Thank you, Laurie [Robinson]. It is an honor, once again, to be part of this annual ceremony. I want to thank you and Joye [Frost] – and your colleagues across the Office of Justice Programs and, especially, the Office for Victims of Crimes – for your work in bringing us all together this evening, and for the contributions that you make every day to bring hope, healing and – above all – justice to crime victims and their families.
I also want to welcome the other Justice Department leaders and partners who are with us – in particular, United States Attorney Ron Machen.
Your commitment to assisting and empowering crime victims is making a difference here in Washington, and across the country.
Thank you all for being here.
For exactly three decades – since National Crime Victims’ Rights Week was established in 1981 – we have set aside these days of reflection as an important opportunity to signal our support for crime victims, to give voice to their suffering, and to light the way toward a hopeful future.
Tonight, as we join together to commemorate this year’s National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, it is clear that we are also bound by our common goals, by our shared concerns, and by our collective resolve to do more to protect those at risk and in need – and to support every person, every family, and every community now struggling to overcome the devastating effects of crime.
Many people in this room understand – all too well – just how critical, and how urgent, this work is. And I’d particularly like to recognize, and welcome, the many courageous survivors who have joined us tonight – along with the distinguished awardees we will be honoring tomorrow afternoon.
Your stories remind us that – although far too much cruelty remains in this world – with strength and support, healing and progress are possible. And each one of you is proof that our continued vigilance against violence and abuse remains essential.
Few understand this as well, or as intimately, as Judy Shepard – our keynote speaker – and her husband Dennis. Thank you both for joining us – and for the extraordinary work that you have done to transform an unspeakable act of violence into a powerful call for change.
The devastating loss of your son Matthew, more than a decade ago, was not only a tragedy for your family and for our nation. It also marked a turning point in America’s history, and sparked a movement that compelled millions across the country – and around the world – to demand justice for Matthew, and for every victim of hate-fueled violence.
We are honored that you are here to share your story with us. And we are grateful for the contributions – and the enormous personal sacrifices – that you have made to raise awareness about hate crimes and to help prevent and combat these heinous acts.
Tonight, I want to assure you that advancing this work is a top priority for me, for President Obama and this administration, and for my colleagues across the Justice Department.
During the two years that I’ve been privileged to serve as Attorney General, I’m especially proud of the steps that have been taken to implement and to aggressively enforce the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.
For years, many of us worked together to push for this critical legislation. And since President Obama signed it into law at the end of 2009, the Justice Department has been working tirelessly to serve victims – and to protect potential victims – of hate crimes.
As we speak, our Civil Rights Division’s Criminal Section is working on more than 80 open matters, utilizing innovative legal tools – and every available resource – to bring justice to those who have been targeted because of their race, religion, ethnicity, or nationality – and now, under the landmark law that bears Matthew’s name – their gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.
The Justice Department has also strengthened efforts to combat bullying, child exploitation, and cyber crimes targeting children. We’ve broadened our work to end human trafficking, domestic violence, and sexual assault. And we are spearheading the administration’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force, which – since its launch in late 2009 – has made extraordinary strides in fighting fraud and financial crimes, securing asset recoveries, and protecting fraud victims.
I am proud to report that – despite growing demands and limited budgets – no money has been cut from program investments supported by the Crime Victims Fund. And we can all be encouraged that the President has requested additional funding to build on current crime prevention initiatives – including promising strategies aimed at reducing violence against women and victimization in Indian country.
But – as you all know – if we are going to reach all of the communities and people who need our help, government can’t do it alone. Only with the engagement of state and local authorities – along with community activists, advocates, and partners like you – can we secure our communities and support victims in rebuilding their lives.
So this evening – as we share a moment of silence and reflection – let us also rededicate ourselves to taking our work to the next level, and to identifying new ways to protect and empower those who need our help.
I pledge my own best efforts. And I look forward to all that we will accomplish together.