Thank you, Karol [Mason], for those kind words – and for your outstanding leadership of the Office of Justice Programs. It’s an honor to share the stage with you today, along with Director [Joye] Frost, whose tireless efforts leading the Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) have helped secure justice and spur healing for countless crime victims. I’d also like to take a moment to thank David Ferriero for welcoming us to the National Archives, and to recognize the vital congressional partners who are in attendance at this event. Finally, and above all, I want to welcome today’s honorees. You are a truly inspiring group and it’s a pleasure to join you, your family members and your distinguished guests this afternoon.
The National Archives Building is a fitting location for this celebration, because the accomplishments we’re honoring speak to many of the ideals set forth in the founding documents enshrined here. By helping victims of crime get the legal assistance they need, you are furthering the essential promises of due process and equal protection under law. By helping them reclaim their futures with confidence and purpose, you are restoring their claims to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And by using groundbreaking research to inform new laws and policies, you are taking part in the ongoing process of creating a more perfect union. I am profoundly grateful for all that you do. And I want you to know that the Department of Justice is committed to supporting you and your work by defending the rights and well-being of those affected by crime and by promoting a comprehensive, victim-centered response.
We’re advancing these efforts on a number of fronts. For our young survivors, whose experiences can haunt them well into adulthood, as part of President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative, OVC and our Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention have awarded nearly $14 million to programs that support young survivors of violence. Through the Coordinated Tribal Assistance Solicitation, or CTAS, we’ve streamlined the application process for American Indian and Alaska Native tribes seeking Justice Department grants, allowing us to award tribes more than $620 million over the last six years for a variety of programs – including advocacy for survivors of domestic violence, because the pain and trauma endured by so many of our first Americans is a matter of national urgency for us all. Because of last year’s increase in the Crime Victims Fund, the resources available to tribes under CTAS have more than tripled, amplifying our ability to help empower native communities. And because honoring our elders means protecting our elders, OVC has also partnered with the Civil Division’s Elder Justice Initiative to launch the Elder Justice AmeriCorps program, which will place approximately 60 attorneys and paralegals at organizations throughout the United States to provide legal assistance to elderly victims of crime and abuse.
In addition to extending resources to state, local and tribal agencies, we are also providing training and technical assistance, designed to provide guidance to our partners in the fight to protect victims who are always seeking new insights and expertise. In December, we released new guidance on identifying and preventing gender-biased policing, and at the end of this month, OVC will begin soliciting proposals for a pilot program to implement that guidance. The agency or organization we select will receive approximately $5 million to establish up to six demonstration sites around the country – a meaningful step toward addressing victims’ needs as early as possible. I am also pleased to announce the upcoming release of a protocol for pediatricians, forensic nurses and other health care providers who work with children, which will offer evidence-based recommendations for caring for child victims of sexual abuse. The protocol was developed collaboratively with partners from the International Association of Forensic Nurses, children’s hospitals and child advocacy centers, and I am hopeful that it will help bolster efforts nationwide to care for the most vulnerable victims of sexual abuse. No child should ever have to experience that kind of abuse – and no child who does should be forced to bear that burden alone.
Beyond these projects and programs, there is a real and serious need for more reliable data about how we can assist victims of crime most effectively. That’s why we launched Vision 21 – the first comprehensive assessment of the victim assistance field in nearly 15 years. This innovative project is helping us close the research gap and collect better data. One of Vision 21’s most recent successes came in January, when our Bureau of Justice Statistics completed a pilot test of a National Census of Victim Service Providers, which will be the first-ever national initiative to capture detailed information on the number, characteristics and capacity of victims’ service organizations in the United States. Our pilot test drew response rates of more than 80 percent, and we are preparing to launch the full census later this year. That census will complement our ongoing surveys of victims of crime and will ultimately help us develop cutting-edge policies and practices based on sound data. I am excited about what we can do with this information to update our processes, to improve our responses and to provide the most effective assistance possible to every individual around the country who needs our help.
These are all important undertakings, and our work received a major boost when, for the second year in a row, Congress increased the budget of the Crime Victims Fund, which is the federal government’s main funding source for thousands of victims’ services and compensation programs in every state and territory. I want to thank Congress for standing with the victims of crime when they needed them most, and I hope they will further that commitment going forward. Caring for victims and survivors of crime is not a partisan issue or a political cause – it is a national obligation and a moral charge.
I am proud of what the Department of Justice has accomplished on behalf of victims of crime. But we do not work alone in this important area. Our work would not have the same impact without the input, the collaboration, and the commitment of groups and individuals like the ones we’re honoring today. All of you here today – and so many of your colleagues and partners across the country – serve as our eyes and ears on the ground, helping us demonstrate that, in the United States, crime is met with justice in its fullest sense. We must enforce the law and we must go after those who inflict harm. But if we stop there – if we fail to hear the voices of the victims of crime – then we cannot say that justice has truly been done. That’s why your dedication is essential. You help victims move past their most difficult moments. You help restore their sense of possibility and hope. And you stand by them as they take their first steps towards reclaiming their lives and charting their futures.
Each of you, in your own way, has gone above and beyond in advancing that crucial mission. And through the course of your actions, you have done your part to make this country more compassionate, more empowered, more resilient, and more just. You inspire us all. I want to commend you for your exemplary contributions. I thank you for all that you have done and continue to do on behalf of the most vulnerable among us. And I urge you to keep up the great work. Thank you.