|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE||OVC||WEDNESDAY, APRIL 22, 1999||202/307-0703|
ATTORNEY GENERAL HONORS SERVICE TO CRIME VICTIMS
WASHINGTON, DC -- As part of the 1998 observance of National Crime Victims Rights Week, Attorney General Reno today presented 17 Crime Victim Service Awards, including eight Special Awards related to the Oklahoma City Bombing and a Special Heroism Award. These annual awards, the highest federal award for service to victims, were given to eight individuals and eleven programs. Many of the award recipients have experienced personal tragedy and become advocates on behalf of other victims.
"Countless individuals and groups in communities across the country are working tirelessly to help those who suffer as a result of crime," said Reno. "Today, we honor some of the shining examples who are an inspiration to us all."
National Crime Victims' Rights Week, observed this year from April 19-25 and which coincides with the third anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing, provides an opportunity for thousands of local communities across the nation to pay tribute to the millions of Americans who have been victimized by crime. The awards ceremony is one of the activities planned by the Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) to commemorate the week.
"Every year, I'm impressed with the extraordinary capacity with which our award recipients have met adversity," said Reggie Robinson, Acting Director of OVC. "Many of the individuals and groups who assisted in the aftermath of the Oklahoma City bombing, for example, faced personal tragedy and yet came to the aid of others in need." OVC selected the Crime Victim Service awardees from over 100 nominations received from federal, state and local victim assistance programs, national victim assistance organizations, Members of Congress, governors, U.S. Attorneys and individual citizens.
Honored by the Attorney General were:
DENISE M. MOON
Director, Dade County Victim Assistance Unit
State Attorney's Office
1350 N.W. 12th Avenue
Miami, Florida 33136
Denise Moon's career in victim services spans 24 years, from her hiring as the first social worker at the Jackson Memorial Hospital Rape Treatment Center/Crisis Intervention Clinic in Miami in 1974 to her current duties as director of the Victim Assistance Unit of the Dade County State Attorney's Office. She helped organize the Children's Center, a special unit dedicated to the forensic interviewing of child victims and witnesses. In 1987, she helped initiate the first prosecutor-based domestic violence unit in Florida, and in 1992, she helped design and implement a pioneering misdemeanor domestic violence court. She also helped establish Tourist Lock-Up Criminals, a joint venture among hotels, tourist agencies and the State Attorney's Office that encourages out-of-town victims to return for court proceedings. She authored a funding proposal that now supports the Victim Access Network, a comprehensive automated victim notification and information system. She has served on the Board of Directors of the Florida Network of Victim Witness Services since 1986 and was elected its president in 1991. A true stalwart of the victims' movement, Denise Moon has been described as "the ultimate professional."
GENE AND PEGGY SCHMIDT
P.O. Box 7829
Overland Park, Kansas 66207
Gene and Peggy Schmidt have dedicated their impressive efforts on behalf of crime victims to their daughter Stephanie, a college student who was raped and murdered by a co-worker recently released after serving ten years for rape. The day after Stephanie's funeral in 1993, the Schmidts formed a task force that proposed state legislation including: requiring first-time sex offenders to register with local sheriffs upon parole; making registry information accessible to the public; increasing sentences for sex offenders; expanding sanctions against job applicants who lie about criminal history and mandating that the state notify employers of the hiring of parolees. These measures have all been accomplished through changes in Kansas law and policy. The task force also advocated passage of the Sexually Violent Predator Law, known as "Stephanie's Law," which provides for the civil commitment of sexual offenders who suffer from mental abnormalities or personality disorders and are likely to reoffend. Used for the first time in 1994, "Stephanie's Law" was upheld by the Supreme Court on June 23, 1997. The Schmidts have testified or been invited to testify on similar legislation before eight state legislatures, and, along with their daughter, Jeni, testified before Congress on the 1994 Crime Bill. Through a number of nationwide public appearances, including "60 Minutes," and through their non-profit organization, Speak Out for Stephanie, which sponsors educational and mentoring programs for elementary, secondary and college students, the Schmidts have spread their message that, by breaking the cycle of violence among potential offenders, future sex offenses can be prevented.
