Attorney General Merrick B. Garland delivers remarks at the National Crime Victims’ Service Awards | Takeover bid
Notes as prepared for delivery
Good afternoon. Good afternoon. Thank you Amy [Solomon], for that kind introduction, and for your stewardship of the Office of Justice Programs. And thanks to you and your team, Kris [Rose].
We would not be here today without the dedicated professionals of the Office for Victims of Crime and the Office of Justice Programs. You planned today’s event and you do amazing work every day on behalf of the American people. Thank you.
I am pleased to be joined today by the leadership team of the Ministry of Justice, the Deputy Attorney General of Monaco and Associate Attorney General Gupta.
We are all here because we know that our country’s justice systems could not function without victim service providers.
Empowering and encouraging people who have been victimized to participate in our justice system is essential to justice.
Demonstrating to victims of crime that we hear and see them – and gaining their trust in our work – is essential to upholding the rule of law.
The theme for National Victims of Crime Rights Week this year is Rights, Access and Equity. This theme highlights the importance of helping survivors of crime achieve justice by upholding victims’ rights, expanding access to services, and ensuring fairness and inclusion for all.
We are honored to be here to announce the recipients of this year’s National Awards for Services to Victims of Crime and to recognize the recipients of the National Awards for Services to Victims of Crime for 2020 and 2021.
These award winners – like the hundreds of other victim advocates and allied professionals here today – are true public servants.
You are there for victims of crime every step of the way.
You offer compassion and care immediately after a tragedy.
You help victims navigate the maze of legal proceedings for months or years.
And you support victims long after a case has reached a decision and lawyers like us have left the courtroom.
This year’s recipients represent many aspects of the victim services field.
The recipients include medical professionals who have dedicated themselves to providing the care, support and compassion that victims of sexual violence deserve.
One of the winners personally and single-handedly pursued in-person services, court accompaniments and phone calls to support victims of domestic violence when the pandemic hit.
Two of the winners are themselves survivors of assault, abuse and exploitation who have turned their painful experiences into a difference in the lives of other victims.
Together, all of these honorees represent the best of who and what we all strive to be as public servants.
At the Department of Justice, we put our resources to work supporting victim advocates, funding victim assistance programs, and putting victims at the center of our efforts to carry out the department’s mission to uphold the rule of law.
As outlined in the Department of Justice’s recent Agency Equity Plan, we are taking department-wide actions that we hope will improve access to departmental services for underserved communities. — especially those who are disproportionately likely to be victims of crime.
In 2021, our Office for Victims of Crime awarded over $1 billion to fund victim services. These include mental health counselling, legal assistance and victim advocates, enabling more than 11,000 victim assistance programs to reach more than 10 million survivors. This year, we are continuing that work.
Our Office for Victims of Crime is releasing several new solicitations to expand access to services for those who have been historically underrepresented and underserved.
And across the Department, we are strengthening our ability to prevent and prosecute cases of human trafficking and to protect and support victims of human trafficking.
The Department of Justice has been working hard to push forward the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which finally happened earlier this year.
As it has done since the VAWA came into force, our Office on Violence Against Women uses all resources at its disposal to prevent and respond to gender-based violence, provide essential services to survivors and support victim service providers.
Our budget for the next fiscal year includes a total of $1 billion for the Office on Violence Against Women — an increase of 74% over the level adopted for fiscal year 22.
We know that survivors are more likely to seek services from organizations that know their culture, language and background. That’s why the Office on Violence Against Women prioritizes and pilots programs for organizations that provide culturally-specific, community-based support to survivors.
We also center victims in our tribal justice work. Native American communities have long suffered disproportionate rates of violence. In October, the Department launched a steering committee to address the crisis of missing or murdered Indigenous peoples.
The first priority of this steering committee is to develop “strategies to support victims and their loved ones”.
Whether it’s fighting gun violence, fighting fraud and exploitation, or supporting survivors of sexual assault — victims and their rights are at the center of our efforts.
This commitment to victims also requires an understanding of how far-reaching the effects of a criminal act can be.
Hate crimes are an important example. We know that — in addition to the targeted victim — hate crimes strike terror and fear into entire communities.
That’s why the Department takes a holistic approach to combating unlawful acts of hate by supporting not only direct victims, but also entire communities.
A broad and deep understanding of victims’ rights is essential to our ability to carry out the Department’s mission. And without the dedicated work of service providers for victims of crime, this mission would not be possible.
All of us in this work understand that the experience of victims of crime is often much more than just an incident or moment in time.
Being the victim of a crime can mean an upsetting and sometimes upsetting experience that lasts long after the crime is over.
Last week marked the 27th anniversary of the day a domestic terrorist bombed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people, including 19 children, and seriously injuring hundreds more.
As the Justice Department’s lead prosecutor in this case, I arrived at the scene 48 hours after the attack.
Shattered glass and crumbled bricks were everywhere.
The facade of the building had collapsed and fallen into a crater.
An army of first responders sifted through the rubble for survivors and the dead. And everyone was crying.
Prosecutors have met with family members and survivors. We listen to their concerns. We have held frequent briefings to keep everyone informed. We went to the memorial service together.
We treated them as we would have liked our own families to be treated.
And that’s really at the heart of what you all do: you treat people the way you would want someone you love to be treated if something terrible happened to them.
You do this when tragedy strikes an entire community. And you do it when tragedy strikes individuals.
You help people and communities endure unimaginable loss and heal untold evils. You do this despite unusually long days and emergency calls in the middle of the night.
You are nothing short of heroic. I am in awe of you.
Thanks for being with us today. I will now entrust the program to the Deputy Attorney General of Monaco.