Thank you, Laurie [Robinson]. It’s an honor to be with you all, and I want to thank Laurie and Joye [Frost] for inviting me, once again, to participate in this important ceremony. I’m grateful for this opportunity to commend and to celebrate the outstanding work of this year’s awardees and to welcome their colleagues, friends and proud family members.
I also want to join Laurie in recognizing Sue Carbon, the new Director of the Office on Violence Against Women and the most recent addition to the Justice Department’s work to combat crime and to serve victims. Sue [Carbon], I’m so glad you’re with us today. Under your leadership, I know the Office on Violence Against Women will continue its excellent work.
Let me also recognize the great teams that Laurie and Joye lead in our Office of Justice Programs and our Office for Victims of Crime. I know how much work you all put into preparing for National Crime Victims’ Rights Week. But I also realize that your commitment to supporting victims’ advocacy and services is part of the critical work you do every day. On behalf of the entire Justice Department, thank you all.
Today, we’ve come together, from as far as Omaha and Albuquerque, Portland and Philadelphia, to recognize men and women who have found their calling in the service of others. Together, we honor your advocacy, your creativity and your dedication. You’ve designed nationally-recognized programs to aid some of our youngest victims of sexual violence; you’ve established the first child-abuse and domestic-violence victim services program for the millions of Americans living abroad; and you’ve supervised and trained hundreds of victim advocates, as well as thousands of U.S. soldiers, in sexual assault prevention.
But that’s not all. Some of you have channeled your own pain and suffering into a positive force for change. One awardee, on top of a full-time job, created a non-profit to serve families with missing children – families like her own. Another now works to encourage more support for first responders – years after a police detective rescued her from a locked car trunk during a near-fatal abduction.
All of you deserve to be commended, not only for your extraordinary service, but also for the example you set. The support of victims and advocacy work is not easy. But it is so important. As you provide healing, you restore hope. And as you listen, you restore dreams.
All across the country, victim advocates are serving people in need and in crisis, working in police departments, D.A.’s offices, hospitals and prisons. And many are educating other professionals about victims’ unique challenges and needs. At increasing rates, pediatricians and teachers are being trained to identify signs of abuse. And many medical and law enforcement professionals now receive special training on treating victims of sexual assault.
Today’s Justice Department is working with service providers to reach those victims most in need of help. For example, as we’ve come to recognize the unique challenges faced by victims with disabilities, we’ve worked to support services tailored to their needs. And we have elevated victim assistance in tribal communities – where violent crime rates are two, four, and in some cases, 10 times the national average.
We’re also evolving to meet new challenges and emerging threats. As criminals adapt to an inter-connected world, advocates and service-providers alike – in partnership with law enforcement – are working hard to serve victims of youth violence, cybercrime, identify theft, human trafficking and fraud.
In fact, I am proud to announce that earlier today, the Department’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force launched StopFraud.gov, our new one-stop site for American consumers to learn how to protect themselves from fraud and to report it wherever – and however – it occurs. Victims of financial fraud may not encounter violence, but they often suffer devastating losses that can take years to recover from – both financially and emotionally. They need our help and support in overcoming these crimes and seeking justice.
I realize that, in this time of growing needs and limited resources, you’ve been asked to do much more with much less. And I want you all to know that this Administration – and this Department of Justice – will continue working to support the essential services you provide. Last year, we were pleased to provide new funding for victims’ services through the Recovery Act. But our commitment is not a one-time deal. The President and Congress raised the cap on the Crime Victims Fund for this fiscal year, and this Administration has asked Congress to raise it even higher for the next.
But, as you all know, it will take more than money to fulfill our responsibilities to you and to those you assist. Just as we need to be smart on crime, we must also be smart about meeting the needs of victims. Our Office for Victims of Crime is leading the way in this effort by providing innovative training, resources and development support. And the National Victim Assistance Academy continues to provide state-of-the-art information on victim’s rights and services to providers and allied professionals.
On Monday, at a Department-wide event to commemorate Sexual Assault Awareness Month and the 15th Anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act, we heard from several courageous victims. While listening to their stories, I was reminded that crime is not limited to any one age, gender or demographic group. The problem of crime affects us all. And addressing it effectively will require innovative, collaborative and coordinated solutions. Now, I realize that identifying and implementing the solutions we need to make a difference, and to make continued progress, will not be easy. But, as I look around this room and consider all that’s been accomplished, I can’t help but feel hopeful about the progress I know we can, and will, make.
I look forward to this work, and I’m grateful that our efforts will be guided by some extraordinary examples. Once again, I want to congratulate this year’s awardees for their outstanding contributions, achievements and service. You’re an inspiration to us all.