Founder, Friends of Amanda Foundation
28 Cherry Hill Lane
Manalapan, New Jersey 07726
Karen Wengert derives the force of her conviction from the memory of her six and a half year-old daughter Amanda, who was molested and murdered in 1994 by a next-door neighbor whose record of sex offenses was shielded by state and local laws. Vowing to prevent the same tragedy from befalling other children, she founded the Friends of Amanda Foundation, from which she has been a staunch advocate for legislative reform to protect victims. Among the New Jersey laws she has strongly influenced are the Amanda Act, a measure that allows police and authorized officials to examine juvenile records for incidents of violent crime, and the Peeping Tom Law, which allows voyeurs to be psychologically examined. Ms. Wengert encouraged the passage and enactment of the No Early Release Act requiring the most violent criminals to serve a minimum of 85% of their sentences. Her contributions extend to direct service. When she saw the benefits of art therapy to her two surviving children, she sought to establish a free art therapy program for battered children. In 1997, she and Monmouth County Senator John O. Bennett proposed Amanda's Easel, which is now operated by the Women's Center of Monmouth County and serves battered women and children. Ms. Wengert serves as a volunteer art therapy assistant in the program. She also completed training to become a Child Assault Prevention Facilitator and works on behalf of children throughout Monmouth County. She was appointed last year by Governor Whitman to the New Jersey Task Force on Child Abuse and Neglect.
LOS ANGELES COMMISSION ON ASSAULTS AGAINST WOMEN
DEAF AND DISABLED SERVICES PROGRAM
Peggie Reyna, Program Coordinator
6043 Hollywood Boulevard
Los Angeles, California 90028
The Deaf and Disabled Services Program of the Los Angeles Commission on Assaults Against Women is one of the only organizations in the nation that provides services to deaf and disabled victims of crime. Created in 1989 to aid victims of sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse, it seeks to empower members of the deaf and disabled community. To that end, it relies on deaf and disabled individuals, rather than interpreters, to provide services, and emphasizes intervention, prevention and education. The program offers an array of activities not only to aid individual victims, but also to interrupt the cycle of violence. Classes are tailored to meet the needs of those with physical, visual and developmental disabilities. An off-shoot of the program, Deaf Kids Self Defense and Safety, teaches children how to protect themselves from abuse. The Deaf and Disabled Services Program also trains staff and volunteers at domestic violence shelters to equip them to work with deaf and disabled battered women. The program was also instrumental in the creation of a TDD line for the National Domestic Violence Hotline. The program's impact is exemplified in the story of a young deaf and mute woman who was repeatedly raped and beaten by her father and brother. Because she lacked any language abilities and was unable to communicate, many shelters turned her away. Program staff persevered, found a safe haven for the victim and taught her sign language. The young woman now has close contact with family and friends and lives without the threat of violence.
PROGRAM AGAINST SEXUAL VIOLENCE
UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA
Jamie C. Tiedemann, Director
Office of the Vice President for Student Development and Athletics
University of Minnesota
407 Boynton Health Service, 410 Church Street S.E.
Minneapolis, Minnesota 55455
The University of Minnesota Program Against Sexual Violence, established in 1991, immediately became an innovator in sexual assault and family violence advocacy programs through its association with a major university. Staffed with five full and part-time employees and up to 50 volunteers, the program provides 24-hour on-call services and serves over 200 victims and survivors a year. Approximately 20,000 students, staff, faculty and alumni benefit from its educational outreach each year. The program offers a variety of unique activities such as: small group training for men and women athletes and coaches, which has reached over 600 participants; an interactive dramatic presentation on sexual assault and an interactive presentation that addresses same sex violence. The program administers two 52-hour training programs a year for sexual assault advocates and a 35-hour summer training for volunteers and staff of rural community-based sexual assault, domestic violence and victim-witness programs. Its advocacy training course has been integrated into the university's Women Studies curriculum. The program has worked with campus police to provide student victims transportation to court proceedings and has arranged special accommodations for victims with the registrar and student employment offices. The program has pioneered initiatives such as the Minnesota Higher Education Center Against Violence and Abuse and a partnership with the School of Dentistry to develop a family violence training model for dental professionals.
