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Remarks of Office for Victims of Crime Director Kristina Rose at the National Crime Victims' Service Awards Ceremony, Washington, DC

Good afternoon, everyone in the room and online, and welcome to the 2024 National Crime Victims’ Service Awards Ceremony.

We are so grateful to the National Park Service for our continued partnership in hosting this event on the National Mall, and for their commitment to ensuring that crime victims across the National Parks receive the care they deserve. We’ve been proud to support Victim Specialist positions in high density and Tribal abutting national parks for years.

Welcome to members of Congress, United States Attorneys, my colleagues at the Office of Justice Programs, Office for Victims of Crime, and across the Department of Justice, and of course all of our distinguished guests.

We are honored to be joined by Assistant Attorney General Amy Solomon, who you will hear from during our program today. We are so grateful for your leadership, your support for our work at OVC, and the deep passion and commitment you have demonstrated for serving victims of crime.

I want to recognize Inspector in Charge Eric Shen and Assistant Inspector in Charge Brendan Donahue from the United States Postal Inspection Services (USPIS) who are with us tonight. The USPIS helps us each year, raising awareness about victims’ rights and services by ensuring our NCVRW posters and hotline fliers find their way to thousands Post Offices across the country. You can walk into just about any post office this month and find information that can help survivors of crime. It’s always a personal challenge of mine to find one in a local post office when I travel for work in April. And, when you think about the foot traffic post offices receive daily, it becomes clear that this partnership with USPIS is truly reaching those in need. Thank you for your partnership and for being here tonight.

I know many of you were with us last evening as we highlighted the voices of survivors. You heard me talk about challenging everyone to find some way to help and expanding pathways to hope.

Well, this is another extraordinary gathering of helpers, here to join us in recognizing their own – this year’s 2024 National Crime Victims’ Service Award recipients.

In his 1978 commencement speech at the University of Virginia, Justice Thurgood Marshall reminded the graduating class that “it is first and foremost essential that the people be well informed,” and then he invited the graduating class to “Listen to others…do not wait for others to move out…where you see wrong or inequality or injustice, speak out…”

There are so many rich lessons in his speech, but these two pieces really resonated with me. The first speaks to this year’s NCVRW theme – How would you help? – because it challenges us all to be well-informed, so we’re prepared to help survivors and victims of crime. And I think about the second in the context of crime victims who are still seeking their justice either because they don’t know about services or because there are barriers to those services.

In 1984, the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) Victim Compensation Program was enacted by Congress. The purpose of victim compensation is to provide those who have experienced harm from crime with reimbursement for out-of-pocket expenses such as medical costs, mental health counseling, lost wages, and funeral and burial costs. Each state is responsible for administering and educating crime victims about their programs.

Over the years we have heard from far too many people that they didn’t know about this program, or there were too many obstacles, or they were deemed ineligible for reasons they could not understand. We’ve heard that historically marginalized communities and underserved communities were being left out and left behind, again. Individually, in small groups, and large collectives, we heard similar accounts. This is not inclusivity, this is not equality.

So, over the last 2 years we got to work on drafting proposed updates to the VOCA Victim Compensation Rule which are intended to enhance equity and access to the compensation program by (1) expanding victim eligibility; (2) providing comprehensive coverage of victim needs, and (3) increasing program access. We posted the proposed rule for public comment, we have received those comments and are working through them. We hope to have the final rule published by the end of the year. It’s been twenty years since this rule was updated, and it’s always the right time to do the right thing.

Additionally, because of a motivated group of individuals who saw injustice, in 1980 Wisconsin became the first state to pass a Crime Victims Bill of Rights. Soon thereafter other states followed. In 2004 Congress passed the federal Crime Victims’ Rights Act. Today, every state has some provision addressing protection of crime victims. In nearly two-thirds of those states these rights are enshrined in state constitutions providing crime victims with equal standing in the courtroom. As any advocate or victim’s counsel will tell you, we’ve come a long way, but we aren’t done.

