a 501(c)(3) Non-Profit Organization serving Summit County, Ohio

National Crime Victim Rights Week

Rev. Dr. Bob Denton Outstanding Victim Service Award History

In 1981, the Office for Victims of Crime first designated the last week of April to, “challenge the Nation to confront and remove barriers to achieving justice for all victims of crime[1], and to recognize the efforts of dedicated professionals and volunteers who support crime victims throughout the nation.”[2] This week is known across the Country as National Crime Victims’ Rights Week (NCVRW).

In 2014, Victim Assistance Program’s Executive Director, Leanne Graham, created an award to be presented to an individual or organization that symbolizes NCVRW’s objectives. This award was named, The Rev. Dr. Bob Denton Outstanding Victim Service Award as no one greater than Bob, embodies removing barriers and achieving justice for all.

Dr. Denton, the son of the late Rev. Bill and May Denton, learned from his parents the importance of community involvement, giving back, and making a difference in the lives of those in need.  He earned his B.A. in Philosophy and Religion, a M.A. in Theology and a Ph.D. in Social Welfare and is a graduate of the Akron Police Department Academy as a sworn officer.

In 1972, Bob began discussing the overwhelming needs of victims with others in the local criminal justice system.  At the time, services were non-existent for individuals who suffered with the short- and long-term effects of violent crime.

With numerous years of experience in social welfare and social services, Bob and the others sketched their plans for an organization committed to the needs of victims on a napkin. As a result of that momentous meeting, Victim Assistance Program pioneered comprehensive services from the crime scene through the criminal justice system in a unique collaboration between a private social service agency, police, prosecutors, and the courts. To this day, victims and their families are provided these services at no charge and Victim Assistance is a model for subsequent programs across the United States.

In addition to his work locally, in 1974 his academic and firsthand knowledge led to his seat as the founding president of the National Organization for Victim Assistance (NOVA). He then became a member of the NOVA Program Crisis Intervention Team, served as a team lead during 9/11, the Oklahoma City Bombing, the killings at Columbine High School, the Jeffrey Dahmer murders, and he responded to numerous other tragedies and national disasters. His expertise resulted in an appointment to President Ronald Regan’s Victims of Crime Taskforce (1982) which was the impetus of the Federal Victim of Crime Act.  Years later, President Bill Clinton provided Bob and Victim Assistance Program with a national recognition award.

In December of 2012, after serving as founder and Executive Director of Victim Assistance Program for 40 years, Bob stepped down to assume a new leadership role. Bob became the founder and first Executive Director of the Safety Forces Chaplaincy Center. With his wife Marian by his side, Bob committed his later years to incorporate his unique understanding of and experience in the safety professions to provide confidential spiritual, emotional, material, and mental health services free of cost to law enforcement, fire safety, dispatchers, and their families.

Throughout his career, Bob shared his wisdom outside of the non-profit sector within the Sociology Department at the University of Akron. Between 1972 and 2017, Bob continued to teach classes to both undergraduate and graduate students yearning to learn from “the grandfather of victim services.”[3]

Bob officially retired in 2017 and has since enjoyed spending time with his wife Marian. Bob and Marian continue to support the efforts Bob pioneered, not only in our community but across the Country.

Bob’s legacy of victim rights and critical support for those in need is profound. During National Crime Victim Rights Week, the leadership staff of Victim Assistance Program selects an individual or organization that emulates Bob’s decades of passion, commitment, and actions to enhance current services and the rights of victims. This award honors Bob’s legacy and those who continue to expand upon his vision.



[3] Leanne Graham, President & CEO of Victim Assistance Program


2024 Recipient – Stephanie Warsmith

Stephanie Warsmith grew up in Columbus and got her journalism degree at the Ohio State University. She was an intern for the Beacon Journal in the statehouse bureau and was hired as a full-time reporter in September of 1998.

Stephanie started on the night police beat and then moved to covering police during the day. She met Bob Denton when she did a profile on him for the Beacon Journal’s Sunday Magazine, with her work on this story starting her appreciation of victims and the agencies that help them.

Stephanie and photographer Karen Schiely accompanied Denton and another pastor to New Jersey after 9-11, where the pastors counseled first-responders who were assisting with the World Trade Center bombing.

Stephanie left the police beat to cover education and politics/City Hall. She returned to a criminal justice focus in 2016 when she took over the courts beat for retiring reporter Ed Meyer. She reached out to the leaders in Victim Assistance, Battered Women’s Shelter and Rape Crisis Center, and made it one of her goals to write about issues involving these agencies and to keep victims in mind with the stories she wrote.

Over the years, Stephanie wrote about federal funding crunches that negatively impacted the local victim agencies, efforts for the agencies to coordinate, combine, and expand their services, and renovations to the shelter in Medina. Her stories helped to garner community support for the updated Medina shelter, for a new space for children started in domestic court, and to help with a cereal shortage at the Akron shelter.

When Stephanie has written stories about victims, she has made sure to include information about the agencies available to assist them. That includes stories she’s written in the past few years on stalking, sextortion, and, most recently, Ohio’s new strangulation law.

Stephanie recently moved from covering courts to an enterprise/projects beat at the Beacon Journal that will involve her focusing on more long-term and in-depth stories. She plans, though, to make sure her coverage includes issues involving criminal justice and crime victims.

On a personal note, Denton traveled to Columbus to marry Stephanie and her husband Duane in her parent’s backyard because Stephanie’s father had cancer and didn’t have long to live. She is very pleased to win an award that’s in the name of one of her favorite people.

Award Recipients

2024: Akron Beacon Journal Journalist, Stephanie Warsmith

2023: Summit County Domestic Relations Court, Judge Katarina Cook

2022: Summit County Prosecutor’s Office Director of Victim Services, Crystal Baker

2021: Akron Municipal Court, Judge Ron Cable

2020: Hope & Healing Resource Center CEO, Terri Heckman

2019: Cuyahoga Falls Fire Chief, Fred Jackson

2018: School Administrator & Survivor, Pamela Hinton

2017: Ohio State Representative, Emilia Sykes

2016: Summit County Domestic Relations Court, Judge Carol Dezso

2015: Rape Crisis Center’s Director of Services, Dana Zedak

2014: Akron Police Department, Captain Sylvia Trundle

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