SPEECH: Victims for Justice Annual Awards Ceremony

Thirty years ago Victims for Justice was founded with the mission of ensuring that victims of violent crime and survivors of homicide can access the resources they need to recover from the horrible ordeals with which they have been burdened. Tonight we come together to honor Victims for Justice, to support its work and to recognize those who have provided outstanding service to victims of crime in the State of Alaska.

I am honored to join with you this evening as we share our love and support for our survivors and begin the observance of Crime Victims Week here in Anchorage. On Monday, I hope that you will join Victims of Justice at the First United Methodist Church on 9th Avenue for the annual tree ceremony. Once each year during Crime Victims Week, the people of Anchorage commemorate victims of violent crime by tying ribbons on branches of the Victims Tree to represent lost loved ones. I will unfortunately be heading back to Washington on Monday for another week of Senate work, but know that I am with you in spirit.

I could spent the balance of my time talking about the work I am doing in Washington to support the needs of our victims. In the past several weeks the Senate passed a major human trafficking bill which for the first time directs significant federal funding to addressing the recovery of trafficking victims. And in the next several weeks, the Justice Appropriations Subcommittee on which I sit will allocate funding to be spent on the needs of crime victims from a large endowment which has been set aside for this purpose. But that’s the inside baseball of making programs happen. War stories about congressional sausage making rarely tug at the heart. And while money is the mother’s milk of non-profit programming -- helping victims recover is an art. The kind of art that is practiced by those we honor tonight. It is indeed an art nor a science.

The people we are honoring tonight know that in order to help victims heal, service providers must first listen and learn. Victim empowerment is the central tenet of this work. When crime victims are able to make informed decisions about their lives and their futures they transform themselves into survivors.

But it takes more than the work of the direct service provider to make that happen. It takes a supportive community. When victims are believed and supported by their community, they are more apt to share their experiences and reach out for assistance.

Your participation here tonight itself strengthens our victims for it is a tangible demonstration that our community stands with them. There is strength for our victims in numbers and tonight’s turnout demonstrates the level of our community’s commitment to them.

Thank you for standing with our victims. It is a statement I wish we did not have to make. We so often think of our lives in Alaska as unique. We are privileged to live in one of the most beautiful places in all the world. A place of true wonder. But we also live in a community that is burdened with unfortunately high rates of violent crime, sexual assault, DWI and suicide. Let us resolve that we shall do all in our power to end this vicious cycle. But let us also resolve that in Southcentral Alaska we will ensure that every victim is empowered to recover. That is what Victims for Justice does and that is why its mission is so essential.

It is an honor to take a stand with you this evening in support of our victims. And thank you, once again, for your support of this important cause.