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Remarks as Prepared for Delivery by OVC Director Jessica E. Hart During a Webinar Hosted by the Ohio Attorney General's Office

Good morning! Thank you, Attorney General Yost, and all the staff in your office who worked hard to make today's webinar happen. I sincerely appreciate the opportunity to introduce myself and share a bit about the Office for Victims of Crime.

As previously mentioned, I was appointed the Director of OVC, a component of the Office of Justice Programs at the Department of Justice, in the midst of the COVID–19, so this has been an unusual, but illuminating time to join the office. Even through this challenging time, I’ve witnessed how resolutely our staff and so many of you fulfill the mission of helping crime victims.

I’ve been asked to share a little bit about OVC today. OVC's mission, specifically, is to enhance the Nation's capacity to assist crime victims and provide leadership in changing policies and practices to promote justice and healing for all victims.

OVC was created by an amendment to the Victims of Crime Act. We are charged with administering the Crime Victims Fund, also established by VOCA, which is financed not by taxpayer dollars but from fines and penalties paid by convicted federal offenders. We currently manage nearly $9 billion in grants that support programs and services helping victims in the immediate aftermath of crime and as they rebuild their lives.

OVC's flagship VOCA formula grant program funds thousands of local victim assistance programs across the country and provides millions in compensation to victims of crime.

In FY 2019, state VOCA grants served over 7 million victims and paid nearly $400 million in compensation claims.

And I'm excited to announce that, in FY 2020, OVC anticipates awarding over $1.8 billion to state victim compensation and assistance programs, $63 million of which is allocated for the great state of Ohio. These funds will allow states to continue funding services that are a lifeline to many victims and survivors of crime.

From the start of my time at OVC, I’ve been in "listening mode" and I've had invaluable opportunities to hear directly from victims, survivors, advocates, and service providers.

I've participated in listening sessions about child trafficking and exploitation, hosted a roundtable with past National Crime Victims' Service Awards recipients, participated in a webinar on victims' rights, and attended the Survivor's Perspective Panel for the Presidential Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice.

At these events, survivors and advocates have shared their experiences navigating the justice system, exploring using technology to provide victim services, especially right now, and championing victims' rights at the state level. I've also heard about needs that still exist and the surrounding challenges and considerations in meeting victims' needs.

Additionally, I've heard that COVID–19 is stretching resources and presenting challenges, but also about innovative efforts to continue providing the critical services needed. The field is researching technology resources to deliver services and manage cases; implementing infectious disease responses; and identifying opportunities to share resources. It is very clear to me how resilient, hardworking, and engaged this community is.

This conference is really another example of the resiliency I've witnessed. You were able to pivot and turn a historically in-person 2-day conference into a 1-day virtual event. Thank you for pressing on and to all of you who are working hard to deliver vital services to victims in these challenging times.

Innovation and resiliency are commonplace for the Ohio Attorney General's office, which is demonstrated through your work with the Linking Systems of Care project. Ohio is one of four states that receives funding from OVC working to better align systems and create coordinated community responses for the most vulnerable of victims, children and youth.

The Ohio Attorney General's office, in partnership with the Ohio Domestic Violence Network and Case Western University, approached this project in 2017 with a clear plan to identify needs and gaps for better serving Ohio's child and youth victims of crime; to deconstruct the silos that exist; and to coordinate efforts so that children, youth, and their families can eventually heal and thrive.

OVC staff have told me about the incredible work you've done to ensure that you're maximizing resources—such as holding quarterly meetings of OVC-funded grantees in Ohio that are serving child and youth victims of crime. Your creation of a statewide effort to reduce duplication and maximize the state's impact of work being done for child and youth victims is remarkable.

We understand that states are really best positioned to know what services and systems need improvement to better coordinate community responses and we're excited to continue working with your office during the implementation phase.

What we learn from this demonstration project will not only help us identify issues that arise when communities strive toward coordinated responses and inform state replication models specific to young victims of crime, but it may provide essential data for coordinated community responses to all victims of crime. Which is a really exciting prospect!

Speaking of exciting, I want to congratulate today's award recipients—John, Kathy, Alexandria, and Women Helping Women. Congratulations and thank you for all of your work on behalf of crime victims.

Thank you again for allowing me to introduce myself, and I hope you enjoy the rest of today’s event! I think you will be very interested to hear Heather's presentation highlighting OVC's partnership with the Bureau of Justice Statistics, another DOJ component, and analyzing results of the National Crime Victimization Survey. I'm excited she is able to present today.

Thank you again to Attorney General Yost and I look forward to working more closely with you and your team.

Date Published: May 21, 2020