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WASHINGTON - U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. and the Victim Witness Assistance Unit of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia today paid tribute to more than 50 crime victims, their families, witnesses, and community advocates for their bravery, compassion, and dedication to the pursuit of justice.
The honorees were recognized during a ceremony at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, timed with the annual observance of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week. This year’s theme, “30 Years: Restoring the Balance of Justice,” focuses on the strides that have been made for victims since the passage of the Victims of Crime Act in 1984.
In addition to U.S. Attorney Machen, speakers at today’s ceremony included Angela Rose, the founder and executive director of Promoting Awareness/Victim Empowerment (PAVE), a community-based, non-profit organization that uses social, educational and legislative tactics to bring attention to the issue of sexual violence. Ms. Rose is a survivor of a brutal sexual assault and has worked to assist victims of sexual assault throughout the country. PAVE now has more than 35 chapters and affiliates, including an affiliate in the District of Columbia.
“We all aspire to help victims seek justice, find hope, and rebuild their lives,” said U.S. Attorney Machen. “In doing so, we ourselves are inspired by the courage and dignity of these victims and survivors. It is important for us to stand up and celebrate those who are brave enough to say something or do something to make our community a safer place.”
Today’s ceremony included awards for several individual victims and Good Samaritans whose efforts furthered the cause of justice. For example, the honorees included a carjacking victim and the police officers and civilians who came to her aid; two former students from Catholic University, who helped rescue and then protect a woman who was being assaulted; the neighbors of a young man who came to them for help after his brother killed their mother; people who banded together to help an elderly woman whose husband had been slain, and others who stepped forward as witnesses and advocates on behalf of victims of crime. The honorees also included a supervisory victims’ coordinator for the U.S. Parole Commission who ensured that the family of a murder victim had the opportunity to be heard regarding the killer’s request for parole. The family’s views were taken into consideration and the offender was not released.
The program also recognized the work of organizations such as FAIR Girls, a non-profit based in the District of Columbia that sponsors programs worldwide to prevent the exploitation of girls. FAIR Girls has provided assistance in numerous cases in the District of Columbia, offering support and services to victims of human trafficking and sexual abuse.
Special recognition was given to the FBI's Child Exploitation Task Force, which includes members of the FBI's Washington Field Office and MPD. The task force’s work has led to numerous prosecutions of people in the District of Columbia for child pornography charges and other federal offenses. Undercover officers act swiftly when they learn of victims of sexual abuse and child pornography, and their work has led to arrests in recent months of defendants in Ohio, North Carolina, Indiana, Texas, and Pennsylvania.
Today’s event was developed and organized by the Victim Witness Assistance Unit of the U.S. Attorney=s Office for the District of Columbia. Members of the Unit provide essential services and support to victims and witnesses, such as making referrals for counseling, addressing safety concerns, assisting with access to Crime Victim Compensation Program funds, and accompanying victims to court proceedings. The Unit also notifies victims of their rights and provides information regarding significant case events, such as the filing of charges, plea hearings, trials and sentencing hearings.
As part of this year’s National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, the Department of Justice gave special recognition to the Victim Witness Assistance Unit of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia. The Unit won two honors: Outstanding Victim Services Professionals of 2014, and Victims’ Rights and Restitution Act Champion of 2014. The Department of Justice cited, for example, the Unit’s work to ensure that families and victims of last year’s mass shooting at the Washington Navy Yard were provided with invaluable resources and support.
Additional information about the Victim Witness Assistance Unit is available at http://www.justice.gov/usao/dc/programs/vw/vwa.html.
Further information about National Crime Victims’ Rights Week is available at http://ovc.ncjrs.gov/ncvrw/.14-084