Charleston, South Carolina — Acting United States Attorney M. Rhett DeHart announced today that the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of South Carolina and the Department of Justice’s Office for Victims of Crime is joining communities nationwide in observing National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, an annual celebration of victims’ rights, protections and services. This year’s observance takes place April 18-24 and features the theme, “Support Victims. Build Trust. Engage Communities.”
“A very important part of the U.S. Attorney’s Office is working hand-in-hand with victims of crime, supporting their needs and protecting their rights, while ensuring justice is served for them,” said Acting U.S. Attorney DeHart. “As the theme of this year’s National Crime Victims’ Rights Week highlights, successes in our office come from, in part, the partnership with not only other law enforcement agencies but also with the public. Particularly during this week, we celebrate those in our community who, though victims of crime, remain engaged and stand firm in partnership with law enforcement to ensure justice is realized.”
“Advocacy through community engagement is key to fully serving victims,” said Clarissa Whaley, the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s Victim Services Manager. “While we seek the public’s involvement throughout the year, we especially encourage community partners during National Crime Victims’ Rights Week. Be it through education initiatives or advanced training opportunities, the community has the ability to make a major impact on supporting victims and seeking justice.”
This year marks the 40th annual observance of Victims’ Rights Week, proclaimed first in 1981 by President Ronald Reagan to put crime victims’ rights, needs and concerns in a prominent spot on the American agenda. President Reagan’s establishment of the President’s Task Force on Victims of Crime laid the groundwork for a national network of services and legal safeguards for crime victims.
Today, the Office for Victims of Crime, part of the Justice Department’s Office of Justice Programs, supports more than 7,000 local victim assistance programs and victim compensation programs in every state and U.S. territory. In South Carolina, the U.S. Attorney’s Office works not only with its federal partners but also its state partners including the South Carolina State Human Trafficking Task Force, the South Carolina Victims Assistance Network, and the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office of Crime Victims’ Compensation to provide essential services to victims, victim compensation, and many other resources.
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of South Carolina provided over 9,000 victim services, including 200 community events, in 2020.
“The last year has undoubtedly been challenging,” said Office for Victims of Crimes Acting Director Katherine Darke Schmitt. “Victims were often isolated from family, friends, and support systems, and victim service providers grappled with strained resources and formidable barriers to victim outreach and care. So I am particularly proud to once again celebrate the accomplishments of the victims’ rights movement, and to honor the strength and resiliency of victims and service providers.”
“This year’s theme—Support Victims. Build Trust. Engage Communities.—emphasizes the importance of leveraging community support to help victims of crime,” continued Acting Director Schmitt. “Criminal justice and victim service professionals, businesses, healthcare providers, educators, policymakers, houses of worship, and a host of other social and civic groups can work together to ensure that survivors of crime receive the holistic services and support they need. This not only helps the individual heal, but it also improves community safety and wellbeing. In recognition of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, we invite you to join us in renewing your commitment to respond to crime and violence by helping victims find not only support, recovery, and justice, but also a sense of hope for their future.”