Thank you, Mary Lou, for that kind introduction and for all you do at the Office of Justice Programs to support victims and victim services. Thanks to you, as well, Joye, for your outstanding leadership at the Office for Victims of Crime – and to your terrific staff for all they do.
It’s an honor to be here with the Attorney General to recognize 13 exemplary individuals and organizations for their selflessness, resourcefulness, and courage. This is truly 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 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 support underserved groups who experience victimization at higher rates than others and for whom services aren’t as readily available. And those groups undoubtedly include crime victims in Indian country.
I’m very pleased that two of the awards this year are going to tribal victim service providers. Many of you know – and some of you know intimately – that tribal members are disproportionately victimized. Native women, in particular, encounter violence at alarming levels.
Thankfully, there are extraordinary people like Dianne Harrold and remarkable groups like the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation Tribal Victim Services Program who are there to comfort and counsel victims and help them through those dark days. The Department of Justice knows how important their work is, and we’re doing what we can to support it.
We’ve made funding for services easier for tribes to access. We’re supporting Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner and Sexual Assault Response Team programs in Indian country – and in December we held the first meeting of the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee for these programs. Through our Office for Victims of Crime, we continue to fund programs that are dedicated to serving tribal victims.
We’re instituting programmatic and legal changes that will better protect victims of domestic violence in Indian country under the newly reauthorized Violence Against Women Act signed by the President in March. The reauthorization includes tribal provisions proposed by the Justice Department in 2011 that will allow tribes, for the first time in decades, to prosecute non-Indian perpetrators of domestic violence in Indian country.
This groundbreaking change in jurisdiction helps to ensure that all perpetrators of domestic violence – regardless of race or tribal affiliation—are held accountable and victims of domestic violence in Indian country can be confident that the judicial system has not abandoned them.
The Department is also continuing its efforts to protect the most vulnerable populations in Indian country. Two weeks ago, I was honored to be asked by the Attorney General to lead the creation of a new task force that will address issues surrounding children exposed to violence in Indian country. This is a direct response to recommendations by the Attorney General’s Defending Childhood Task Force, submitted to the Department in December. We will be taking a close look at the specific needs of American Indian and Alaska Native children and recommending actions to protect them from abuse, neglect, and other maltreatment.
Our efforts to reach victims are getting full support from the White House. In his budget request to Congress, the President asks for a $95 million increase in the cap on the Crime Victims Fund. As part of that increase, $20 million would go specifically to address crime victims in Indian country under OVC’s Vision 21 Initiative. Our commitment to Native victims – and to all victims – runs to the highest levels of this Administration. And it will not waver.
I’m proud of the work we’re doing, and 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.
Now it’s my honor to introduce the Justice Department’s chief supporter and advocate of crime victims, the Attorney General of the United States, Eric Holder.