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National Crime Victims' Rights Week: April 10-16, 2005 bannerNational Crime Victims' Rights Week: April 10-16, 2005 bannerNational Crime Victims' Rights Week: April 10-16, 2005 banner


Sample Speech

If you ask ten people on the street in our community what “justice” means to them, you might get ten different answers. If you ask ten victims of crime what “justice” means to them, it's likely a common theme will occur. To victims and survivors of crime, justice simply means that they are treated with respect, that they are listened to and actually heard, and that they will have a voice in vital decisions that are made related to their cases, as well as to their lives.

In America today, we often speak of “criminal justice” and “juvenile justice” and even “community justice.” Yet we seldom hear about “victim justice,” which is at the very heart and soul of “justice” in our nation. If victims never reported crimes, we would not be able to identify and arrest violent offenders. If victims didn't cooperate as witnesses in criminal cases and juvenile adjudications, the guilty would remain free to harm again. And if victims didn't bravely speak out about the devastating impact of crime on them and those they love, few of us would fully realize the domino effect of crime that affects each and every one of us – that those being injured and assaulted and murdered are our mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, sisters and brothers, neighbors and friends. One crime can have many victims.

This week, we join together to honor victims and survivors and those who serve them, and to commemorate the Silver Anniversary of National Crime Victims' Rights Week.

When President Ronald W. Reagan declared the first National Crime Victims' Rights Week 25 years ago, he also soon established the President's Task Force on Victims of Crime, which for the first time offered a national perspective on the plight of crime victims. “In proclaiming Crime Victims' Week, I stated that our commitment to criminal justice goes far deeper than our desire to punish the guilty or to deter those considering a lawless course,” President Reagan said. “Our laws represent the collective moral voice of a free society – a voice that articulates our shared beliefs about the roles of civilized behavior. Both the observance of Crime Victims' Week and the creation of this Task Force are entirely consistent with principles that lie at the heart of our nation's belief in freedom under law.”

In the past 25 years, there have been hundreds of millions of people in our nation who have been victimized by crime – women battered, children abused and traumatized, men and women assaulted, countless people murdered, and an entire nation devastated by senseless acts of terrorism against our people. It is in honor of these brave victims and survivors of crime that we validate our common “belief in freedom under law” and declare in a unified voice: “Justice Isn't Served Until Crime Victims Are.”

In the aftermath of crime, there is shock and devastation, pain and trauma and fear. There is confusion about what is happening now, and what will happen in the future. Yet there is also a path of help, of hope and of healing that is paved each and every time someone reaches out to help a victim of crime, and to provide support to someone who is hurting. There is a path of justice that results from the simple act of service to victims and survivors of crime. Crime victims deserve to have their most important needs identified and addressed.

Justice isn't served until crime victims are treated with dignity and compassion by our criminal and juvenile justice systems.

Justice isn't served until crime victims' most basic needs are identified – safety, housing, basic medical and mental health care, food and clothing for their children – and that efforts are made to meet these important needs.

Justice isn't served until crime victims are informed of all their rights throughout the justice process – rights that empower them, give them important choices, and offer them opportunities to have a voice in their cases, and in their future; rights that include information, notification, protection, participation, restitution, and victim compensation.

Justice isn't served until we realize, as a community and as a nation founded on the principles of “equal rights for all,” that violence affects us all, and that victims' rights represent the very foundation upon which our nation was created.

And justice isn't served until all crime victims can be assured that their offenders will be held accountable for their crimes, and that our collective efforts focus on preventing future victimization, and promoting individual and community safety.

Every time we serve victims and survivors of crime, we are also serving justice. “Service” comes in many shapes and forms – from simply listening to a survivor who needs to talk about his or her experiences, to asking, “Is there anything I can do to help you?,” to becoming informed about victims' rights and services so that you, in turn, can inform victims who truly need these resources. You can serve victims as a compassionate family member or friend, or as a volunteer for one of the many programs in our community that provide victims with information, support, and assistance. You can serve victims through your support of criminal justice policies and public policy that promote rights and assistance for victims of crime, and accountability for criminal offenders. You can serve victims by referring anyone whom you know is a crime victim or survivor of crime to a victim assistance program.

This week and throughout the year, we can make justice truly meaningful and truly effective by recognizing the rights and needs of victims and survivors of crime, and by recognizing that crime isn't something that “happens to someone else.” Because one crime can have many victims, and because we have countless opportunities to ensure that victims and survivors receive the rights and respect that they need and deserve.

So this week, as we pay tribute to crime victims and all those – including many of you – who dedicate their lives to helping them, our shared challenge is to realize that justice isn't served until crime victims are, that justice isn't served until victims' rights and services are not just celebrated annually, but practiced daily.

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National Crime Victims' Rights Week: Justice Isn't Served Until Crime Victims Are April 10–16, 2005
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