SHARON MARIE SIKORA
Chair, Arizona MADD
5691 W. Abraham Lane
Glendale, Arizona 85308
In 1981, the car Sharon Sikora was driving was hit by a drunken motorist and became engulfed in flames, causing burns over 95 percent of her body and paralysis of her vocal cords due to smoke inhalation. The Phoenix Fire Department Commander who responded to the crash described it this way: "The horror of what happened to Sharon was almost beyond description. I didn't feel she had any chance of survival." Since the accident, she has endured more than 70 reconstructive surgeries and has become a leading advocate for crime victims' rights. She co-founded Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), established the Arizona state chapter, and has made special effort to reach out to victims in rural counties and Indian country. She initiated the Ashes to Life Burn Support Group for survivors of significant burn injuries and co-founded the Fire Pal board of the Phoenix Fire Department, which oversees efforts to improve fire safety programs. She has advocated for .08 blood alcohol content legislation and Juvenile Zero Tolerance DUI laws. She helped launch a statewide DUI task force involving 65 police agencies that resulted in over 2,600 DUI arrests this past holiday season. She was instrumental in the passage of the Arizona Victim Bill of Rights. As a member of the Kentucky School Bus Crash-MADD Crisis Team, Ms. Sikora made three trips to Radcliff, Kentucky to assist victims and survivors of a drunk driving crash that left 24 youths and three adults dead and 14 others seriously injured. She currently sits on the board of the Arizona Victim Compensation Program, the Foundation for Burns and Trauma, the Phoenix Fire Department Fire Pals, Arizona Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and National Students Against Drunk Driving. Through her years of dedicated service, she has cultivated a second-generation victims advocate in her 26 year-old daughter, who is also a drunk driving victim. Of her many accomplishments, Ms. Sikora says she is proudest of being her daughter's mentor.
Toledo/Lucas County Victim-Witness Assistance Program
700 Adams Street, Suite 250
Toledo, Ohio 43604
Joan Coleman is responsible for one of the most comprehensive victim assistance programs in the country. Since becoming Executive Director of the Toledo/Lucas County Victim-Witness Assistance Program seven years ago, she has presided over the development of a multi-faceted organization that offers a full range of services to victims of all persuasions. Among the components of the program are: a general victim services office; a Special Services Division in the Juvenile Prosecutor's Section of Family Court; a child watch area for female victims of violent crime in Toledo Municipal Court; a 24-hour crisis response team and a multi-disciplinary advisory council. The program's Victims' Forum uses panels of victims and juvenile offenders to heighten the awareness of junior high and high school students about the repercussions of violent crimes and guns. The program also operates the only Hispanic/Latino Outreach Office in Ohio. Staffed with 17 employees and 30 volunteers, the program has aided over 40,000 victims and assisted them in receiving more than $3.5 million in compensation. In addition to her program responsibilities, Ms. Coleman's efforts led to the development of a uniform system for victim notification that preceded by two years the state law requiring this practice on the felony level. Prior to the statutory mandate of victim impact statements, she convinced trial judges to allow victims to speak at sentencing hearings. As a member of the National Organization for Victim Assistance national crisis response team, she provided crisis intervention to 28 crew members of the Canadian Enterprise Freighter after a tragedy ended the life of a fellow crew member. Ms. Coleman takes personal responsibility for the victims she serves, often helping to pay victims' rent and electric and telephone bills, taking food to those in need and personally relocating frightened victims and witnesses. Often putting in over 70 hours a week, Joan Coleman is a consummate professional who gives completely of herself to crime victims.
LIDERAS CAMPESINAS FARMWORKER WOMEN'S SEXUAL ASSAULT AND
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE PROJECT
Mily Trevino Saucedo, Executive Director
611 South Rebecca Street
Pomona, California 91766
The Lideras Campesinas Farmworker Women's Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Project reaches out to the underserved population of crime victims--abused migrant women farm workers. Concentrating on domestic violence victims among migrant communities in California's southern and central valley, the program addresses the social, economic, political and language barriers that render this group difficult to reach. Lideras Campesinas began in 1990 as a result of issues uncovered during a graduate research project on domestic violence in farm worker communities. It implemented a Domestic Violence Prevention Program in 1993 and began conducting statewide training to local farm worker advocates. In 1996, the organization expanded their educational model to include a sexual assault component. A true grass roots organization, the project relies on an advisory committee comprised of representatives from 15 communities to keep the project focused on the needs of women farm workers and their families. Under the committee's guidance, the project selects interested women farm workers and provides them intensive training in awareness, dynamics and prevention of sexual assault and domestic violence, as well as the resources available to victims. These advocates return to their communities and educate other farm worker women through conferences and social gatherings. Lideras Campesinas has reached over 10,000 women farm workers. Its impact has reached across the globe as project staff have discussed an advocacy exchange program with the "Delta" project in Cape Town, South Africa. An organization whose trademark is its respect for the integrity of community, Lideras Campesinas gives a voice to women who often lack the resources to speak on their own behalf.
