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Department of Justice Recognizes Puerto Rico Physician with Allied Professional Award
WASHINGTON – The Office for Victims of Crime, a component of the Justice Department’s Office of Justice Programs, presented the Allied Professional Award to Dr. Linda Laras, a physician from Caguas, Puerto Rico. This award category recognizes an individual or individuals from a specific discipline outside the victim assistance field for their service to victims and contribution to the victim assistance field.
“Through her dedication, innovation and drive to improve medical services for sexual assault survivors in Puerto Rico, Dr. Laras has advanced the medical field’s awareness and approach to helping victims receive and obtain the care they need and deserve,” said Amy. L. Solomon, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General of OJP. “In her more than three decades of service, she has broken barriers and ensured that high-quality treatment is available in hospitals and urgent care facilities, giving victims access to critical support when and where they need it most.”
Dr. Laras, a gynecologist, has dedicated her life to providing comprehensive services to victims of sexual assault and defending their rights. She has advanced the medical field’s commitment to providing victims of sexual assault the care they need and deserve and has been advocating for the importance of recognizing violence as a public health problem since 1990. The first Director of the Puerto Rico Rape Crisis Center with a medical background, Dr. Laras wrote the Puerto Rico protocol for domestic violence and led efforts to improve the rights of victims of sexual assault by overseeing the implementation of hospital protocols.
She obtained funds to open six additional rape crisis centers and was able to get government health insurance to cover services not covered by victim compensation, such as case discussions and court participation. She supports changes to the Puerto Rico penal code to best describe medical terms of sexual assault in public hearings in the Senate and House of Representatives.
“Dr. Laras has been a stalwart champion of crime victims in Puerto Rico and an outstanding ambassador for the medical community,” said Kristina Rose, Director of OVC. “She has affected the lives of hundreds of survivors, helping them find the support, the treatment and the hope to carry on.”
The selection committee for the NCVRW awards this year chose two individuals to receive the Allied Professional Award. In addition to Dr. Laras, Deborah Flowers, from Pittsboro, North Carolina, received the award for providing medical services to victims of sexual assault.
Every April, OVC leads communities across the country in observing National Crime Victims’ Rights Week. President Ronald W. Reagan proclaimed the first Victims’ Rights Week in 1981, calling for greater sensitivity to the rights and needs of victims. This year’s observance is taking place April 24-30, and features the theme, “Rights, Access, Equity, for All Victims.”
The Office of Justice Programs provides federal leadership, grants, training, technical assistance and other resources to improve the nation’s capacity to prevent and reduce crime, advance racial equity in the administration of justice, assist victims and enhance the rule of law. More information about OJP and its components can be found at www.ojp.gov.
CONTACT: Lauren Lambert at 202-598-9799 or [email protected]