Kathryn Turman Discusses National Crime Victims Week
“Justice Isn’t Served Until Crime Victims Are”
Kathryn Turman Talks About It
On the occasion of the 25th Anniversary of “National Crime Victims Rights Week” (April 10-16), we talked to Kathryn Turman, Program Director of the FBI’s Office for Victim Assistance. Kathryn, who has just been awarded the prestigious National Crime Victims Service Award by the Attorney General, has worked tirelessly for 18 of those 25 years on behalf of crime victims—and she has an unusually fine perspective on the history and development of this compassionate arm of law enforcement. She has served on the Hill, at the Department of Justice, and now in the FBI, supporting victims of crime and their families over the years in heartbreaking community murder and rape cases, in cases of financial fraud, in terrorism cases like Pan Am 103, the U.S.S. Cole, U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and in the 9/11 terrorism attacks.
Q: Kathryn, as director of the FBI’s Office for Victim Assistance, what message do you most want to get out to victims of crime in America?
Kathryn: I’d really like to echo this year’s theme for National Crime Victims’ Rights Week: “Justice isn’t served until crime victims are.” This is a heartfelt principle in the FBI. We want every man, woman, and child who has suffered as a victim of a federal crime to receive meaningful help and to have full access to the rights and assistance to which they are entitled under the law. Please help us help you. There are 107 full-time victim specialists across the United States and a Terrorism Victim Assistance Team here at FBI Headquarters who are dedicated to assisting you the minute they get the information from our special agents.
Q: Can you give me your take on the philosophy behind U.S. laws that seek to help crime victims?
Kathryn: Yes, I would. After all these years—25 of them!—people are still surprised by our nation’s legislated humane support for crime victims. In fact, the philosophy goes all the way back to the day in 1981 that President Reagan officially proclaimed National Crime Victims’ Right Week. He said, “For too long, the victims of crime have been the forgotten persons of our criminal justice system. ...Yet the protection of our citizens—to guard them from becoming victims—is the primary purpose of our penal laws.” I love that quote: it is saying that the job of law enforcement is to protect people—not just to track down and punish criminals but also to help the people who are harmed by them. Victims should be at the center of our criminal justice system and not forced to stand on the outside looking in. It is not possible to make victims whole after a crime but there is much that can be done to help them cope and rebuild their lives.
Q: A quick last question—how can people find out more about the rights and assistance to which victims of federal crime are entitled?
Kathryn: It’s especially easy in today’s day and age. They should start with the Justice Department’s Office for Victims of Crime. This site lays out in detail resources for victims in the U.S. and overseas; specific services for victims of the full range of crime and violence; grants and funding; you name it. Another excellent resource can be found at www.crimevictims.gov. For information specific to my program at the FBI, they should go to The FBI Office for Victim Assistance. And, last: they can find lots of interesting information about the history and development of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week. I hope this information will reach many many people and make a difference in their lives.