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Tools for Public Speaking

Sample New Directions Speech

Even though nearly 30,000 victims' rights laws have been enacted across the Nation and 10,000 victim assistance programs have been established in communities to help crime victims, the trauma of victimization is very painful for too many of America's 31 million crime victims each year. Let's consider just three examples of crime victims' experiences in the aftermath of criminal victimization. While these cases are hypothetical, they contain real problems experienced by real crime victims in communities across the Nation every day.

Johnnie, a molested child, is so frightened by the strange and daunting criminal justice system that when it comes time to testify in court, he is too afraid to speak—the molester goes free. Sophie, the mother of three children, has been hospitalized from the injuries she received as the result of yet another brutal beating at the hands of her husband. Sophie now must choose between life in a home where she and her children risk further violence on a daily basis or life on the street where their safety and well-being are no more certain. Susan, a rape victim, becomes aware that her attacker has been released from prison when she sees him in the grocery store because no one bothered to tell her in advance that he would be getting out of prison.

You have probably heard stories just like these. You see them on television or read about them in the paper every day. You or someone you know might have even experienced such injustice first hand. Such affronts to our basic principles of justice seem to affect us at a visceral level, shaking our belief in the fundamental fairness of our society and our criminal justice system.

Though the U.S. Department of Justice reports that for the past several years crime rates have been decreasing overall, evidence of violence and fear of crime seem to surround us in our daily lives. Statistics indicate that crime is on the decline, but Americans feel less safe now than at any other time in our Nation's history. The problems of crime and crime victims seem overwhelming and intractable. Some choose to look the other way, rendered helpless and hopeless by the nature and magnitude of the problem. Yet even if you are someone whose sense of moral outrage at such injustice urges you to action, what can be done that will make any difference?

What can one person do? Indeed, what can an entire community do to address problems that seem as formidable as they do pervasive? In short, how do we address the many injustices crime victims suffer under our Nation's current system of justice? Tough questions that seem to have no easy answers.

It may surprise you to learn that I stand before you today, ready to suggest answers to these difficult questions—or at least to suggest a place to begin looking for solutions-the answer is as simple as turning to a single book. [Hold up New Directions]—a book representing the collective knowledge of more than 1,000 individuals from communities across the Nation and published by the U.S. Department of Justice, Office for Victims of Crime. It's called New Directions from the Field: Victims' Rights and Services for the 21st Century, and it's available to you absolutely free. This is no ordinary government publication. Rather, as its title implies, it sets forth recommendations from individuals across the Nation. New Directions represents the voices of crime victims, along with hundreds of victim services and justice professionals, who contributed to the development of this groundbreaking publication. New Directions provides recommendations from the field for the field for improving the treatment of crime victims in every part of the Nation.

The Office for Victims of Crime, within the U.S. Department of Justice, supported the development of this publication by soliciting input through expert summits, public hearings, focus groups, national training academies, and symposia. These forums included professionals representing the judiciary, law enforcement, prosecution, and corrections. Also included were crime victims, victim service providers, crime victim compensation program personnel, and allied victim services professionals from every constituency. The result of these efforts is a definitive description of the "state of crime victim justice" in America today and recommendations for the future. The cumulative knowledge gained from the contributors allows unparalleled precision in defining the problems of crime victims and, more importantly, offers the most promising solutions to those problems. New Directions incorporates 250 recommendations and hundreds of promising practices and practical strategies to those individuals, organizations, and agencies who provide victims' rights and services in either the private or public sector.

For example, New Directions contains an entire chapter on children as victims, which includes a host of policies, programs, and procedures that have helped minimize the trauma and emotional distress child victims of sexual assault must endure during their involvement with the criminal justice process. This chapter discusses programs, such as child advocacy centers, which provide a caring, sensitive environment for taking care of the legal and emotional needs of child victims such as young Johnnie. It includes the fundamental conceptual framework for collaborative community responses to domestic violence so victims can avail themselves of the resources that will allow them to escape a life of torment for one of hope, safety, and security. New Directions suggests countless ways for the criminal justice system to protect and keep safe victims such as Sophie, including enforcing anti-stalking laws. New Directions also cites strategies, such as automated notification, which would greatly enhance the ability to provide notice of a perpetrator's release to the victim before the perpetrator hits the street. This would allow crime victims like Susan, a rape survivor, to feel some sense of safety and security knowing that at least she will know the status and location of her offender.

Perhaps more than to any other segment of our society, New Directions speaks to criminal and juvenile justice officials who have the primary responsibility for keeping our democracy's most sacred promise—the promise of justice for all its citizens. Indeed, justice officials often define what "justice" really means for our Nation's crime victims. They define its nature and its scope. New Directions challenges those both inside and outside the criminal and juvenile justice systems to re-examine the way in which they administer victim justice.

