An Alabama city has been named the seventh best place to live in the U.S. (Contributed photo/Anivron)
Talk about making a debut splash…
In its first year to be included in the list, Huntsville was named the seventh best place to live in America by U.S. News and World Report. Huntsville finished ahead of such cities as Nashville, Raleigh/Durham, North Carolina and Dallas.
The list evaluates the country’s 125th most-populated metropolitan areas based on factors such as affordability, job prospects and quality of life. The rankings also factored in data from the Census Bureau, Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
"Making its first appearance in the Best Places to Live ranking, Huntsville is the smallest metro area in the top 10," US News reported. "This northern Alabama metro area is the most affordable place to live out of the 125 largest metro areas in the U.S. and offers a flourishing job market, with many local companies focused on science, technology, engineering and math."
The top 25 are:
Austin, Texas Colorado Springs, Colorado Denver Des Moines, Iowa Fayetteville, Arkansas Portland, Oregon Huntsville Washington, D.C. Minneapolis/St. Paul Seattle Nashville, Tennessee Grand Rapids, Michigan Raleigh and Durham, North Carolina San Antonio, Texas Salt Lake City Madison, Wisconsin San Jose, California Dallas Fort Worth San Francisco Lexington/Fayette, Kentucky Charlotte, North Carolina Boise, Idaho Asheville, North Carolina Boston
Sexual assault survivor talks #MeToo, #TimesUp at north Alabama crime victims event
The plan was to go home and pretend nothing happened. The shame would have kept her silent, but Alexis Barton chose to use her voice. She decided to speak out as a sexual assault survivor.
"I didn’t believe rape happened to good girls from good families with good manners and good educations," Barton said. "What happened to me on Nov. 9, 2003 changed all that."
Barton said she was a student at the University of Alabama at Birmingham when she was raped in her car. She said she was at an off-campus party when she met up with a man she considered a friend. He was a smart, polite community servant, she said.
"I thought he was harmless," Barton said. "I had no indication he could present a danger."
Barton’s case was never prosecuted, and she chose not to sue. But that didn’t keep her from speaking out.
Barton told her story of surviving sexual assault at the National Crime Victims’ Rights Week breakfast event in Huntsville on Tuesday. She was the recipient of the 2018 Distinguished Survivor Award. The event was hosted by Crisis Services of North Alabama along with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Alabama and the Madison County District Attorney’s Office.
Barton is a Brewton, Alabama native. A marketing manager for the University of Alabama, she’s also a freelance journalist living in Birmingham. Barton is a member of the Junior League of Birmingham and serves on the board of directors of One Place Metro Alabama Family Justice Center.
After her assault, Barton said, she told a friend who convinced her to report it to police. Within hours, Barton was being treated at the Crisis Center in Birmingham. At Tuesday’s event, she thanked those who work in the victims services field.
"What they do matters," Barton told AL.com. "Jobs like theirs take very special people. They are ready to help you in a way that preserves your dignity. We never forget them."
Barton spoke out about her sexual assault long before the #MeToo Movement swept the world with stories about powerful men like Harvey Weinstein. But, back then it was taboo, she said. Today, survivors and victims are emboldened–telling their stories and letting the world know #TimesUp, she said.
What Barton hopes people realize through the movement — a reckoning with sexual assault and rape culture — is that not all victims are the same, but they deserve to be believed.
"Not all survivors look like me," she said. "This goes far beyond race, gender, sexual preference, political identity or sexual identity. It can happen to anyone. But, none of us deserves to be raped."
U.S. Attorney Jay Town and Madison County District Attorney Rob Broussard also spoke at Tuesday’s event. In interviews with AL.com, they praised the event as a celebration of those victims who become survivors.
It’s because of resources like Crisis Services providing support and counseling that victims have the power to become survivors, Town said.
Broussard said the event was a reminder of the critical role victim service officers fill in the criminal justice system. Aside from counseling, health care and other critical needs, victims services workers also support victims as they navigate the legal system.
"This is a reminder of how essential victim services officers are," Broussard said. "There would be no way possible for prosecutors to meet those needs alone."
Town also spoke about the importance of successful prosecution in violent crimes cases.
"Victims of crime are encouraged to come forward when they see successful prosecution," Town said. "It emboldens them to come forward rather than thinking nothing is going to happen."
Recognizing those who serve
In addition to Barton being awarded the 2018 Distinguished Survivor title, victims advocates around north Alabama were recognized at the event:
2018 Victims’ Advocate: Veleda Davis
2018 State Prosecutor: Angie Hamilton
2018 Law Enforcement: ATF
Ahmad Johnson, 19, stands trial for the Jan. 5, 2016 shooting death of Mike Gilotti outside his Lake Cyrus home (Ivana Hrynkiw | firstname.lastname@example.org)