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DES MOINES, Iowa -- The Department of Justice’s Office for Victims of Crime (“OVC”) and the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Iowa will join federal, state, and local communities nationwide in observing National Crime Victims’ Rights Week and celebrating victims’ rights, protections, and services. This year’s observance takes place April 24-30 and features the theme, “Rights, access, equity, for all victims.”
As part of this observance, the Southern District of Iowa recognizes the courage and bravery of victims, and the outstanding work of law enforcement, victim advocates, and community service partners throughout Iowa. In particular, four individuals are recognized for outstanding service to victims. “These awards proudly recognize the exceptional efforts of four individuals providing assistance to federal and state victims in the Southern District of Iowa,” said United States Attorney Richard D. Westphal. “Advocacy for the rights and safety of victims is a cogent reminder of the long-term human impact of these crimes. The service of these four individuals, and other state and federal victim advocates, are a vital component of our criminal justice system.”
The 2022 Award for Excellence in Victim Services is awarded to Mills County Attorney’s Office Victim Witness Coordinator Sarah McGinnis. Sarah’s dedication to victims is inspirational and unmatched. She has been there for each victim at every step of the criminal process, and has provided hope, support, and advocacy to numerous victims in sex abuse cases. Sarah has tirelessly worked to raise community awareness of sexual abuse and human trafficking, including producing a sexual assault awareness video where victims describe in their own words how abuse has affected them, and how they survived abuse. Sarah has clearly made a difference in multiple victims’ lives.
The 2022 Award for Excellence in Victim Services is awarded to Polk County Crisis and Advocacy Services Victim Advocate Sara McMillan. Sara continues to provide selfless and dedicated advocacy to state and federal crime victims. Sara provided the highest quality of victim advocacy in support of two minor victims and their families in a federal hate crimes prosecution. Also, she spent countless hours with, and provided empathy and support for, sex trafficking victims in the federal prosecution of a sex trafficker. Based on her skills and experience, Sara was able to provide valuable guidance to the prosecution team and victims, and never stopped offering her time and attention. Throughout her career, Sara has always been and continues to be a fierce advocate for victims.
The 2022 Award for Excellence in Victim Services is awarded to Audubon County Crime Victim Coordinator Angie Baylor. Angie’s self-motivated passion for victims and survivors has been described as “second to none.” She continues to go above and beyond to raise public awareness for victims of crime with community outreach, brochures, events, and public speaking. Angie has partnered with Catholic Charities to host the Survivor Statements awareness project during April - Sexual Assault Awareness month. She has organized efforts to wear blue and support the Pinwheels for Prevention project for April - National Child Abuse Prevention month. “Shedding Light on Domestic Violence” was Angie’s creative theme for the Purple Porch Project in recognition during October - Domestic Violence Awareness month. Most importantly, Angie has exemplified passion in her support of crime victims, to be their advocate, and provided a listening ear and a helping hand at a time when it was most needed. Angie has provided hope to victims, and clearly raised public awareness in Audubon County.
The 2022 Law Enforcement Victim Service Award recognizes the performance of Iowa Department of Public Safety, Division of Criminal Investigation, Special Agent Richard Vale. Special Agent Vale showed outstanding work in the federal sex trafficking investigation and prosecution of Darrius Redd. He epitomized exceptional dedication in locating multiple victims brutalized and trafficked by Redd. He not only performed his role as an investigator, but also demonstrated patience, empathy, and understanding with victims. As a result, this evidence provided a compelling case resulting in a guilty verdict at trial. Special Agent Vale went beyond the call of duty to assist victims in the Redd case, and the resulting conviction was largely the result of his commitment and service.
Ronald Reagan proclaimed the first Victims’ Rights Week in 1981, putting crime victims' rights, needs, and concerns in a prominent spot on the American agenda. He also established the President's Task Force on Victims of Crime, which laid the groundwork for a national network of services and legal safeguards for crime victims.
For more information on how to create your own public campaigns to raise awareness about crime victims’ rights online and at events throughout the year, please visit: https://ovc.ojp.gov/ncvrw2022/overview.
Rachel J. Scherle