Thank you so much, Deputy Attorney General Monaco. I am honored to be here today with you and the Attorney General, and pleased to join my distinguished friends and colleagues from across the Department of Justice.
Congratulations to all of today’s honorees. We stand in awe of your many achievements and are proud to recognize you for the incredible difference you have made in so many lives.
I want to give special thanks to Amy Solomon and Kris Rose for their leadership at the Office of Justice Programs and the Office for Victims of Crime, and for the tremendous work they do every day. They are fortunate to work with teams of talented and committed people, and I am grateful for all they do.
Every April, we set aside one week to mark the progress we have made in affording victims full access to the protections of our criminal legal system. National Crime Victims’ Rights Week is a chance to recognize how far we’ve come: victims today have greater legal protections than ever before. There are now thousands of victims’ rights laws in place across the United States, including in two-thirds of state constitutions.
Our Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) is working hard, in collaboration with victim assistance and compensation administrators across the country, to expand the universe of services available to crime victims. OVC funding now supports thousands of local victim assistance programs and victim compensation programs in every state and territory and right here in D.C. Victims in every corner of our country are getting help from skilled victim service professionals.
But this week is also an opportunity to look to the future and the work still to be done. There are still far too many gaps in availability of services. In particular, we have work to do on access and equity — the challenge of delivering services — quality services — to all victims, in every community.
We know that many victims don’t get the help they need because they don’t know that help exists. And most violent victimizations never even come to the attention of the authorities. Only about 40% of violent victimizations were reported to police in 2020.
Support is especially hard to find in historically marginalized and underserved areas. For many people of color and for members of the LGBTQ+ community, conventional victim services may be less likely to meet their needs, and, in fact, can sometimes operate as a barrier to healing. We can and should do better.
One of President Biden’s first actions in office was to call for a whole-of-government effort to advance equity and support for underserved communities across every sector of our society. That includes our justice system as a whole and its many parts, including victim services. We have taken up the mantle at the Department of Justice.
Last year, I had the privilege of joining Kris and her team as we announced the creation of the National Center for Culturally Responsive Victim Services. The Center provides training and assistance to help victim service organizations expand their capacity to reach marginalized populations as a fundamental part of their mission. We are excited about this initiative. For far too long, communities of color have borne a disproportionate share of the burden of crime in our country. This effort represents an important step in ensuring that all victims, regardless of background or status, can access the services they need and the justice they deserve.
We are also extending our outreach to victims in the LGBTQ+ community. They are more likely than other groups to suffer victimization and less likely to benefit from services that are responsive to their needs. I’m pleased we are stepping in to help bridge this divide. OVC recently released a grant solicitation for updating a toolkit on responding to transgender victims, with a focus on transgender women and girls of color, who face particularly high levels of violence, discrimination, and erasure.
A free and just society requires that all who are victimized by crime can have the support they need to heal and access justice. I am proud to be part of this Justice Department – and of a group of advocates and professionals like all of you – that works so hard every day to turn this aspiration into a reality. I urge all of us to join together as we work to help victims get on the path to healing and honor the dignity of that individual journey.
I applaud each and every one of you for making this your mission. Thank you for all you do.