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Attorney General Holder Delivers Remarks at the National Crime Victims' Service Award Ceremony


United States

Remarks as prepared for delivery

Thank you, Karol [Mason], for those kind words – and for your outstanding leadership as Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Justice Programs.  It’s a pleasure to share the stage with you, along with Director [Joye] Frost of the Office for Victims of Crime and David Ferriero of the National Archives and Records Administration.  It’s a great privilege to join you all once again as we come together to recognize the tremendous contributions of dedicated colleagues, passionate advocates, and extraordinary partners.

I’d like to take a moment to extend a special welcome to each of the honorees we are celebrating today.  I want to acknowledge the proud family members, friends and special guests who have taken the time to be here and whose support – and sacrifices – have been essential to everything that our awardees have accomplished.  And I want to express my profound gratitude to all of the individuals and organizations – represented in this room and around the country – who work tirelessly to support our shared mission.

Each one of this year’s National Crime Victims’ Service Award recipients has made a profound, constructive, lasting difference in the lives of victims of crime.  Their efforts have advanced and extended rights – of safety, security, and opportunity – to which every American is entitled.  And all across the country – from our biggest cities, to our smallest towns; from rural areas to tribal lands – they have not only stood with those in need; they have helped our nation realize its fundamental promise of justice.  One of our honorees has done trailblazing work in the field of DNA prosecution, transforming the way that we investigate and prosecute sexual assault cases.  Another has created a comprehensive, multidisciplinary center in Indian Country that offers resources for housing, child advocacy and employment assistance to individuals who have experienced violence and abuse.  And still another founded an organization that assists families who have lost loved ones to homicide.

From safeguarding survivors of sexual violence to assisting victims of mass marketing fraud; from speaking out against wrongful convictions to developing new research in the field of victim trauma, the recipients of today’s awards have been instrumental in a nationwide effort to protect the most vulnerable among us, to prevent and combat crime and to help victims find hope and seek justice.  As you go about this vital work, you not only have my thanks and the thanks of President Obama – you also have the full and unwavering support of the United States Department of Justice.  We are proud to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with each of the leaders in this room.  And we are determined to help move this country toward the goals we all share – not only with words, but with concrete action.

Through programs like the innovative Vision 21 initiative, led by our Office for Victims of Crime, we are closing a research gap and exploring new data to inform our work and deepen its impact.  With financial support from OVC, the Bureau of Justice Statistics is designing a National Survey of Victim Service Organizations – the first ever nationwide effort to capture detailed information on the number, characteristics and capacity of victim-serving organizations in the United States.  OVC is also contributing to a major, groundbreaking BJS project called the National Crime Statistics Exchange, which is designed to deliver meaningful analytic information about crime to law enforcement officers, policymakers, criminal justice leaders and victim-service professionals.  And a substantial new program called the Sexual Assault Kit Initiative is underway in our Bureau of Justice Assistance, which is soliciting proposals from state, local and tribal jurisdictions to build their capacity to process sexual assault kits.

Another development that will have a major impact is contained in this year’s federal funding bill, which raises the cap on the Crime Victims Fund from $745 million to nearly $2.4 billion – tripling the amount we can withdraw from the Crime Victims Fund to help victims and quadrupling funding available for state victim assistance programs.  The growth of the Crime Victims Fund reflects the record penalties and fines the men and women of the Justice Department have been securing and it is both gratifying and entirely appropriate that they be used to dramatically augment our assistance to victims.

Beyond our overarching efforts, we’re making a special push to address the needs of populations that are too frequently overlooked and too often underserved.  Through President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative, we are supporting programs that provide trauma-informed care for young men in Philadelphia hospitals and guidance for at-risk youth in New York – as well as a new collaboration between OVC and our own Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, which will expand access to victim services for young men of color nationwide.

We’re also growing our work in tribal communities – where American Indian and Alaska Native victims often face unique obstacles to accessing services – by strengthening connections between federal and state services and tribal governments; by investing in technology like a mobile app for safety and support services that we’re developing through a partnership with tribes in Arizona; and by extending the work of Vision 21, which distributed three awards from OVC just last year to tribal organizations building victim-centered community wellness programs.  In fact, by streamlining the grant process for tribes under our Coordinated Tribal Assistance Solicitation, we have been able to disburse more than 1,100 awards totaling almost $525 million over the last five years, addressing issues ranging from at-risk youth and violence against women to community policing and corrections alternatives.

And we are bringing renewed focus to the field of human trafficking by pursuing a victim-centered approach – reflected in our updated Human Trafficking Task Force e-Guide written by experts in the field – that offers increased services to survivors and engages them as valued leaders and partners.  With Congress appropriating $42 million to combat human trafficking this year – three times the amount available in last year’s budget – we have an unparalleled opportunity to expand our technical assistance efforts and to support service providers who work with victims of human trafficking.

These are important and, in some cases, groundbreaking endeavors – but I also know that there is much more work to be done.  I pledge to you that the Department of Justice will never waver as we strive to build on our success and broaden our reach.  And in the days ahead, we will continue to depend on extraordinary leaders like you to guide and inform this work; to rally new partners to this cause; and to drive the progress our citizens so desperately need.  To all those who have been abused, exploited, left out and left behind, our message is this: You are not alone.  You will never be forgotten.  We will stand with you – not just today, but always.

As we celebrate the remarkable contributions of this year’s awardees, I’m confident that we’re on the right track.  I know I speak for President Obama, for my colleagues at the Department of Justice – and for the American people we’re privileged to serve – when I say: thank you for your service, thank you for your leadership and thank you for all that you have achieved and will continue to achieve.  It is an honor to count you as partners in the work with which we’ve been entrusted.  Although my time in formal public service will soon draw to a close, I will continue to contribute toward the goals we share.  I will continue to serve the mission we honor today.  And I will continue to promote the compassion, the strength and the abiding commitment to others that animate this inspiring gathering.

Thank you, once again, for all that you do.  Congratulations on these prestigious awards.  And please keep up the great work.

Updated August 18, 2015