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Grassley resolution proclaims National Crime Victims’ Rights Week

2015NCVRW_Button1_clrBy The Iowa Statesman

 

U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) drafted a resolution that was unanimously adopted by the Senate Wednesday, commemorating National Crime Victims’ Rights Week. The full text of the resolution can be read by clicking here. Prior to the resolution’s adoption, Grassley made the following statement.

Mr. President, we have commemorated National Crime Victims’ Rights Week every April since 1981.  This year, it takes place from April 19th through April 25th.

This week is dedicated to remembering victims of crime, building awareness, and advocating for victims’ rights.  It is also an opportunity to pay tribute to the millions of Americans and thousands of Iowans who fall victim to senseless acts of crime each year.  

On Monday, I introduced a bipartisan resolution commemorating National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, and I’m happy that my colleagues have joined me by unanimously passing this resolution this morning. 

The theme for this week, “Engaging Communities, Empowering Victims,” recognizes the importance of offering the support necessary to help crime survivors heal. 

During this week, we also remember the contributions of the countless crisis hotline volunteers and staff, victims’ rights attorneys, medical professionals, and emergency responders who provide critical assistance to survivors of crime every hour, every day in communities across the United States. 

The Judiciary Committee has worked to strengthen federal laws and direct resources to efforts to prevent crime from occurring in the first place.  And, although we still have a way to go to ensure that all crime survivors are treated with appropriate fairness and respect in the criminal justice system, I’m proud that we have made important strides toward this goal.

An important issue for many crime victims is restitution.  It is an issue that would be addressed by the “Amy and Vicky Child Pornography Victim Restitution Improvement Act,” a bill introduced by Senator Hatch that has my strong support.

The Judiciary Committee, of which I serve as Chairman, reported this bill on February 5th.  If enacted, the measure, which passed the full Senate by a vote of 98-0 on February 11th, would reverse a Supreme Court decision that limits the amount of restitution that victims of child pornography can recover from any one perpetrator.

It would ensure that victims can recover a minimum amount of damages for certain child pornography offenses, and it also would make any single perpetrator potentially responsible for the full damages that result from an offense involving multiple perpetrators.

Americans also deserve to know that we are doing everything possible to prevent sexual assault, especially in our most acclaimed institutions of society, including college campuses and our nation’s military.  In fact, a zero tolerance standard needs to be set at the highest levels of the federal government.

Take, for example, the lack of accountability within some of our nation’s federal law enforcement entities.  In the last few years, a string of sex scandals involving prostitutes being solicited by public servants working for the FBI, Secret Service and most recently, the Drug Enforcement Administration, reflect an embarrassing lack of ethics and moral code of conduct by federal agents hired to flush out illicit, criminal activity at home and abroad.

It should go without saying that this type of conduct by federal law enforcement personnel – on or off the clock – cannot be tolerated.  This behavior telegraphs the wrong message about acceptable sexual conduct to society and contributes to the demand for the human sex trade around the world.

I supported the enactment of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, and earlier this year I chaired a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on human trafficking, where witnesses discussed the consequences of sex trafficking for both child and adult victims.

The witnesses at this hearing, which took place on February 24, 2015, also testified in support of several measures that would help us further combat the various forms of human trafficking in the United States.

One of these measures is the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act which is now pending on the Senate floor, and of which I am a cosponsor.

It is vitally important that we pass this legislation, which would authorize much needed services to victims of child pornography as well as labor and sex trafficking.

The bill also equips law enforcement with new tools for prosecuting human trafficking offenses and recognizes that the production of child pornography is a form of human trafficking.

Also, earlier this year, I introduced the Combating Human Trafficking Act.  Among other things, the bill would clarify that federal grant resources can be used to meet the housing needs of human trafficking victims and offer training on the effects of sex trafficking to those who offer services to runaway, homeless, and at-risk youth.

I led the Judiciary Committee in supporting the inclusion of this legislation as an amendment to the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act during committee consideration of that bill.

The Committee accepted the measure by voice vote on February 26th.  The Committee reported the bill to the Senate floor by a vote of 19-0.

I am grateful that we have been able to reach an agreement that will finally allow a vote on this very important legislation, and I look forward to casting my vote in favor of this bill.

Our next challenge should be to address the two broken systems of justice found on our college campuses and within our military institutions.  First, a flawed reporting system on college campuses requires a stronger set of tools that would help survivors of sexual assault and also protect the rights of the accused.  That’s why I have co-sponsored the “Campus Accountability and Safety Act” with Senator McCaskill.

It would establish new campus resources and support services for students, including a requirement that colleges designate a confidential advisor for survivors of sexual violence, new transparency and reporting requirements, coordination between colleges and local law enforcement, and protections for due process rights of survivors and the accused.  It would also increase financial penalties for colleges found not in compliance with the new standards.

Cases of sexual assault, which too often go unreported on college campuses and in our own communities, require sustained, collective attention by policymakers, law enforcement, advocates and survivors.

Every student who heads off to a college campus in America deserves to know that there is a system in place to secure justice and due process for the victim and the accused.

Likewise, every young man and woman who serves his or her country in uniform deserves to know that sexual assault is a crime and will be treated and prosecuted as such.

In the last Congress, I co-sponsored the bipartisan Military Justice Improvement Actwith Senator Gillibrand.

The bill would empower enlisted soldiers and sailors to come forward and report a sexual crime.

It would create an independent system of justice within the ranks of the military.  It would remove the chain of command from prosecutorial decisions regarding sexual assault.

The fear of retaliation and retribution in the military has been a reality for too many survivors of sexual assault.  The current system has created an environment that emboldens predators instead of empowering victims.

Barring access to fair and impartial justice pours salt in the wounds of those who have suffered immeasurable indignity and harm while serving their country in uniform.  I will continue working to advance bipartisan measures through Congress to send a clear message.  Sexual assault is a crime.

The sooner our culture and systems of justice on college campuses and in the nation’s military work together to deter, prosecute and stop sexual violence, the safer our society will be for America’s sons and daughters growing up in the 21st century.

In closing, crime victims and survivors in the United States deserve our assistance in helping them cope with the often devastating consequences of crime.   That is why it is so important that we support the mission and goals of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week.  Mr. President, I thank my colleagues for joining me in supporting passage of this resolution.