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Remarks as Prepared for Delivery by OVC Director Jessica E. Hart During a Webinar Hosted by the National Organization for Victim Assistance (NOVA)

Good afternoon! Thank you to the wonderful people at NOVA who worked hard to make today's webinar happen. And a special thanks to Claire Selib for offering me the opportunity to introduce myself to the NOVA community.

I was appointed the Director of OVC in late March, in the midst of the COVID spread, so this has been an unusual time to join OVC. But it has also been eye-opening, as I have gotten to see how hard the OVC team works to support those in the field delivering vital services to victims during this crisis. While I am new to OVC, I have understood this office's leadership role in protecting victims' rights and promoting victim healing and justice for some time.

I came to OVC from another position within the Department of Justice, as the Intergovernmental Affairs and Public Liaison, managing relationships with governors, state attorneys generals, elected officials, law enforcement, and key stakeholders. In that role I had the opportunity to support crime victim-related legislation and public policy initiatives.

As the new Director of OVC, I am very much in “listening mode.” Two weeks ago, I began participating in listening sessions related to child trafficking and exploitation. Just yesterday, I heard from survivors and advocates about how they have navigated the justice system and victim support networks for themselves and for others. And today I am looking forward to hearing about victims' rights work at the state level.

These opportunities to hear directly from victims, survivors, advocates, and service providers are invaluable to me as we develop our priorities and programming for the coming fiscal year.

As you know, this is National Crime Victims' Rights Week, when we pause to celebrate the many advances in crime victim support in our nation: victim engagement in the criminal justice system, increasing availability of services, and recognition of rights for all victims and survivors.

This year feels different though.

Our nation faces daunting challenges, and in the midst of it all, victims still need support, recovery, justice, and most of all a sense of hope for their future, for some – now more than ever. So, we move forward with determination in our observance of National Crime Victims' Rights Week and our resolve to ensure the rights of all crime victims.

In just the last few weeks, it has become clear to me how resilient, hardworking, and engaged our team and this community are. The fact that OVC and NOVA and many of you have successfully carried on with NCVRW programming virtually speaks to that resiliency.

Please know how grateful I am to all of you who are working hard to deliver vital services to victims in these challenging times. On Sunday, the President signed the proclamation recognizing National Crime Victims’ Rights Week. In that proclamation the President called on us all to “continue to champion efforts to expand [victims'] access to quality services and to fight alongside them to secure the justice they deserve.” OVC stands ready and able to answer the call in collaboration with all of you.

Victim assistance providers and law enforcement are OVC's most critical allies in championing crime victims' rights and in supporting victims on their healing journeys.

Thank you again for allowing me the opportunity to introduce myself, and for travelling all the way here from your living rooms. This is a special time, and I am so glad NOVA is commemorating National Crime Victims’ Rights Week with this meaningful discussion!

Date Published: April 22, 2020