National Crime Victim's week is being observed in Montana with gatherings hosted by Attorney General Tim Fox, including several victims who told their stories before government officials and social workers on the sixth floor of the Garlington, Lohn and Robinson building on Thursday.

Fox said the opportunity to hear stories from victims in their own words is invaluable when crafting policies that will help put criminals behind bars.

"We're here in this forum in Missoula to hear from the victims themselves," Fox said. "As you might imagine, there will be some folks here who lived through very difficult circumstances that they still may be living through.You really have to honor those who are willing to come forward and share their experiences."

To maintain the privacy of the victims who shared their stories, no names or photos were recorded.

Two women who were attacked and abused by the same man in Ravalli County shared their stories of continual abuse. One sustained permanent brain injuries from her attacker, and for several years, waited for the courts to place her attacker behind bars. Another woman who sat rocking back and forth told the story of her ex-husband, who physically and psychologically abused her and her children. She could not speak unless her daughter was there to comfort and support her.

One more victim told of a man who stalked her and her family for over three years, and, with he help of at that time deputy county attorney Kirsten Pabst, was able to confront her stalker and see him prosecuted and convicted.

Pabst said as the Missoula County Attorney, she has greatly expanded services to crime victims.

"The victims of crime are the reason why we do what we do," Pabst said. "We have a Special Victims Unit and we've gone from what was historically a one-person job to a unit with seven and a half full-time employees doing nothing but working with victims of crime."

Also in attendance, hearing at times blistering criticism over how slow and cumbersome the criminal justice system moved in their cases, were Missoula Police Chief Mike Brady, police Captain Mike Colyer, and other representatives from the sheriff's and county attorney's office.