U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Office for Victims of Crime Victim Service Award Awardees, 1995


Augustus A. "Dick" Adams
North Carolina Victim Compensation Commission
Grifton, North Carolina

Dick Adams has been an effective champion of crime victim rights since 1982, when a repeat offender shot and killed his only son, Richard, execution-style, during a robbery. Despite the ordeal of the criminal court case, Dick quickly became a visible and involved activist for systemic change in his state. In 1984 he co-founded the North Carolina Victim Assistance Network (NC/VAN), an umbrella organization that provides hands-on aid to thousands of crime victims through its network of victim service providers and criminal justice professionals. In 1985, he retired from the Dupont Corporation to work full time and without compensation for NC/VAN. Under Dick's leadership, NC/VAN has worked closely with state legislators to draft legislation that created a statewide Crime Victims Compensation Fund; established a Fair Treatment for Victims and Witnesses Act; and provided for a vast increase in the number of victim-witness positions throughout the state.

Sensitive to the financial burden of crime on victims, Dick has consistently pressured the state legislature for a steady increase in the appropriations for the state's Victims Compensation Fund. In recognition of his outstanding leadership on this issue, Dick was appointed to Chairman of the Victims Compensation Board in 1988, a position to which he has been reappointed several times.

As the sole victim representative on North Carolina's Sentencing and Policy Advisory Commission, Dick ensures that its policies and laws are formulated with victims' concerns in mind -- such as preventing the early release of violent criminals back into the community. Finally, in 1989, Dick spearheaded a statewide movement to formulate and win support for a victims' amendment to the State's Constitution. Due in large part to his efforts, it appears likely that this year's General Assembly will approve the amendment for ratification by the electorate. A crime victim wrote in support of Dick, "I marvel at his compassion, honesty, humility, and human touch. He has enabled all of us crime victims to stand tall and to persevere. We are in his debt."

Lucy Berliner, M.S.W.
Director of Research
Harborview Sexual Assault Center
Seattle, Washington

Lucy Berliner is a nationally known expert on child physical and sexual abuse. In 20 years of extraordinary service, she has made unparalleled contributions to child abuse research, training, and treatment, and has earned widespread recognition for her tireless child advocacy. She currently serves as Director of the Harborview Sexual Assault Center in Seattle and as a clinical social work professor at the University of Washington.

In her work as a researcher, Lucy has conducted some of the most important research studies on child victimization to date. These studies, which address the effects of child victimization and the effectiveness of interventions, have set a standard for treatment in countless clinical settings across the nation. Her scholarly accomplishments are found in more than 40 articles and book chapters, as well as in the journals she co-edits, including the Journal of Interpersonal Violence and Child Maltreatment, and Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment, among others.

Lucy has also contributed to three award winning films, one of which, "Double Jeopardy", continues to be cited as a model to assist children going to court. In addition, she has delivered hundreds of lectures, training workshops, and teaching seminars to child advocates, therapists, and other professionals around the country. Countless child victims -- most of whom will never know her name -- have benefitted from her many achievements.

Lucy is also dedicated to service. She finds time for active membership in the Board of Trustees of the National Center on Missing and Exploited Children; the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children; and the Washington State Crime Victims Compensation Advisory Committee, among others. Despite her varied and demanding research undertakings, Lucy remains first and foremost a clinician who spends most of her days "in the trenches," working with child victims and their families.

One of Lucy's colleagues took time to write a support letter while attending to a critically ill, hospitalized mother: "The reason that I am departing from my bedside vigil is that my mother, a victim of child physical and emotional maltreatment herself, would want me to honor the country's most important professional who works with crime victims... On behalf of countless child victims, like my mother, who have so needed their voices heard, I heartily endorse [Lucy's nomination for this award]."

Bonnie Clairmont
Community Education Coordinator
Sexual Offense Services of Ramsey County
St. Paul, Minnesota

Bonnie Clairmont has been an effective advocate for battered women and other sexual assault victims in the Native American community for the past 14 years. A skilled educator and leader, Bonnie was one of the first Native American women in the country to speak out and organize the Native American community to provide culturally appropriate education and services for victims.

In 1981, Bonnie began her career in the battered women's movement at Women's Advocates, a shelter in St. Paul. This led to her instrumental role in the creation of Women of Nations, the first organization to address the issue of battering in the Native American community. In 1992, Bonnie initiated the development of the Eagle's Nest Shelter, which provides culturally appropriate shelter services for battered Native American women.

Bonnie became the director of the Division of Indian Work Sexual Assault Project in Minneapolis in 1985, where her commitment to sexual assault victims and her community activism skills led her to organize a community response to a series of brutal murders of Native American women. Bonnie has developed a culturally specific training curriculum for a wide variety of programs that serve Native American sexual assault victims, and she has served on the Board of Directors of the Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault as well as on the Attorney General's Task Force on Sexual Violence in 1988. Since 1989 Bonnie has served as a staff member of Sexual Offense Services of Ramsey County.

Her nominator said of her achievements: "Not only does Bonnie demonstrate incredible commitment to the Native American community, but she embodies cultural diversity with such understanding, sensitivity and dedication that she is able to be understood and respected in all cultures."

