I am delighted to join you today to celebrate the 23rd annual
commemoration of National Crime Victims' Rights Week. It is our
special time to honor those who bring honor to victims; to pay
tribute to our many accomplishments as a profession over the past
31 years; and to remember the very reason that victim assistance
and allied programs exist: that is, to provide support and services
to victims of crime.
Indeed, we have much to celebrate, as the field of victim assistance
is strong, vibrant and committed as ever to easing the suffering
of those hurt by crime. There are over 10,000 communityand
victim assistance programs in the United States today that help
victims in our nation, as well as American citizens who are victimized
abroad. Over 32,000 federal and state laws are on the books today
that define and protect victims' rights. But we also face many
challenges, today and in the future, that will require even greater
doses of courage, of compassion, and of commitment to justice for all people
who are hurt by crime.
The theme of this year's National Crime Victims' Rights Week"Victims'
Rights: Fulfill the Promise"encourages
us to consider not only what we can promise to victims of
crime, but also what we can't due to a lack of policies,
programs and resources that are needed to adequately address the
wide range of victims' needs. So today, what can we promise
victims to help them cope with the aftermath of crime? Without
a doubt, we can promise
- To treat them with compassion and dignity.
- To help them identify
and meet their most important needs related to their physical,
emotional, financial and spiritual losses.
- To provide them with information about their statutory and constitutional
rights, as well as advocacy to help them implement those rights.
This is what victim assistance is all about. And you don't have
to be a victim advocate to fulfill these promises. You only need
be a caring and compassionate person who recognizes when someone
is suffering, and who stands ready to do whatever is needed
to ease his or her pain. Often, crime victims' basic needs can
be met by a family member, a friend, or a neighbor who takes the
time to ask, "What do you need?," and "How can I
help?" This simple act of reaching out can be the very key
that opens a door to a victim's recovery. This act of compassion
can help victims truly understand that they are not alone,
and that someone is there to help them.
When I ask average folks to help us "fulfill the promise" to
victims of crime, I am simply asking them to
- Be aware that many people we know and love may be victimized,
and not disclose to anyone what they are going
through. Often, the best support you can offer is to just let
you are there for them if and when they need you.
- Recognize that nobody asks or deserves to be
a crime victim, and anybody hurt by crime has needs that you can
- Be aware of the many victim assistance programs available
today to help victims cope with their trauma and loss, and understand
- Be aware that if you or someone you
know is a crime
victim, you have rights to be notified of the status and
location of the offender; to participate in criminal or juvenile
proceedings; to be afforded protection from further harm; to
have a voice in justice proceedings through a "victim impact statement";
to restitution from the offender to help you recover financial
losses endured as a result of the crime; and in violent crime
cases, the right to apply for victim compensation to pay for crime-related
expenses and losses.
- Volunteer for and support these programs that are dedicated
to helping crime victims they rely greatly on our communities
and concerned citizens to continue their valuable and vital
These five steps will help you help us "fulfill the promise" to
victims today. Yet sage advice offered by author Anthony D'Angelo, "Promise
a lot and give even more," holds great meaning for anyone who
is in a position to help a victim of crime today and in the future.
What would we like to promise victims?
We would like to promise victims that the scales of justice
are truly balanced that their needs and rights will
receive equal consideration to the needs and rights of their accused
convicted offenders. Yet this will not be a reality until
the U.S. Constitution is amended to include rights for victims
of crime. An instructive activity is to review our nation's founding
document on a computer and "word search" for one key
word: "victims." The universal response from our nation's
Constitution will be: "victim' not found." And until we
can actually find the word "victim" in our Constitution,
we cannot promise equal justice to them. The victims' rights
amendment currently pending in the U.S. Congress needs your support
to fulfill the ultimate promise of "equal rights for victims."
We would like to promise victims that their statutory rights
will always be enforced but, sadly, this is not the case.
A significant focus today and in the future must address victims'
rights compliance that is, that the more than 30,000 victims'
rights laws are implemented on a consistent and comprehensive basis.
This will require a commitment to "rights, not rhetoric"
a commitment that says laws passed to provide victims with assistance,
support and remuneration will be implemented on a daily basis.
We would like to promise victims that we can address their
most important needs for safety, for counseling, for information
and notification, for restitution from their offenders, and for
the right to participate in all proceedings related to their
cases. This promise demands that we secure more resources human,
financial, and legislative to meet victims' increasing needs
in a comprehensive and consistent manner.
How can we fulfill these important promises? Surely we can't
do it alone. But in a nation where nearly everyone knows
someone who has been victimized, or they themselves have been touched
by crime, we must pursue avenues that engage and involve everyone
across our nation in communities large and small, urban, suburban
and rural, of every culture and race, religion and ethnicity
to join us in our efforts. Because when one person is hurt
by crime, we are all touched by its effects.
The aftermath of the terrorist acts of September 2001 taught
me an important lesson: When Americans are faced with unspeakable
acts of trauma and tragedy, they rise up in unison to confront
them. Today there is a universal bond among everyone who
lives in this nation, who cherishes and values the freedoms and
liberties that make us Americans. That bond comprised
of courage, and compassion and commitment is what it will
take to fulfill the promise to crime victims. . . . that their needs
and interests represent our needs and interests, as individuals,
communities and a nation as a whole. And that bond is what gives
me hope that our promise to victims who daily across our
nation endure trauma and tragedy will ultimately be fulfilled.
Thank you very much,
(Include in your speech any state or local initiatives
that are relevant
to the 2003 NCVRW theme: "Victims' Rights: Fulfill the
|National Crime Victims' Rights
Week: Fulfill the Promise
||April 612, 2003