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Remarks From OVC Director Kristina Rose: 2024 NCVRW Candlelight Vigil

Good evening and thank you so much for being here tonight. National Crime Victims’ Rights Week is about honoring the millions of people impacted by violence, and the remarkable professionals who provide them with services and support.

Tonight, I welcome all the victims, survivors, and those of you who have made it your life’s work to improve access, options, and rights for crime victims.

I specifically want to welcome Attorney General Merrick Garland, Assistant Attorney General Amy Solomon, Assistant to the President Greg Jackson from the White House Office on Gun Violence Prevention, Members of Congress, U.S. Attorneys, DOJ [Department of Justice] colleagues, and all our esteemed guests.

As I look out at all of you here with us tonight, I’m so filled with gratitude. At the same time, I can’t help but wish that we did not have to have candlelight vigils. I wish that no one in this country was the victim of crime nor was any family member personally impacted by crime and its physical and emotional aftermath. 

But I know that is not our reality, that there are so many people in this country who have been affected by crime—many more than the statistics show—and that so many have no idea that help is available to them. 

Recognizing and changing that reality—making a positive impact for victims and survivors—is the reason my office, the Office for Victims of Crime, exists. 

At OVC, it is our job to provide the funding and the expertise, along with the professional technical assistance to support victim service programs all across the country. A snapshot of our impact can be measured this way: 

  • Victims of Crime Act or VOCA dollars paid for over 3 million safe nights in emergency shelters last year.
  • VOCA dollars funded over 3.5 million therapy sessions for crime victims last year.
  • VOCA dollars made it possible for more than 8 million survivors to gain access to critically needed services.

If you lined people up on the National Mall from beginning to end, we could fill it up more than 8 times with the people that we have served, just in 1 year. Picture that for a moment. Eight times. What does that tell you? To me it says, two things. 

First, you have served a lot of people! I’m so proud of that, and I’m so proud of you. I’m so proud of every victim and survivor who chose to come forward. What remarkable bravery. Second, these are just the ones we’ve been able to serve.

Research suggests that only a fraction of crime victims seek help from formal support networks. We know there are many more who may want help, but don’t know how to come forward, or where or who to ask for help. It’s the “informal helpers” that survivors are more likely to reach out to first, like family, friends, roommates, and co-workers. That’s why it’s so important for all of us to play our part, whether you’re in the victim services field or not.

This year’s National Crime Victims’ Rights Week theme asks a very simple, but profound question, How Would You Help? 

Think about what a difference it would make if more people knew how to help, and we could reach those who have been harmed earlier in their lives with services and support. Think about the years of suffering we could take back. 

We know that there are people who experienced trauma way before they found themselves involved in the justice system. If someone had helped, maybe that pain to prison pipeline could have been avoided.

You don’t have to make it your life’s work to help someone who has experienced trauma due to violent crime. Even the smallest gesture can make a difference. 

Consider this:

  • What would you do if a family member or close friend confided in you about abuse they suffered as a child?
  • What if a neighbor expressed fear of an abusive partner?
  • What if you noticed a co-worker has become unusually withdrawn and has been missing more days from work than usual?
  • What if you learned that a child in your kid’s classroom just lost his or her brother to homicide and the family wasn’t able to afford a funeral?
  • What if a friend’s grandparent lost their entire savings to a con artist pretending to be someone else?


Your response could be as simple as:

  • knowing the phone number for a crisis hotline;
  • being aware of the organizations in your community that offer free help for trauma survivors;
  • knowing that crime victim compensation exists (and maybe even helping to fill out the application – we’re working on that); and
  • sometimes it’s just about listening, free from judgement. 

So, why is this year’s theme so important? Because it’s impossible to rely only upon the incredible victim service professionals to guide victims and survivors to the help they need. There just aren’t enough of these priceless individuals. And so, we all need to play a part in this critical work. 

We need MORE people: 

  • like the funeral director in Baltimore who personally drives families to the victim compensation office; 
  • or the librarian at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School who, after the tragedy there, turned her library into a safe space for students by adding yoga, a therapy dog, and other stress relieving activities;
  • like the bystanders in California who interrupted a sexual assault and brought the victim to safety; or
  • the medical practice in Virginia that places domestic violence hotline business cards in their restrooms.

By expanding the network of people who can help: 

  • we are expanding the options available for reporting or disclosing a victimization; 
  • we are expanding access to services; and
  • we are expanding the pathways to hope.

Tonight, you will hear from two extraordinary guest speakers and several people in our videos, who are playing vital roles in helping survivors find their pathways to hope and to justice. They embody the theme of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week.

For them and for so many of us, this work is a calling. You often hear in our field, that we didn’t choose to do this work; it chose us

Though the reality of crime in our Nation is tragic and heartbreaking, tonight’s vigil is about hope. Hope that tonight will inspire each person to step up and step into service; AND hope that the next hand isn’t a survivor’s reaching up; but yours reaching out.

Date Published: April 24, 2024