Serving Victims of Crime

April 25, 2013

The following post appears courtesy of Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Justice Programs Mary Lou Leary.

This week I was thrilled to join Attorney General Eric Holder, Acting Associate Attorney General Tony West and Rep. Ron Barber of Arizona to honor 13 remarkable people and organizations for their outstanding work to support crime victims and advance victim services. Everyone in this group of people has had an extraordinary impact on the victim services field – and on the individual victims they serve.

From a mother who lost her son to violence and made it her mission to ensure young people speak out and do the right thing, to victim advocates who worked to create and pass legislation assisting survivors of sexual assault, to individuals who developed and implemented new technologies, resources and training programs to help to lessen the physical, emotional, and financial impact of crime.

Much of my career has been spent working with and on behalf of victims, yet I continue to be struck by the level of energy and dedication victim advocates show in their work. The late hours, the endless stream of new ideas about how to better serve victims, the way they allow their work to become their lives. It’s a kind of passion you don’t come across every day.

This passion and commitment should not only be celebrated, it must also be supported. Our Office for Victims of Crime (OVC), under the leadership of Joye Frost, is working hard every day to make sure that victim service providers have the resources they need to do their jobs. The theme of this year’s National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, “New Challenges. New Solutions.” reflects that the landscape of crime and victimization is changing. Crime has become more globalized, more mechanized, and – in cases like human trafficking and cybercrime – more difficult to detect. There’s also that most fundamental challenge, reaching the many victims who need help. According to our own Bureau of Justice Statistics, almost half of violent crime victims never report to police.

But our theme also suggests there are solutions to these challenges, and today we took a giant step towards putting some of them in place.

Yesterday Joye and I joined Senator Patrick Leahy on Capitol Hill to discuss Vision 21, which caps three years of fact-finding, intensive exploration and hard work by OVC and its partners to create a comprehensive plan to meet emerging challenges for the crime victims field, as well as those enduring challenges that have always been part of our work. Vision 21 identifies ways we can expand our capabilities and use technology and research to improve our response. It will make the field stronger and re-define the role of victim services in the 21st century.

The determined spirit behind the work of victim advocates and the remarkable men and women we celebrate today has brought about profound changes in our nation’s approach to crime and justice. I am proud of the work that’s been accomplished and I am proud of the role the Department of Justice has played in that work.

See the Vision 21 framework here www.ovc.gov/vision21 and get to know the 2013 National Crime Victims’ Rights Week award recipients here: http://ovcncvrw.ncjrs.gov/Awards/AwardGallery/gallerysearch.html.