New Directions, in essence, poses the question, "What, indeed, are the boundaries of justice?" The answer resulting from years of input from a diverse community of professionals and volunteers serving victims is this: Helping victims should not be about boundaries. Justice officials and society as a whole must stop asking, "What is the least we can do for crime victims?" Rather, justice officials and society must start asking, "What is the most we can do for crime victims?" The provision of quality victim services extends beyond the enforcement of victims' rights. It asks justice officials to do more than live up to the letter of victim-related laws, but go further and live up to the spirit of those laws. This means that provision of quality victim services means doing what is right for victims to make them feel respected and validated, to help them reconstruct their lives in the aftermath of a crime, and to show that the justice process can be caring, concerned, and just.

Justice practitioners, in particular, can use New Directions as a road map for victim justice. Traditionally, like Johnnie, Sophie, and Susan, victims have endured numerous detours and roadblocks in their search for justice. This remarkable book [hold up book] offers simply that: new directions toward a Nation and communities that make quality victim services and expanded victims' rights a destination, rather than a dream.
(10 minute stop point)

New Directions offers law enforcement vital resources on how to best fulfill their role as the "first responders" to crime and victims. It emphasizes promising practices that will result in positive victims' memories and opinions of their first encounter with the justice system. The numerous recommendations, policies, protocols, and procedures offered by New Directions provide a sound basis for realizing law enforcement's fundamental mandate to "protect and serve" victims of crime.

New Directions provides prosecutors specific recommendations for their role and responsibilities for the implementation of victims' core rights, which are notification, participation, input, and protection. Equally important, New Directions highlights the vital and central role of the prosecutor to important collaborative efforts involving allied professions and the community in pursuit of victim justice. As a primary purveyor of victim justice, prosecutors can serve as guides to victims who journey toward justice, using the guideposts provided by New Directions.

New Directions clearly recognizes and describes the significant leadership role of judges. The judiciary has the power and responsibility to ensure a fair and respectful justice process to all parties involved, including victims. New Directions validates this key leadership role and offers promising practices that encourage judges to use and cultivate their inherent leadership responsibilities to promote justice for all.

New Directions documents the tremendous progress that has been made in the past two decades in victims' rights and services during the post-sentencing phases of cases. While the role of community and institutional corrections has traditionally focused on offender management and supervision, their responsibilities for implementing victims' rights and services and focusing on community protection and safety are without parallel. For corrections officials, New Directions offers many model policies, programs, and practices that have been developed through partnerships between victim services and correctional agencies. Together they strive to achieve a balance of the rights, needs, and interests of victims, offenders, and the community.

New Directions rightfully recognizes our Nation's victim services community as "the glue that holds it all together." Many people are surprised to learn that there are more than 10,000 programs that serve victims of crime, located in communities of all kinds—large, small, urban, and rural. While the policies and programs of victim services communities may vary, their central mission remains the same. They want to ensure that victims of crime are afforded rights and services in a manner respectful of the trauma they have endured and insightful into their most critical needs. New Directions offers valuable perspectives into the roles of victim service providers, who act as catalysts for positive change and as caregivers in victims' time of need.

For allied professional stakeholders on the road to victim justice, New Directions provides both a road map and indispensable "roadside services" that help victims progress. These services take the form of concrete, creative examples of programs and practices that recognize the mutual responsibility of the Nation, the community, and the individuals to secure justice for victims of crime.

The justice system alone cannot accomplish the lofty goals of victim justice. Rather, it relies on the active involvement and creative, collaborative responses of individuals and agencies seeking to improve society's perception and treatment of crime victims. Everyone can help—health and mental health professionals, educators, members of the news media, the faith community, and business and legal professionals. What is the most important is that, as Maryland homicide victim Stephanie Roper recorded in her journal before her tragic murder, "One person can make a difference, and everyone should try." New Directions challenges key stakeholders to support initiatives that improve the plight of victims and provides countless, creative solutions that have been developed over the life of the victims' rights discipline that have made a significant difference for victims.

It is often said that a "just" society is best measured by how its citizens are treated by the justice system. By that standard, we live in a world of unfulfilled promise and potential when it comes to victim justice. New Directions is by far the best book ever written to guide our Nation in its journey toward that justice. Consider that 31 million crimes will be committed this year. This means that virtually everyone will be a direct or indirect victim of crime. It is in everyone's interest to join in the journey even though the trip may be long and difficult. Even though the first generation of the victims' rights movement has shortened our journey by many miles, the end is not in sight. We may not make it to the promised land, to paraphrase Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., but we can take solace in knowing that each day, in big and small ways, we take steps that will ease the journey to justice for the countless generations of victims who will follow in our footsteps.

New Directions offers us the opportunity to take the small steps that will allow our Nation to take giant leaps forward for victims. It provides the blue print and the tools, but it is up to all of us, joined together, to build the road. Remember, "many hands make light work," so I encourage each and every one of you to spread the word. Share New Directions, share its ideas, share its vision of victim justice. Share it in part or in whole, with friends, with colleagues, with community leaders, and with elected officials. Share everyone who cares, or should care, about the quality of justice in America. Injustice to one of us is an injustice to all of us. . . especially to victims of crime.

New Directions from the Field: Victims' Rights and Services for the 21st Century
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