Joyce Cowan
Family Rescue
Chicago, Illinois

Joyce Cowan has been a driving force in the domestic violence field for the past 11 years. As the Executive Director of Family Rescue, Joyce has become widely known for her innovation, visionary leadership, and dedication to women and children who have experienced domestic violence.

Under her leadership, Family Rescue has become the largest and most comprehensive program for survivors of abuse in Illinois and sets a standard for the nation. Family Rescue programs include emergency housing, walk-in services, and two nationally recognized model programs: Ridgeland Transitional Housing, which offers a two-year program of affordable housing with on-site supportive services including counseling, day care, and a before and after school program; and the Domestic Violence Reduction Program, which specially trains teams of police officers, counselors and advocates to provide immediate crisis intervention services and follow-up response to families at risk of domestic violence.

Joyce has also been a leader in the Illinois statewide coalition against domestic violence, and has spearheaded the development and analysis of legislation, training initiatives and information sharing to improve services for domestic violence victims across the state. In January of this year Joyce's pioneering work in the field of domestic violence was highlighted on the NBC National Evening News with Tom Brokaw.

Her nominator asserts that "personal sacrifice, hard work, and perseverance are a way of life for Joyce!"

Rita Figueroa
Gang Violence Reduction Project
Los Angeles, California

Rita Figueroa survived two sons, aged 16 and 17, both of whom were murdered in separate incidents in the late 1970s -- one by a juvenile and the other by an adult. After the murders, Rita committed herself to making the community of East Los Angeles safer by helping other families victimized by gang violence and working with young offenders. She helped found the Concerned Mothers group, an affiliate of the California Youth Authority's Gang Violence Reduction Project. The Project involves the residents of gang infested neighborhoods in developing alternatives to gang membership for their children, supporting parents of high risk youth, and assisting them when tragedy occurs. Rita has been an active member of the Concerned Mothers group for 12 years and has assisted countless families who have suffered from homicide and drive-by shootings.

Her work also reaches delinquents housed in the Los Angeles County Juvenile Hall and the California Youth Authority's custody facilities. As a volunteer, Rita is a regular participant in the Gang Reduction awareness program and the Impact of Crime on Victims course in which offenders are educated about the trauma suffered by victims of crime.

Survivors like Rita personalize crime, sensitizing both the public and offenders to the devastating impact of violence on victims. In this way, she motivates others to better their communities, and their own lives. Her nominator said of Rita and her work with gang members, "She's dedicated to talking to the boys. She wants to help them find some peace in their hearts."

Suzanne McDaniel
Project Coordinator
Children's Justice Act
Austin, Texas

Suzanne McDaniel is one of the few victim advocates to have served crime victims at the local, state and national levels. As one of the first prosecutor based Victim Assistance Directors in the State of Texas, Suzanne helped establish the first community inter-agency council on sexual assault and family violence.

In recognition of her exemplary work at the local level, Suzanne was tapped by the Governor to create the state's centralized resource office -- the first of its kind in the nation. As Director of the newly created Texas Crime Victims Clearinghouse, Suzanne drafted many of the State's groundbreaking publications on crime victim issues, while coordinating an exhaustive array of training conferences and speaking engagements for the benefit of victims, advocates, and allied professionals.

Suzanne's extensive experience brought her to the attention of the State Attorney General in 1991, when she became the State's Crime Victim Information Officer. Her new post gave Suzanne an opportunity to extend her leadership as one of the sate's most knowledgeable and effective policy advocates. As a legislative liaison, Suzanne provided guidance that helped to ensure the passage of numerous legislative and regulatory initiatives, including passage of the State's Constitutional Amendment for Victims. Suzanne's role as a key policy leader for crime victims rights was affirmed by her appointment as the legislative liaison for the state coalition of victim organizations (VOTERS).

From coordinating field hearings for the President's Task Force on Victims of Crime to her ten years of service on the National Organization for Victim Assistance board, Suzanne has established herself as one of the nation's most accomplished advocates for victims. A crime survivor wrote "Suzanne...feels everyone is important and needed in the fight to improve assistance for crime victims...I have never heard her say, 'It's not my job.' In fact, she has never been shy about poking her nose into things and offering assistance -- her enthusiasm and dedication are boundless!"

Dr. Brian K. Ogawa Director Victim Witness Assistance Division Maui Prosecuting Attorney's Office County of Maui Wailuku, Maui, Hawaii

Dr. Brian K. Ogawa is an ordained minister and an internationally known writer, consultant, and lecturer on victim issues. Since 1982, he has served as Director of Maui's Victim/Witness Assistance Division. In that time, Brian's work in the areas of culturally appropriate services, Morita therapy, and victimology have earned him a well-deserved reputation as a "pioneer" in the victims' movement.

Brian has published several ground-breaking books, the proceeds of which are donated to victims' programs from Washington, D.C. to the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. His treatise, The Color of Justice, was perhaps the first book to describe the significant challenges facing the American criminal Justice system as it seeks to serve culturally diverse victims of crime. He has also written Walking on Eggshells for domestic violence victims and To Tell the Truth for child victims of physical and sexual abuse.