Finally, I want to mention, this year marks the 40th anniversary of the Victims of Crime Act, commonly shortened to VOCA. This act was passed by Congress and signed into law on October 12, 1984. VOCA established the Crime Victims Fund (CVF), a Federal Victim Notification System, discretionary grants for victim service organizations, victim assistance positions in the Department of Justice, financial support for the Children’s Justice Act Program, and assistance and compensation for victims and survivors of terrorism.

In 1988, the law was amended establishing OVC as the administrator of the CVF. The CVF consists of deposits from federal criminal fines, forfeited bail bonds, penalties, and special assessments. The VOCA Fix to Sustain the Crime Victims Fund Act was signed into law in 2021, mandating that monetary penalties from federal deferred and non-prosecution agreements also be added to the CVF rather than the General Treasury. Crucially, the CVF does not use taxpayer dollars. Since 2007, more than $31 billion has been deposited into the CVF.

Because of VOCA and the CVF, OVC is able to support thousands of programs annually with millions of dollars invested in services provided directly to crime victims who have suffered physical, emotional, and financial harm from victimization:

  • Because of VOCA, OVC grant funds were used to train almost 200,000 people, helping to educate community partners such as victim advocates, social service providers, legal service providers, community members, law enforcement organizations, and healthcare providers to continually improve the quality of services provided to victims of crime. One amazing example is FBI’s Trauma Notification Training, released just this week. An update to their “we regret to inform you” training. With the Trauma Notification Training and accompanying app, first responders all over the country, who are tasked with providing the news no loved one ever wants to hear, can do it in a trauma-informed and culturally sensitive way. And also leave information and resources behind for when the family is emotionally ready to turn to these things. 
  • Because of VOCA, OVC funded organizations that primarily serve victims of domestic violence served over 400,000 victims, providing nightly emergency housing, crisis interventions, and moments of individual advocacy.
  • Because of VOCA, OVC can fund responses to mass violence and terrorism events like those at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School; Pulse Nightclub; Robb Elementary School; Buffalo, New York; and countless others; and our friends Wally and Gio, who you met last night, can provide moments of critical relief to victims, survivors, family members, and first responders.
  • Because of VOCA, we can fund hotlines around the nation that operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week like the National Sexual Assault Hotline, VictimConnect, the National Domestic Violence Hotline, and the Elder Justice Hotline that provide trauma informed professionals who connect survivors to indescribably important resources.

In short, the CVF is what allows us to fund the helpers and ensure that victims and survivors of crime have access to victim assistance and compensation programs in their state. Happy Birthday to VOCA – we’ve come a long way.

This year’s honorees are a collective of individuals who quite literally come from all across the United States, from small towns and large, rural and urban. They all have different backgrounds and different paths, but they all have at least one thing in common. As Justice Marshall challenged, they did not wait for others to move out, where they saw need, or injustice, or inequality, they acted, and we are better because of their work.

Now, it is my pleasure to introduce Assistant Attorney General Amy Solomon of the Office of Justice Programs.

When Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed Ms. Solomon to lead the Office of Justice Programs in May 2021, it marked her return to a place and a mission she loved. Because from 2010 to 2017 she served as director of policy for OJP and as senior advisor to OJP’s Assistant Attorney General.

She was nominated by President Biden and confirmed as Assistant Attorney General by a bipartisan vote of the Senate on April 18, 2023.

As the Assistant Attorney General, Ms. Solomon leads the Department of Justice’s principal funding, research, and statistical component, overseeing about $5 billion annually in grants and other resources to support state, local, and Tribal criminal and juvenile justice activities and victim service programs.

She provides outstanding leadership at the Office of Justice Programs, and I am so grateful for her support for OVC and victims of crime. She is authentic, compassionate, and an absolutely terrific boss.

Please join me in welcoming Assistant Attorney General Amy Solomon!


Date Published: April 25, 2024