Congress Honors National Crime Victims’ Rights Week

Capitol Hill is awash with activity and advocacy during this April’s Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month and National Crime Victims’ Rights Week.

On April 13, Members of the Congressional Victims’ Rights Caucus joined advocates and officials from across the country to commemorate National Crime Victims’ Rights Week and to honor many who have dedicated their lives to promoting justice for victims. The occasion was especially poignant, as the Caucus marked ten years of leadership on these issues. RAINN joined fellow leaders in the field in thanking Caucus Chairs Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) and Rep. Jim Costa (D-CA) in celebrating a decade of achievements and progress.

Promotional poster reading "National Crime Victims' Rights Week, April 10-16, 2016. Serving Victims, Building Trust, Restoring Hope." Words printed over rays of sunshine, clouds, and a green field.

Representatives Tom Reed (R-NY) and Jackie Speier (D-CA) also sponsored a Congressional resolution honoring the nation’s work to combat sexual violence. The resolution, which had 44 bipartisan original co-sponsors, highlights services operated by RAINN that support victims of sexual violence and their loved ones, including the National Sexual Assault Hotline (800.656.HOPE and online.rainn.org) and DoD Safe Helpline (877.995.5247, SafeHelpline.org, Safe HelpRoom, and mobile app). An identical measure is expected in the Senate soon. Among other important points, the current measures emphasize:

  • Every two minutes, another American is sexually assaulted;
  • Children and young adults are most at risk of sexual assault – 44% of victims are under the age of 18 and 80% are under the age of 30;
  • All 18-24 year olds are at significant risk of sexual assault (whether or not they are in college); and
  • According to a 2015 survey of rape crisis centers by the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence, 1/3 of rape crisis centers had to decrease hours of services for individual or group counseling; almost ½ had a waiting list for counseling services; and 1/3 had a waiting list for prevention programs.

“We care about the survivors of sexual assault and want to come together to stop this preventable tragedy,” said Rep. Reed. “This is something that has personally impacted my family and we need to stand with these survivors. It’s just the right thing to do.”

Rep. Speier echoed this sentiment, calling on Americans to step in when the see something that isn’t right: “From the military to college campuses to society at large, we are still fighting for climates free from harassment and sexual violence. Sexual assault survivors deserve our support in speech and action. We are all affected by sexual assault and we each have a role in preventing these crimes, from direct intervention to opposing an environment that leaves far too many perpetrators unpunished. I am proud to support National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month as well as many other initiatives to combat sexual assault and help survivors.”

Also this month, the Senate passed a Congressional resolution, lead by Senators Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) to raise awareness about the unique needs of victims of crime and their families. The resolution expresses the opinion of the Senate that victims and survivors of crime need and deserve support, and underscores the critical role that survivors who report crimes and participate in the criminal justice system play in ensuring criminals are held accountable and communities are protected.

National Crime Victims’ Rights Week (April 10-16) represents more than three decades of collaboration between Congress, the Justice Department, and communities and advocates across the nation to identify and address victims’ needs. The theme for this year’s event is “Serving Victims, Building Trust, Restoring Hope.” The resolution acknowledges that while progress has been made, more needs to be done to protect victims’ rights, and to ensure the availability of support in the aftermath of crime.

Meanwhile, several policy measures—including RAINN-endorsed S. 2577 / HR 4602, the Justice for All Reauthorization Act of 2016 and S. 2613, the Adam Walsh Reauthorization Act of 2016—which the Senate Judiciary Committee amended to include a new sexual assault survivor bill of rights—are also advancing.

“It’s been energizing and inspiring to pause and honor the incredible work that’s taking place, every day, around the country to support survivors and take rapists off the streets. But our work is far from done: now is the time to seize momentum and amplify our voices in support of common-sense measures like the Justice for All Reauthorization Act to ensure that we propel victim services forward and establish changes that make it easier for victims to get justice and keep our communities safe,” said Rebecca O’Connor, RAINN’s vice president for public policy.

Take action with RAINN this April to support survivors and join the fight against sexual violence.

If you or someone you know has been affected by sexual violence, it’s not your fault. Help is available 24/7 through the National Sexual Assault Hotline: 800.656.HOPE and online.rainn.org.

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