Crime Victims’ Rights Week “30 Years: Restoring the Balance of Justice”
ATLANTA – April 6, 2014, marks the beginning of “National Crime Victim’s Rights Week,” a time to honor crime victims, celebrate our nation’s progress in advancing their rights, and work toward future goals. This year the Northern District of Georgia celebrates the 30th Anniversary of the Victims of Crime Act.
“It is appropriate for us to pause every year to remember the suffering of crime victims and their loved ones and to recommit ourselves to support them and to facilitate their healing and restoration,” said United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates. “This year’s theme for Crime Victims’ Rights Week, ‘30 Years: Restoring the Balance of Justice,’ not only marks the tremendous growth and advancement of victims’ rights and services, but looks forward to continuing to expand the reach of victim service programs. Crime impacts not only the victim but also the victim’s family and community, and we must be mindful of this in every case we investigate and prosecute.”
Crime Victims’ Rights Week is marked nationwide not only by the Department of Justice and all of its United States Attorney's Offices, but by other federal, state and local participating agencies. Many of the agencies and community programs receive financial, volunteer, and other support to maintain their services for crime victims.
Every year, the United States Department of Justice’s Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) awards millions of dollars to supplement Georgia’s crime victim compensation program, which allows crime victims to receive financial help with their medical bills and other crime-associated expenses.
Here in the Northern District of Georgia, the number of federal cases alone demands an extraordinary effort to support and notify victims. Last year, our office, through our Victim-Witness Unit, notified 17,425 federal crime victims about matters including their rights as crime victims, the times of court hearings, and outcomes of court proceedings.
In addition, fines and penalties collected each year by U.S. Attorneys, the U.S. Courts and the Bureau of Prisons are deposited into the Crime Victims Fund and are available for grant awards the following year. This fund was established by the Victims of Crime Act of 1984 (VOCA) and is administered by OVC. In 2013, approximately $730 million was allocated into this fund for crime victim assistance and compensation.
This year, as we celebrate three decades of defending victims’ rights, we are reminded of how far we have come—and how much work is yet to be done. Only 30 years ago, crime victims had virtually no rights and no assistance. The criminal justice system often seemed indifferent to their needs. Victims were commonly excluded from courtrooms and denied the chance to speak at sentencing. They had no access to victim compensation or services to help rebuild their lives. There were few avenues to deal with their emotional and physical wounds. Victims were on their own to recover their health, security, and dignity.
Our nation has made dramatic progress in securing rights, protections, and services for victims. Every state has enacted victims’ rights laws and all have victim compensation programs. More than 10,000 victim service agencies now help people throughout the country. In 1984, Congress passed the bipartisan Victims of Crime Act (VOCA), which created a national fund to ease victims’ suffering. Financed not by taxpayers but by fines and penalties paid by offenders, the Crime Victims Fund supports victim services, such as rape crisis and domestic violence programs and victim compensation programs that pay many of victims’ out of-pocket expenses from the crime, such as counseling, funeral expenses, and lost wages.
Victims’ rights advocates have scored remarkable victories over the last 30 years. But there is still a lot of work to be done. As we move forward, we are increasingly expanding our reach to previously underserved victim populations, including victims of color, American Indians and Alaska Natives, adults molested as children, victims of elder abuse, and LGBTQ victims. Over three decades, VOCA pioneered support efforts for victims of once-hidden crimes, like domestic and sexual violence. Today, we are shining a spotlight on other abuses that have long been unreported and often not prosecuted—hate and bias crimes, bullying, and sex and labor trafficking, among others.
“Our commitment to reaching every victim of crime is stronger than ever,” said Joye E. Frost, Director, Office for Victims of Crime (OVC), U.S. Department of Justice. “For 30 years, VOCA has represented hope, healing, and justice. Our message to all victims of crime is this: You are not alone.”
Information about Georgia's victim assistance and crime victim compensation programs can be found through the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council. Barbara Lynn Howell, the Agency's Executive Director, can be reached at 104 Marietta Street, Suite 440, Atlanta, Georgia, 30303, or by telephone at 404-657-1956
For more ideas on how to volunteer to help crime victims, visit the Office for Victims of Crime website, www.ovc.gov , or by calling the Office for Victims of Crime at 202-307-5983.
For further information please contact the U.S. Attorney’s Public Affairs Office at USAGAN.PressEmails@usdoj.gov or (404) 581-6016. The Internet address for the home page for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia Atlanta Division is http://www.justice.gov/usao/gan/.