Thank you, Laurie [Robinson]. I’m proud to stand with you – and with Ron [Machen] and Joye [Frost] – and I want to thank each of you for your dedication to bringing hope, healing and justice to crime victims. Let me also welcome and recognize the great work of the Justice Department’s Acting Deputy Attorney General, Gary Grindler, and the new Director of our Office on Violence Against Women, Sue Carbon.
It’s an honor to be back here again this year, and to join all of you in commemorating National Crime Victims’ Rights Week. These days of reflection are an important opportunity for us to come together in support of victims, to give voice to their suffering and to light the way toward a hopeful future.
I’m grateful to the many victims who’ve joined us. You are all examples of strength and resilience. But you are also proof that, unfortunately, too much cruelty remains in the world. And you remind us why our continued vigilance against violence and abuse is essential.
In particular, let me thank William Kellibrew for joining us and for sharing his story with us. His message of hope, which he delivers to children all across this city, provides a tremendous service to young people. Mr. Kellibrew’s commitment to protecting victims and empowering survivors is shared by so many of you.
To the advocates and providers who are with us this evening, I want you to know it’s a privilege to be able to thank you all for the contributions – and the sacrifices – you make to help crime victims. I often wonder how you do it; how you find the words and the ways to meet grief and pain with solace and hope. When crimes occur, your work is instrumental in the difficult healing process – both for individual victims and entire communities. Very often, it’s also essential in the work of seeking justice. Many of you have helped victims find the strength necessary to hold their offenders accountable. And I want you all to know that the Justice Department is proud to count you as partners.
Today, we’ve seen that crime is down here in D.C., and in many of our nation’s cities. Still, far too many of our neighbors live in pain and in fear. And far too many lives have been lost or destroyed by crime. The tragic shootings two weeks ago – just blocks from the U.S. Capitol Building, on South Capitol and Galveston Streets – serve as a painful reminder that we have much more to do in our work to ensure the safety and security of our communities.
In this recent tragedy, like so many fatal crimes, young people were overrepresented among the victims. All too often, our children are the direct victims of violence and abuse, or they bear witness to these crimes in their homes, school and communities. In either case, too many of our children have been forced to endure both the immediate and the long-term harm that – without support and treatment – can lead to tragic consequences. When our children suffer today, we know that our entire community will ultimately suffer as well.
For these kids – and for all victims – we must act. Tonight, I want to assure you that the Justice Department is committed to combating crime and bringing offenders to justice. This issue is deeply important to me. During a career spent as a prosecutor, a judge and a United States Attorney, I have seen the effects of abuse and violence – in the courtroom and far beyond. I understand how these crimes can devastate lives, families and communities. But, while I acknowledge these realities, I’ve never been more hopeful about our ability to make meaningful progress in ending crime and bringing hope to survivors.
So long as I am Attorney General, this Department of Justice will do everything in its power to prevent and combat crime and to help victims overcome its effects. This past Monday, the Department held an event to recognize Sexual Assault Awareness Month and to commemorate the 15th Anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act. We were joined by several victims of sexual abuse. These courageous survivors shared their experiences of facing violence and, then, of finding the strength to move forward, to speak out and to fight back. Their stories – like William Kellibrew’s story - and the many other stories that are represented here tonight – are reminders of why, in the face of crime, we cannot be quiet. And we must not be complacent.
In this spirit, the administration plans to make historic investments to combat violence and abuse. In the Justice Department’s FY 2011 budget request, $25 million would be allocated for Community-Based Violence Prevention Initiatives and another $37 million for an initiative devoted to supporting children who have been exposed to violence. And an increase of nearly $30 million was requested for our Office on Violence Against Women.
We should all be encouraged by President Obama’s commitment to shining a light on the problem of crime and to seeking new pathways toward prevention and justice. But we must also recognize that the federal government can’t effectively combat the problem of crime on its own. The Justice Department can’t either. Only with the help of state and local authorities – along with community activists, advocates and service providers – can we truly assist crime victims and secure our communities.
I’m committed to this progress. I’m proud to count you all as partners in this work. And tonight – as we light our candles, bow our heads and share a moment of silence – let us reflect upon what we can, and what I know we will, accomplish together to further victims’ rights.