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Remarks of Laurie Robinson, Assistant Attorney General
Office of Justice Programs

National Crime Victims' Rights Week
Awards Ceremony

Friday, April 8, 2011
Washington, DC

     Thank you, Joye. I'm so delighted to be here - and I'm thrilled to have the Attorney General with us again.

     Joye just spent a lot of time recognizing the people who helped make this ceremony possible - and I want to second her thanks to Kim, Olivia, and all the OVC team. But I noticed there was one name missing, and that's Joye Frost.

     I have to tell you, Joye has done such an amazing job leading OVC the last two-plus years. My Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Mary Lou Leary, and I have relied on her heavily to guide our policy and programmatic efforts in the victims arena - and Joye has done it with grace, intelligence, and passion. So I just want to say "thank you, Joye," for all that you do.

     And I also want to congratulate our award recipients. As always, the field of nominees this year was extremely competitive - but each of you rose to the top by virtue of your extraordinary dedication and hard work. I've spent my career in criminal justice, and I have to say I never cease to be amazed at the level of time and commitment that victim advocates, across the board, put into their work. To stand out among a group like that is no small thing. It's really an honor to recognize you for your incredible work.

     I think we've arrived at an interesting moment in public safety. I've said many times we're at a crossroads. Crime rates nationally have been going down, which means - happily - that rates of victimization have declined. But there are still far too many victims - even one victim is too many - and a tough economy and a proliferation of new crimes have made your jobs even harder.

     Grass-roots victim assistance programs have always operated on little more than a shoestring, but we all know money's even tighter now. And helping a victim cope with life-altering trauma is hard enough when you speak the victim's language or when the perpetrator is in plain sight and not hidden behind a computer screen. These are real challenges that you're all facing, and the bottom line is that you're having to meet these challenges without an infusion of new resources. In other words, you're doing more with less.

     We know the difficulties you're encountering, and we know that passion and commitment aren't enough to meet the needs of those who come through your doors. Joye and her staff have been working hard to identify the biggest challenges and to find ways to ensure that no victim who comes seeking help is turned away.

     One of our major efforts is OVC's Vision 21 initiative. This is something I'm really excited about. The goal of Vision 21 is to look at the state of the crime victims field and determine how to meet both the enduring challenges and the emerging issues. This is a strategic effort to assess where we are in terms of being able to respond to victims' needs - and I think it's exactly the kind of exercise we need to undertake during a time when resources are so precious.

     We're going to be holding forum discussions, conducting literature reviews, and gathering information from professionals across the country to get a firm idea of what we think the role of the crime victims field should look like and how we can strengthen our service capacity. We're also going to undertake a systematic analysis of ongoing and future challenges. The result will be a set of recommendations on how we can move the field forward, and a blueprint for a national demonstration project.

     So I'm looking forward to seeing what this project reveals. It's my strong hope that it will be nothing less than a guide for the future of victim services in our country.

     I want to commend Joye and her great staff for the idea behind Vision 21. I think this is an effective way to develop an evidence base for the victim services profession - and that's something the Attorney General and I have been working to promote throughout the criminal justice field. And ultimately, being smart on crime means being smart on victim services.

     So we're continuing to do what we've always done - support those of you who serve our nation's crime victims. At the same time, we're working to make sure the crime victims field is positioned to meet the growing challenges of a complex world. This isn't something the Department of Justice can do alone. It's not something we should do alone. It will take all of us, working together, to chart a course for the future of our field.

     As we move into the future, it helps to have strong leaders - and that's exactly what we have in our Attorney General. Most of you are aware of Eric Holder's long-standing commitment to victims' rights and services - and you know his commitment is very personal. Going back to his days as U.S. Attorney, he's always kept focus on ensuring that victims have access to appropriate assistance and a role in the justice process.

     He has a special concern for kids - both children who have experienced violence and abuse and those who have been exposed to it as witnesses. He understands that childhood victimization can take many forms, and it's our responsibility to address it wherever it exists. I continue to be impressed by the depth and complexity of his grasp of these issues. It's the mark of a true victim advocate. It's truly an honor to have him with us once again today. Please welcome the Attorney General of the United States.

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