Anneke Benedictus, a child-abuse survivor, spoke to the gathering at Calipatria State Prison on April 5.

By Lt. Everardo Silva, AA/PIO
Calipatria State Prison

Calipatria State Prison recently held its annual National Crime Victims’ Rights Memorial Ceremony. This year’s theme – Strength, Resilience, Justice – was echoed by Anneke Benedictus, a child survivor of domestic violence.

Benedictus, who is now 18 years old, told the crowd of staff and honored guests how her childhood descended into a nightmare after her father moved the family out of state in order to quiet the abuse the family faced, which included physical, emotional and mental abuse.

High school struden Alexa Pankratz sang the National Anthem at the victims’ rights week event at the prison.

Despite her mother’s divorce from her father, the abuse continued until she asked her mother to go back to court and ask for full custody.

“There comes a time when you can’t take it anymore and you need to get away,” she said.

“When you look at me, I want you to see a survivor and the hope of a bright future. Domestic violence is a part of my family’s story and a part of my story, but it isn’t my destiny,” said Benedictus.

Warden Warren L. Montgomery addressed the staff and honored guests.

“National Crime Victims’ Week is an opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to ensure they never walk alone as they transition from victim to survivor.  In that regard, we walk side by side with them,” Warden Montgomery said.

Community Resource Manager Claudia Saldaña told guests, “The theme reflects a vision for the future in which all victims are strengthened by the response to challenges and healing which emphasizes the role of the entire community, individually and collectively, as we support victims of crime and empower them to direct their own recovery.”

Donald Wharton, with the Brawley City Council, said, “This year’s theme recalls the core idea of the victim’s rights movement-justice for victims, is justice for all.”

The ceremony also featured the introduction of Benedictus by Yulil Alonzo-Garza, President and founder of Mothers & Men Against Gangs Coalition, the posting of colors by the Calipatria State Prison’s Honor Guard, the singing of the National Anthem by Alexia J. Pankratz a student at Calipatria High School and the playing of taps by Correctional Sgt. Robert Silvas.

Warden Warren L. Montgomery spoke to the crowd.