash and no longer drives. He is now seeing a psychologist to help him deal with the trauma of that night.

“We are still struggling with all the emotional damage of that night, even though it cannot be seen,” says Fran.

The couple says that MADD has been the only organization who has been able to shed light on their situation. Steve’s advice to anyone who is a victim of a drunk or drugged driving crash: “Call MADD first.”


This week is National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, a time to recognize those who have been impacted by crime and renew our efforts to make sure these victims receive justice.  This year’s theme, Engaging Communities. Empowering Victims, emphasizes the role of the entire community, individually and collectively, as we support victims of crime and empower them to direct their own recovery.  You can help by becoming a MADD Victim Advocate or by spreading the word about MADD Victim Services.


Looking Back, Looking Forward

From kicking off Power Talk 21® in Houston, Texas...to sharing the stage with the National Football League at two universities in Ohio... to recognizing Law Enforcement at an event in Atlanta, Georgia... to attending in a similar gathering in Long Island, New York... to meeting with government officials in a variety of states... I’ve had a busy and very rewarding few weeks! 


Delanie Walker at Hiram College


It was an honor to get to know Tennessee Titans tight end Delanie Walker as he shared the story of his Aunt Peaches and Uncle Bryan who were killed by a drunk driver shortly after they left the Super Bowl to watch Delanie played. The Hiram College students were definitely impacted. Delanie is truly an authentic MADD family member.



With Juan De La Garza

The National Kick-off event for Power Talk 21, held in Houston, Texas, featured Houston Mayor Annise Parker and MADD volunteer Juan De La Garza, whose sister Alejandra was killed by a drunk driver.  Power Talk 21 is directed at the parents of teenagers to help with the discussion of the dangers of underage drinking.  I met Alejandra’s son (now without a mom) and could only think about what might have been.



Atlanta Law Enforcement Recognition Awards

 
In Atlanta, Georgia, and then in Long Island, New York, hundreds of law enforcement officers were recognized for their efforts in keeping drunk drivers off the roads.  It is their dedication and their constant hard work that gives me great hope that someday drunk driving will be eliminated.



With Texas Speaker of the House Joe Straus

I also had the opportunity to meet with legislators in several states, including Texas Speaker of the House Joe Straus, as MADD continues to work toward laws that will require ignition interlock devices for ALL offenders. As we moved toward passing all-offender IID laws in each state, we will be using the best technology we have in the Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving®.

As I said, it’s been an incredibly busy few weeks, but it has been my honor to meet MADD volunteers and supporters across the country and hear their stories and see their impact. I look forward to meeting many more of you as we continue our work to save lives and serve victims.


New Online Tools for Victims

MADD is one of the largest victim services organizations in the country, working to ensure that victims' rights are maintained, as well as providing support for victims and survivors of drunk and drugged driving. We have more than 1,000 trained victim advocates nationwide, as well as our 24-hour Help Line available to provide victims with the support they need, when they need it most. And we want to serve as many victims as possible...until there are no more victims left to serve.

That’s why this week, in honor of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, we are pleased to announce two new online tools for victims and survivors to find support.

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We just created a new Facebook Group exclusively for victims and survivors of drunk and drugged driving.
The purpose of this new Group is to provide an online forum for victims and survivors to connect, share, and seek support. If you are a victim or survivor of drunk and/or drugged driving, please join our MADD Victim Services Facebook Group by clicking here and asking to join

Please remember this Group is intended only for victims and survivors. If you are not a victim or survivor, we hope you will join us on our Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Facebook page.

We are also proud to announce that we have implemented a new online chat feature on our website, which provides another way for victims of drunk and drugged driving crashes to contact MADD Victim Services when they are in need of assistance. The live chat can be found on the MADD homepage and the Victim Services page and is generally available Monday through Friday, during regular business hours. If for some reason a Victim Services staff member is unavailable, you can leave a message in the chat box and your question will then be emailed and answered by a Victim Services Advocate as soon as they are available to respond.

If you are a victim or survivor, we hope you will take advantage of these new healing tools to connect with other victims and survivors, or if you are in need or support. You can also help us spread the word about these new tools to any victims or survivors you know.


Justice for Taylor

Taylor Pirc was only four years old when she was killed by a repeat drunk driving offender. Taylor and her Grandma were on their way to take food to Taylor’s great-grandmother, who was sick. They were driving through a busy intersection when a car coming from the other direction and swerving from lane to lane turned too soon. He hit the median and came down on the back half of the car where Taylor was sitting. 

After the crash, the drunk driver was convicted, but he immediately appealed. The conviction was overturned due to a technicality and a re-trial was scheduled. The re-trial was declared a mistrial, but an appellate court deemed it was possible to again re-try. Now, close to six years later, it went to trial once again, and he was convicted and sentenced to the maximum punishment of 14 years. 

Throughout all of the court cases, Taylor’s mother Cristy was there for every hearing – even if was just to postpone it until another day. When sentencing came, she was allowed to read her victim impact statement in the courtroom, but other family members were not—they were only allowed to write letters to the judge. Several family members who wanted to speak were never given that opportunity.

On top of the long, drawn-out court case, Cristy and her family were verbally attacked by the defendant’s family in the halls of the courthouse. A re-victimization that no victim should have to go through when trying to get justice for a loved one.

In 2014, Cristy’s state amended its crime victim’s bill of rights to include several changes, including a victim’s right to be heard at any court proceeding involving a post-arraignment release decision, plea or sentencing. They also included a victim’s right to be free from harassment, intimidation and abuse throughout the criminal trial process. 

These two amendments weren’t available to Cristy and her family when they went through the criminal justice process, but their experience highlights just how important these rights are and how vital it is that victims are notified of their rights so that they can exercise them.  Cristy now encourages every victim to educate themselves about what their rights are so that they can make sure their voice is heard. 

MADD Victim Advocates help victims and survivors in a variety of ways, including letting them know what their rights are, advocating on their behalf in the criminal justice process, and attending court with them. If you or a loved one has been impacted by a drunk or drugged driving crash and would like to speak with a MADD Victim Advocate, please call the MADD Help Line at 1-877-623-3435 or 1-877-MADD-HELP to speak with someone right away.


This week is National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, a time to recognize those who have been impacted by crime and renew our efforts to make sure these victims receive justice.  This year’s theme, Engaging Communities. Empowering Victims, emphasizes the role of the entire community, individually and collectively, as we support victims of crime and empower them to direct their own recovery.  You can help by
volunteering as a MADD Victim Advocate or by spreading the word about MADD Victim Services.

 


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