MERLE SEEKING LAND & TRINITY A. GRAVATT
P.O. Box 127 & P.O. Box 323
Fort Thompson, South Dakota 57339
Special Heroism Award. On the evening of November 2, 1996, Merle Seeking Land and Trinity Gravatt were on their way home from a friend's house in Fort Thompson, South Dakota, on the Crow Creek Sioux Indian Reservation, when they heard a woman crying and shouting that she was being raped. They found the woman pinned to the ground, her clothes ripped away, being sexually assaulted, and they pulled the attacker away. The man, who had been drinking, attempted to leave the scene, but Mr. Seeking Land and Mr. Gravatt restrained him. The attacker became belligerent, pushing both of them, and as he tried to flee, Mr. Gravatt knocked him out. They then ran to call the police and returned to comfort the woman while they waited for authorities. The attacker was arrested and later charged with two counts of aggravated sexual abuse. Despite the influence of the defendant's family in the community and pressure to withdraw their cooperation with the investigation, both Mr. Seeking Land and Mr. Gravatt testified at the grand jury hearing, which was held approximately 175 miles from their home, and then at the trial, which was held in Aberdeen, about 150 miles from Fort Thompson. Their testimony helped to convict the defendant on both counts and to secure a sentence of 121 months in prison and 4 years of supervised release.
SPECIAL AWARDS RELATED TO THE OKLAHOMA CITY BOMBING
The largest-scale act of terrorism ever committed on North American soil, the April 19, 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, left 168 men, women and children dead and hundreds of others injured. The heroic rescue efforts and crisis response to the victims and survivors in its immediate aftermath earned the nation's collective admiration and praise. The scope of the tragedy brought to the trials that followed a set of dynamics unprecedented in the history of the U.S. criminal justice system. The complexities of the cases against Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, the great public scrutiny of the Denver trials and the sheer number of victims and survivors made the work of those involved seem a daunting undertaking. The dedication, compassion and perseverance demonstrated by the members of these eight groups may be characterized as nothing short of extraordinary.
Gwen Allen, Director
Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services
1200 N.E. 13th Street
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73152
Project Heartland began as the immediate mental health response to the bombing and continued as a crisis intervention mechanism throughout the trials and has now reached over 4,000 individuals. Opening with a staff of 5 individuals and eventually employing 73, it has provided counseling, support groups, outreach, consultation and education. When the trials began, project staff continued to offer their services through the debriefing of prosecution witnesses, support to victim family members and survivors attending the trial or closed-circuit broadcasts and preparing those individuals for some of the more difficult testimony.
CRITICAL INCIDENT WORKSHOPS GROUP
Colonel Jack Poe, Chief of Chaplains
Oklahoma City Police Department
701 Concord Drive
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73102
The Critical Incident Workshops Group is comprised of police and fire chaplains who arrived at the Alfred P. Murrah Building immediately after the bombing. These chaplains mobilized more than 700 clergy from around the country to help the survivors, families and rescuers on site and at a Family Response Center. In the days and months following the bombing, the group began conducting critical incident workshops to help rescuers cope with their experiences. These workshops became integral to the healing of those affected by the tragedy.
COLORADO/OKLAHOMA RESOURCE COUNCIL
Steve Siegel, Director of Program Development
District Attorney's Office
303 W. Colfax Avenue, No. 1300
Denver, Colorado 80204
Created to aid survivors and families of victims while in Denver, the Colorado/Oklahoma Resource Council (CORC) exemplified the positive force of collaboration. The CORC secured lodging near the federal courthouse, arranged local transportation and ensured availability of medical and mental health services. It provided a safe haven near the courthouse, offering victims a secure, protected and supportive environment. In addition, the CORC's "Line Holders" relieved victims from standing in line to secure limited courtroom seating.
