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Remarks of Bill Woolf, Principal Deputy Director, Office for Victims of Crime, at the Alabama State Victim Assistance Academy

Thank you, Darlene [Hutchinson]. On behalf of Director Jessica Hart and the entire Office for Victims of Crime, it’s a privilege to join you and your fellow Alabamians today.

I want to take this opportunity to give a big shout-out to Darlene for all the incredible work she has done on behalf of crime victims in Alabama over the course of her career. I know her ties to the Alabama victim service community go back about three decades, and victims in this state continue to benefit from the groundwork that she helped to lay over the course of those years.

Since Darlene has been in Washington, she has continued to be a superb advocate for victims across the country, serving as Director of the Office for Victims of Crime, and now as the senior advisor on victim affairs for the head of the Office of Justice Programs, Katie Sullivan. I want to thank you, Darlene, for your lifelong service, for remaining a true champion for all crime victims, and on a personal level serving as such an incredible mentor and advocate.

I would also like to thank Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall his outstanding leadership and for spearheading the Alabama State Victim Assistance Academy initiative. And of course Sarah Green, thank you for all your incredible work and patience in coordinating the Academy.

This is such an important and praiseworthy effort, no matter what challenges we might be facing. But as you all know, the challenges that victims and victim service providers are dealing with today are extraordinary.

We’re coping with a pandemic and lockdowns that raise risks to vulnerable populations, and we’re seeing a surge in lawlessness and violence in a number of America’s cities. These crises are imposing new and exceptional dangers on victims, and they’re, unfortunately, creating new victims.

Fortunately, Attorney General Barr understands what we’re up against. He is fighting to keep our communities safe, and he’s eager to give our victim service providers and law enforcement professionals the resources they need to protect and serve the innocent.

The Office for Victims of Crime – which you might know better as OVC – plays a critical role in reaching those who suffer at the hands of these criminals.

Let me tell you a little about OVC. OVC is one of several offices in the Office of Justice Programs, which is the largest grant-making agencies in the Department of Justice.

Our job is to manage the federal Crime Victims Fund, which is a repository of fines, bond forfeitures, and financial penalties taken from federal criminals. We make that money available, largely to states like Alabama, which in turn fund local victim assistance programs and state-run victim compensation programs. These funds also support training, technical assistance, great programs like state victim assistance academies, and other targeted initiatives. So yes, it’s the criminals that are paying for victim services!

Our victim assistance funds support more than 7,000 local victim service programs throughout the nation.

Many of the victim service organizations in your communities are recipients of the $107 million OVC has awarded to ADECA the past 3 years. In the last 2 years, those organizations have served more than 150,000 victims.

These programs, like the ones you all operate in your communities, are a lifeline to victims. They reach countless survivors and provide support and relief that would otherwise be unavailable. And we’re grateful to all of you who dedicate your days helping these victims.

We’re also providing direct funding to programs that tackle particular victim challenges, like elder abuse and sexual assault.

One of the most serious issues we’re addressing is human trafficking. As many of you know first-hand, human trafficking is NOT a remote problem for distant parts of the globe. It’s a mounting public safety concern for communities large and small, urban and rural – it is a crime that has the potential to impact any community across our great Nation.

We’re just beginning to scratch the surface of this issue. In fact, new research from the National institute of Justice found that only a fraction of human trafficking cases ever come to the attention of authorities, which means that far too many victims are never identified and never served.

Combating human trafficking is a top priority of the Trump Administration. For our part, we’ve created a separate unit in our office dedicated to supporting human trafficking programs. And recently, we awarded more than $35 million in grants to 73 organizations across the country to provide housing services to human trafficking survivors, and more support is on the way! In the coming days and weeks, we’ll be awarding $100 million to support victim services and human trafficking task force operations.

This is part of a steadfast commitment to reaching our most vulnerable and underserved victims – and we know there are many, here in Alabama and in communities across the country.

Which is why we need dedicated, compassionate, and skilled service providers coming to the aid of victims.

I applaud you all for choosing to do this work. It’s demanding and it’s draining – both physically and emotionally – but it couldn’t be more important.

I’m proud to partner with you all in empowering those that have suffered, and I look forward to seeing all the amazing work you all will accomplish.

It has been a pleasure talking with you today. On behalf of Director Hart and the entire Office for Victims of Crime I thank you for your service, your commitment, and your passion. We all wish you the best during your training and if there is ever anything we can do to support you all and your work please do not hesitate to reach out.

Thank you.

Date Published: August 25, 2020