Celebrating the 30th Anniversary of the Victims of Crime Act
National Crime Victims’ Rights Week Celebrates Progress and Honors Law Enforcement Officers
|U.S. Attorney’s Office April 11, 2014|
April 6, 2014, marked the beginning of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week. Tonight, members of local, state, and federal law enforcement throughout the metro east will be honored by Rescue and Restore of Southwestern Illinois and Hoyleton Ministries at the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows, in Belleville, Illinois, for their dedication to seeking justice for victims, Stephen R. Wigginton, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois, announced today.
This year’s theme—30 Years: Restoring the Balance of Justice—presents a perfect opportunity to salute Frank Bennett of the St. Clair County Sheriff’s Department; Ryan Weisenborn, Fairview Heights Police Department; Jamie Brunnworth, Illinois State Police; Jason Frank, Swansea Police Department; Dan Cook, Federal Bureau of Investigation; Mark Krug, Collinsville Police Department; Dave Vucich, Madison County Sheriff’s Department; Julie Neiger, Federal Bureau of Investigation; and Neal Rolfing, Fairview Heights Police Department, and their long-term commitment to aiding crime victims. As we celebrate three decades of defending victims’ rights, we are reminded of how far we have come—and how much work is yet to be done.
Only 30 years ago, crime victims had virtually no rights and no assistance. The criminal justice system often seemed indifferent to their needs. Victims were commonly excluded from courtrooms and denied the chance to speak at sentencing. They had no access to victim compensation or services to help rebuild their lives. There were few avenues to deal with their emotional and physical wounds. Victims were on their own to recover their health, security, and dignity.
Today, the nation has made dramatic progress in securing rights, protections, and services for victims. Every state has enacted victims’ rights lawsm and all have victim compensation programs. More than 10,000 victim service agencies now help people throughout the country. In 1984, Congress passed the bipartisan Victims of Crime Act (VOCA), which created a national fund to ease victims’ suffering. Financed not by taxpayers but by fines and penalties paid by offenders, the Crime Victims Fund supports victim services, such as rape crisis and domestic violence programs and victim compensation programs that pay many of victims’ out-of-pocket expenses from the crime, such as counseling, funeral expenses, and lost wages.
Victims’ rights advocates have scored remarkable victories over the last 30 years. But there is still a lot of work to be done. As we move forward, we are increasingly expanding our reach to previously underserved victim populations, including victims of color, American Indians and Alaska Natives, adults molested as children, victims of elder abuse, and LGBTQ victims. Over three decades, VOCA pioneered support efforts for victims of once-hidden crimes, like domestic and sexual violence. Today, we are shining a spotlight on other abuses that have long been unreported and often not prosecuted—hate and bias crimes, bullying, and sex and labor trafficking, among others.
“In the Southern District of Illinois, in 2013, my office worked with approximately 110,000 victims of federal crimes. These victims have suffered financial, physical, social, sexual, psychological, and/or reputational harm and have been victimized by telemarketing fraud, wire and mail fraud, armed bank robberies, drug overdoses, property thefts, sex trafficking, kidnapping, and many others. This work, important as it is, will not diminish,” said United States Attorney Wigginton.
“Congratulations to the members of law enforcement being honored tonight. Behind each of these honorees is a story, a victim’s story, which would never have been told but for the tireless efforts and dedication of these officers and agents. My office salutes your hard work and thanks you. We also honor—this week and every day—our victims, for their courage, their strength, and their trust in the legal process. My office remains dedicated to seeking justice for all and bringing a voice to the voiceless. To report a crime, please call 9- 1-1 or your local law enforcement department. Together, we will make a difference,” Wigginton noted.