OKLAHOMA CITY SAFE HAVEN
The Reverend Tracy Evans
1001 N.W. 25th, #206
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73106
For the victims and survivors unable to travel to Denver for the trials, the Oklahoma City Safe Haven Committee ensured the accessibility of trial proceedings. Safe Haven provided closed-circuit broadcast of the trials in a supportive atmosphere where shuttle services, counseling, refreshments and an information center for trial transcripts and witness summaries were available. The centers opened with jury selection in the McVeigh trial on March 31, 1997 and remained in service for the duration of both trials. More than 300 volunteers helped serve nearly 1,000 victims and survivors.
UNITED STATES ATTORNEY'S OFFICE FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF
OKLAHOMA VICTIM ASSISTANCE UNIT
Lynn Anderson, Assistant United States Attorney
Office of the United States Attorney for the Western District of Oklahoma
Western District of Oklahoma
210 W. Park Avenue, Suite 400
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73102
The Victim-Witness Assistance Unit of the United States Attorney's Office for the Western District of Oklahoma devoted its efforts to ensuring that victims, relatives and survivors would have access to the trials, whether in person or through the closed-circuit broadcasts. Among its activities were the securing of a large facility in Oklahoma City for viewing the closed-circuit broadcasts; organization of victim attendance at the trials, including arrangements for travel; training of volunteers to staff the Oklahoma City safe haven; assistance in ensuring the safety of those attending the trial; obtaining of medical care; coordination of shuttle and food services and providing emotional support.
OKLAHOMA CITY BOMBING VICTIM/WITNESS CENTER
Mary Anne Castellano, Victim/Witness Specialist
Office of the United States Attorney for the District of Colorado
1961 Stout Street, 13th Floor
Denver, Colorado 80294
The Oklahoma Bombing Victim/Witness Center offered much-needed sensitivity and compassion to the 135 survivors, family members of victims and rescue workers who appeared as witnesses at both trials. Comprised of victim-witness specialists from six United States Attorneys' Offices, the Center familiarized itself with the background of each victim and witness in an effort to understand their unique needs, helped those called to testify to make sense of the judicial process, acted as a conduit to victim services and advocated for victims and survivors when they encountered problems with employers.
DENVER MEDIA LOGISTICS/CONSORTIUM
Amy Bourgeron, Director
1437 Bannock, Room 379
Denver, Colorado 80202
The Denver Media Logistics/Consortium demonstrated victim-sensitive news coverage as it remained aware and respectful of the emotional needs of victims and survivors throughout the trials. Begun as a partnership between victim advocates and the press, the Consortium quickly became a self-generating committee of 72 news organizations that sought to ensure compassionate treatment of victims and survivors in the media, while at the same time maintaining the integrity and accuracy of information. Due to the exceptional scrutiny given to the trials and the great potential for media exploitation, the efforts of Consortium members merit sincere gratitude.
OKLAHOMA CITY BOMBING PROSECUTION TEAM
Patrick Ryan, United States Attorney
Office of the United States Attorney for the Western District of Oklahoma
210 W. Park Avenue, Suite 400
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73102
The Oklahoma City Bombing Prosecution Team set a new standard for the sensitive and inclusive treatment of victims in court. By requiring that members meet with each of 168 families of the deceased and with the injured survivors, the team demonstrated its commitment to ensuring that the impetus for serving justice in the trials would be the needs of the victims themselves. Through the creation of a victim database for the approximately 3,000 family members and survivors, the installation of a toll-free number through which victims could obtain needed assistance and by the convening of regular group meetings with victims, it was able to communicate rapidly and efficiently to those needing information. Working seven days a week, 12 or more hours per day for over two years, the team viewed its mission as a responsibility to victims above all else.
OVC is the federal government's chief advocate for crime victims and their families. OVC administers two grant programs for states to expand victim compensation and assistance programs, as well as other grants to support innovative programs benefiting crime victims. It also sponsors training to help criminal justice officials and others better meet the needs of crime victims and their families.
OVC's activities are financed by the Crime Victims Fund in the U.S. Treasury. The Fund receives deposits each fiscal year -- not from taxpayers -- but from fines and penalty assessments from convicted federal criminals.
To learn more about OVC, its programs and resources, see the web site at http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/ovc/ or the OJP home page at http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov. Or, call the OVC Resource Center at 800/627-6872.
After hours, please contact Linda Mansour on 202/616-3534 or page on 888/582-6750