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'When Survivors Speak, Change Happens': Crime Victims Convene On Capitol, Push For Funding And More Services

Editor's note: This article contains a description of domestic violence incident that some may find disturbing.

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) -- Turning pain into purpose is what hundreds of crime victims say they're doing this week as they convene at the California state capitol.

They came with a clarion call: "I'm a survivor!" yelled one woman as she walked out of a bus outside the Sacramento Convention Center.

She came with dozens from all over the U.S.

"When survivors speak, change happens," they chanted in unison as they arrived at the Survivors Speak California conference, the nation's largest annual gathering of crime victims.

"My daughter was killed in 2018 and my grandson was brutally murdered," another woman from Texas announced.

Yolanda Carter from Chicago says someone she loved nearly beat her to death with a hammer while her son watched.

"I've already had 13 reconstructive surgeries. I lost my left eye. I had to get my mouth wired. I couldn't eat for six months," Carter said.

She's one of the hundreds of crime victims and their families hoping their voice can change hearts and history.

"It's been seven years since my son was killed, but I've been blessed and favored 'cause what was a tragedy, God turned it into my purpose," said Yvonne Trist.

Stephanie Hatten's son was shot and killed by police. She saw the impact to his entire family, especially the children. That's why she started "Bolda Bridges" in Stockton.

"We need funding, we need some laws changed. SB-299 would certainly help," Hatten said.

Hatten says they are overwhelmed when it comes to trauma recovery.

"We're answering phone calls to murder scenes. We're bringing in impacted families; we're counseling," said Hatten. "I have a trauma-informed licensed therapist who is on call free of charge so that these mothers can focus on burying their children."

After her daughter was murdered, Beatriz Barajas founded a support group for mothers who lost children due to gun violence.

"It's important to the people that they know we don't forget. They are not here, but we are their voices," Barajas said.

They are asking lawmakers for more trauma recovery services, more victims' compensation funding, community-based reentry programs to reduce recidivism, and treatment and diversion programs for mental illness and addiction.

Left with one eye and a metal plate in her skull, Carter sees the role she can play to stop domestic violence.

"It's important to let them know they are not alone and they do have options and they can get out of a situation because now I'm not only a survivor, I'm a thriver," she said.

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