Justice News

Remarks as Prepared for Delivery by Associate Attorney General Tony West at the National Crime Victims’ Service Award Ceremony
Washington, DC
United States
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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Thank you, Joye, for that kind introduction and for your outstanding leadership at the Office for Victims of Crime – and to your terrific staff for all they do to support victims and victim services. It’s an honor to be here with all of you to recognize these 10 exemplary individuals, teams, and organizations for their selflessness, resourcefulness, and courage. This is a remarkable group of people, and I’m humbled by their contributions.

I consider it one of the many privileges of my office to help support our nation’s victim advocates and service providers.   I first worked with the victim advocacy community as a young federal prosecutor, enlisting their assistance with the children who were victim-witnesses in the sexual exploitation cases I prosecuted; and later, while working with the California Attorney General’s office, when I encountered victims of elder abuse and neglect.  

I have seen their passion for serving victims, and I have experienced firsthand the dedication and commitment of Justice Department colleagues like Karol, Mary Lou, and Joye, whose allegiance to victims of crime is as constant as it is contagious.   Guided by their experience and wise counsel, and led by an Attorney General who has a deep and long-standing concern for these issues, the needs and rights of crime victims will always be honored, respected, and supported by this Department of Justice.

I’m especially proud of the work we’re doing to expand the reach of victim services so that the lingering and varied after-effects of victimization – which often can impose burdens on victims that far exceed the trauma of the original crime – are mitigated in policy and practice. 

Many of you here today are receiving your awards because of your creative, persistent and unrelenting search for ways to better serve the needs of victims, whether they are financial, psychological, or legal, or by making improvements in the handling of evidence to bring perpetrators to swift justice.  You have also done remarkable work to prevent further victimizations, by identifying potential perpetrators and removing their threat.

About the Justice Department’s work for victims: You have already heard about the Department’s participation in the Presidential Interagency Task Force on Human Trafficking and our Vision 21 Initiative.  The Department is also a critical member of the President’s Task Force on Sexual Assault on Campus.   Recently, on behalf of the Task Force, our Office on Violence Against Women hosted an extraordinary series of listening sessions for students and survivors to give their opinions on a wide variety of topics, prominently including how best to respond to diverse, under-served or historically marginalized victims. 

Another group of under-served victims is our Nation’s children.  More than 60 percent of America's kids are exposed to some form of violence, crime, or abuse—ranging from brief encounters as witnesses to serious violent episodes as victims.

As part of the Defending Childhood Initiative, the Attorney General’s National Task Force on Children Exposed to Violence issued findings and recommendations on how to reduce children’s exposure to violence and prevent them from becoming life-long victims of trauma suffered in childhood. 

One key recommendation led to the creation of our Task Force on American Indian and Alaska Native Children Exposed to Violence : a special effort aimed at examining and addressing the exposure these particular children to violence, in ways that recognize the unique government-to-government relationship between sovereign tribal nations and the United States.

And this Task Force is a little different from most government task forces with which you may be familiar.  It’s actually made up of two groups of experts.  The first is a working group of high-level federal officials who work with tribal communities everyday.  They are busily identifying and implementing policy and programmatic changes that can have a direct and immediate impact to improve kids' lives in Indian County right now, based on things we already know are broken and need not wait for more study to fix. 

And this fall, after a year of public hearings and listening sessions, the second group – the Task Force’s Advisory Committee, consisting of non-federal experts who deal with issues concerning Native children – they will produce a strategic plan of action to guide practitioners and policymakers at all levels that will serve as a blueprint for future action.

I am also happy to announce the release today of some new products from the Office for Victims of Crime that will expand the resources of the victim services field: a training course, Building Resiliency in Child Abuse Organizations, to help professionals combat the effects of secondary trauma and compassion fatigue; and four new videos in the series, Through Our Eyes:  Children, Violence, and Trauma.  The videos include the voices of victims talking about how their exposure to violence as children affected them.  You can find them on OVC’s Web site and YouTube channel.  

So I’m proud of the work we’re doing, but even more than that I’m proud to count all of you as our partners.   You are helping to realize the promise of our justice system by working to give every victim a voice and the help they need and deserve.   I commend you for your service to America’s crime victims, and once again, I congratulate our award recipients – especially those who have turned their personal stories of victimization into stories of strength and beacons of hope, providing light and inspiration to us all.

It’s an honor to be here with you; thank you very much.