Congressional Victims’ Rights Caucus

Holds Annual Award Ceremony

VRC Co-Chairs Reps. Poe & Costa Honor Victim Advocates

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Co-Chairs and Co-Founders Congressman Ted Poe (R-TX) and Congressman Jim Costa (D-CA) joined member of the bipartisan Congressional Victims’ Rights Caucus to honor this year’s outstanding individuals that have given their time and service to helping victims.

“Victim’s rights advocates are selfless individuals who dedicate their lives to giving victims of crime a voice,” said Poe. “Today’s VRC recipients are some of the most effective and committed people in their field.  Their work and advocacy has both impacted the lives of others around the nation and inspired meaningful change that should never be forgotten. They make America a better place.”

"Far too often the good, hard work of victims’ rights advocates goes unnoticed," said Costa. "Today we honored some of the most dedicated and innovative advocates in the field who guarantee that every survivor has a safe place to turn. These honorees know the true meaning of service and compassion."

The 2012 Victim’s Rights Caucus Recipients:

The Allied Professional Award:

UC Merced Violence Prevention Program

The Violence Prevention Program was implemented in the spring of 2010 at the University of California, Merced, and the benefits to survivors of sexual violence, dating/domestic violence and stalking were immediately seen. Within the two year span of the program, there has been a 1,250% increase in survivors of these crimes reporting to law enforcement, which has been attributed to the close relationship between campus and community police officers and the Violence Prevention Program Campus Advocate. The Violence Prevention Program ensures that 100% of campus officers are trained annually on response to these crimes.

The Suzanne McDaniel Public Awareness Award:

Children at Risk

Through its research and advocacy programs, Children at Risk is a well-known leader in understanding the health, safety and economic indicators impacting children, and educating public policy makers in their importance in improving the lives of children.  Children at Risk has worked to help Texas’s most defenseless children by providing them with a voice in the decisions that so dramatically affect their lives. They have raised immense awareness of the most pressing issues facing Texas’ children through educational events across the state Children & Youth, State Summits on the Trafficking & Exploitation of Children, “Houston’s Future, Houston’s Children” class series and many more.

The Lois Haight Award of Excellence and Innovation:

Melissa Hook, Director of the Office of Victim Services, District of Columbia

Melissa Hook has been an outstanding victim advocate for 15 years, working at the local, state and national levels.  She is a rare victim advocate with a wide breadth of experience, including direct victim advocacy; writing, research and evaluation, training and technical assistance; and program administration.  At the state and local levels, Melissa has had a powerful impact on the development, implementation, evaluation and sustainability of victim services in the District of Columbia.  Additionally, Melissa is universally lauded as the author of Ethics in Victim Services, a book that has helped countless victim assistance programs to develop ethical standards for the treatment of victims and survivors.  She was also nominated for an Emmy Award for the 2002 documentary, “Meeting with a Killer,” that highlighted Texas’ victim/offender mediation program.

The Eva Murillo Unsung Hero Award-Nicole Norberto Member:

Nicole Norberto

Nicole Norberto is a survivor of a sexual assault that occurred in 2003 in Jackson Township, New Jersey. Even while being harassed be her perpetrator and his friends Nicole forged ahead and was set on bringing her rapist to justice. She has become a voice for victims in New Jersey and an effective advocate on their behalf.   Nicole has worked to strengthen the laws designed to deter sexual assault, protect victims, provide police and prosecutors with the tools necessary to implement them, and penalize perpetrators. 

The Ed Stout Memorial Award for Outstanding Victim Advocacy:

Jill Marsilio-Colonna, Women’s Center of Beaver County Member

Ms. Marsilio-Colonna, Executive Director of the Women’s Center has been instrumental in creating collaborative partnerships with the Beaver County District Attorney’s Office and the local hospital system.  She began a taskforce with the DA’s office with the goal improving the criminal justice system and medical response to violence against women in Beaver County. Now crime victims are empowered to become an integral part of the justice system on their own behalf; and offenders are held accountable for their crimes.