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
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.
|National Crime Victims' Rights
Week: Justice Isn't Served Until Crime Victims Are
||April 1016, 2005