Brian serves in a leadership capacity with the National Organization for Victim Assistance (NOVA), the oldest national network of victim service providers across the country. In addition, he has served in an advisory capacity to numerous projects on victim issues, including national-scope projects on victims of hate crime and on the clergy response to crime victims that were funded by the Office for Victims of Crime. His training seminars on multicultural issues have reached policy makers, advocates, researchers and criminal Justice professionals at the international, national, state, and local levels. As Director of Maui's Victim/Witness Assistance Division, Brian goes beyond the call of duty to counsel, support, and assist crime victims. The efforts of his Division were recently cited in the Annual Report of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Commission for an increase of 235% in crime victim compensation claims from Hawaii.

Perhaps most reflective of Brian's commitment is the statement made by a crime victim in her letter of support: "I hold in my heart only admiration...and deepest gratitude to [Brian]...he helped save my life...when I thought it didn't matter anymore; he took the time and made sure I knew that I did matter."

Deborah Spungen, MSS, MLSP, CTS
Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania

Ms. Spungen was spurred to victim rights activism following the 1979 murder of her oldest daughter, Nancy, by a punk rock musician. Engulfed in a media ordeal and without support services, Ms. Spungen turned tragedy into a personal commitment to help surviving family members of homicide victims.

She began her efforts in Philadelphia in 1980, organizing the city's first support group for homicide survivors. After six years of unpaid work to sustain the support groups, she received a small grant to launch Families of Murder Victims (FMV) in the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office. FMV provides counseling, court accompaniment, support groups, assistance with compensation claims assistance, and advocacy to over 1,800 crime victims each year. FMV was the first homicide survivor organization to receive Federal funding support provided through the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) victim assistance program.

In 1991, Deborah expanded her efforts to include violence prevention. She is co-founder of the Student Anti-Violence Education (SAVE) Project, which annually provides a thirty week violence prevention curriculum to more than 2,000 fourth through eighth grade students in inner city schools in the Philadelphia and Chester school districts.

Deborah authored the best-selling And I Don't Want to Live This Life, the story of her daughter's murder and her family's survival in the aftermath of the crime. Her new book, HOMICIDE: The Hidden Victims, will be published in 1995. A highly sought-after spokesperson and effective trainer on victim issues, Deborah has appeared on over 350 radio and television programs, and has provided training on victim issues to criminal Justice professionals around the country. A supporter wrote of her work, "Deborah has given generously of her time and personal life to bring victim concerns to the public on radio, television, print media and public gatherings, both lay and professional. Her name has become synonymous with victim advocacy."


Office for Victims of Crime
Special Courage Award Recipients, 1995

Cheryl and Norma Bess (Daughter and mother)
San Juan Capistrano, California
Note: This address and number is the home of the nominator, Collene Campbell, due to the request by the Bess family that their address and telephone number remain confidential.

When 15 year old Cheryl Bess left for school in October 1984, neither she nor her mother, Norma, knew that their futures would shortly be changed forever. Cheryl was abducted off the street by Jack Oscar King, a repeat sex offender on parole for the rape and attempted murder of a 9 year old girl. Jack King drove Cheryl to a southern California desert where he attempted to rape her, doused her in acid, and left her to die. For eight hours she wandered blindly before being rescued by an aqueduct worker. She told herself she could not die. Her death would be too hard for her mother to bear.

Her abductor was apprehended and sentenced to 32 years. In reality, he will probably serve 15 years, based on California's sentencing system at the time; his estimated release date is May 12, 2000. Recently, Cheryl testified in support of newly enacted California laws which mandate longer sentences for sex offenders, longer time required (85%) before parole consideration, and life sentences for "3 strikes" -- provisions that parallel those in the Federal Crime Act.

For Cheryl, however, it is too late. Had these laws been on the books in the 19808, Cheryl would not be blind and deaf in one ear. As she told the California Assembly Public Safety Committee, "I am living proof of what a criminal can do."

Cheryl is an excellent student and wants to become a teacher and a musician. She finished high school, attends Saddleback Community College in Mission Viejo, continues to pursue her musical interests, and is frequently the lead singer in a Christian rock band at her church. She is experienced in public speaking, and as a college student hosts a weekly three hour radio show on a public radio station KSBR, preparing her script in Braille.

Cheryl is always ready to provide inspiration to other crime victims. At the California Crime Victim rally convened to support the tougher laws last summer, Cheryl told the over 500 participants that she "must speak for all the abducted children who never came home and for all the murdered victims who no longer have a voice." At the National Organization for Victim Assistance annual conference last fall, she -- alongside her mother -- told 1,000 attendees at a Victim Speak Out that "once you face death, anything is possible." And at the Los Angeles Crime Victim Memorial event in November, her singing of "Wind Beneath My Wings" inspired more than 400 crime victims, most of whom were homicide survivors.

Norma Bess works full time in support of Cheryl. She has nursed her through countless operations and recovery, and cared for her physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Most importantly, she has instilled in her the confidence that she can accomplish anything.

Date Created: June 3, 2020