WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Co-Chairs and Co-Founders Congressman Ted Poe (R-TX) and Congressman Jim Costa (D-CA) joined members Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Seth Moulton (D-MA), and Dave Reichert (R-WA) of the bipartisan Congressional Victims’ Rights Caucus to honor this year’s outstanding individuals who have given their time and service to helping victims. This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Caucus.
The Congressional Victims' Rights Caucus (VRC) is a proven and effective leader in advocating for crime victims. During its 10 year existence, the VRC has taken the lead in protecting programs that provide critical support for victim services throughout the nation, including the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA), Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), and the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA).
The Caucus was instrumental in the enactment of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006, the Cruise Vessel Safety and Security Act of 2009, the Kate Puzey Peace Corps Volunteer Protection Act of 2011, the SAFER Act of 2013, the Victims of Child Abuse Act Reauthorization Act of 2013, and the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015. Each year, it hosts various briefings on victims’ rights issues, including domestic violence, child abuse, elder abuse, human trafficking as well as various other topics. It also recognizes National Crime Victims’ Rights Week with an annual awards ceremony.
“Today’s honorees are some of the most committed people in their field,” said Rep. Poe. Their work and advocacy have inspired meaningful changes that should never be forgotten. Each year the VRC has the privilege of honoring those unsung heroes who have dedicated their lives to advocating on behalf of crime victims. Yasmin Vafa is one such individual, dedicating her life to stopping human trafficking and giving vulnerable women and girls a voice. We thank her and the rest of the awardees for their tireless efforts to ensure that victims of crimes are not just statistics. They are remembered because they are real people with real stories who have had something bad happen to them.”
“Today, the Congressional Victims’ Rights Caucus is proudly celebrating 10 years of advocating for victims of crime and survivors. From protecting the Crime Victims Fund to reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act, the caucus and supporting groups have made a positive difference in millions of lives,” said Rep. Costa. “It is a pleasure to recognize Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Merced County with the Allied Professional Award for all they do to serve children who are victims of abuse and neglect. Sadly, children in the foster care system are too often in a situation where they do not have a single person in their life to trust and rely on, but Merced CASA volunteers have changed that horrible reality for hundreds of children throughout the county.”
"Blanca Kling works tirelessly to build trust between Maryland's large Hispanic community and local law enforcement, leading to safer and more peaceful communities for everyone,” said Rep. Van Hollen. “Her work as a victims rights advocate and as a Spanish-language media spokesperson has helped thousands of survivors of crime and their families, and I congratulate her on this much-deserved recognition."
“The Eva Murillo Unsung Hero Award recognizes a crime victim or survivor who has triumphed over adversity and used his or her experience to promote awareness of crime victims’ rights,” said Rep. Moulton. "Maureen and Jane Mahoney have exemplified these attributes throughout their lives. On the 40th anniversary of their parents' and brother’s deaths, Maureen and Jane organized a community event in Tewksbury, Massachusetts to honor their family by raising awareness and funds for local organizations that focus on domestic violence. I am honored to have nominated such a deserving pair of individuals from the Sixth District.”
“Domestic abuse not only has a lasting physical and emotional impact on victims, it can also leave scars with the children and loved ones who have to witness the violence,” said Rep. Reichert. “With one in three women suffering some form of physical abuse from a partner over the course of their lifetime, it is critical that we give victims the resources, strength, and hope they need to come out of the shadows and begin the healing process. The recipients of the Victims’ Rights Caucus Award have done important work to reach this goal and I am grateful for the opportunity to recognize their tireless efforts.”
The awards were live streamed on Congressman Ted Poe’s Facebook Page.
The 2012 Victim’s Rights Caucus Recipients:
Lois Haight Award of Excellence and Innovation
The Lois Haight award pays tribute to California Judge Lois Haight who, as an appointee of President Ronald Reagan and Chair of his 1982 President’s Task Force on Victims of Crime, led pioneering efforts on behalf of crime victims that resulted in significant public policy advances to promote crime victims’ rights and services. The honoree is a professional whose efforts have had a significant impact on local, state, national or international public policy development and implementation that promote dignity, respect, rights and services for victims of crime.
Yasmin Vafa, Executive Director, Rights4Girls
Nominated by Rep. Ted Poe (TX-R)
Yasmin Vafa is the Executive Director and formerly Director of Law and Policy for Human Rights Project for Girls (Rights4Girls), a human rights organization focused on gender-based violence and its impact on vulnerable young women and girls in the U.S.As a human rights attorney and advocate, Yasmin works to advance policies to address gendered violence and human trafficking in the U.S. She has achieved several major policy wins at the federal level, designed and implemented a national judicial institute on child trafficking, and co-authored a seminal report mapping girls' unique pathways into the juvenile justice system. She currently serves as a faculty adjunct educator and consultant for the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, served on the Advisory Board for the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention's National Girls Initiative, and was as a member of the Department of Justice’s National Task Force on the Use of Restraints with Pregnant Women and Girls under Correctional Custody.
Allied Professional Award
The Allied Professional award recognizes the efforts of individuals, organizations, and/or coalitions that directly benefit victims of crime, but whom are not direct victim service providers. The honoree exhibits leadership, creativity and commitment in linking allied professions to improve the plight of crime victims in our Nation.
CASA of Merced County
Nominated by Rep. Jim Costa (CA-D)
Merced CASA advocates for abused and neglected children in the foster care system who often find themselves without someone they can turn to.
Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Merced County is a non-profit organization that trains community volunteers to serve as powerful advocates for our community's most vulnerable at-risk children and youth.
Each year there are approximately 5,600 allegations of child abuse and neglect in Merced County, with more than 700 substantiated findings. Many children are removed from their home and placed in unfamiliar surroundings. They desperately need someone to advocate for their best interests; someone who will be consistently by their side throughout the time they spend in the foster care system. These children need to have their voices heard in Court. A CASA volunteer can do just that.
Eva Murillo Unsung Hero Award
The Unsung Hero Award is in memorial of Eva Murillo, a prominent crime victim advocate from California. The honoree is a crime victim or survivor who has utilized their experiences to promote public education and awareness, public policy development and greater awareness about crime victims’ rights and needs.
Nominated by Rep. Dave Reichert (WA-08)
On April 26, 2003, Lane Judson’s daughter, Crystal was fatally shot by her husband who also happened to be the Police Chief of the Tacoma, Washington Police Department. The shooting came one day after city officials publically announced that Crystal’s claims of abuse and threats would not be investigated because it was a “private matter.” After losing his daughter, Mr. Judson dedicated his life to helping and supporting victims of domestic violence. He was instrumental in the creation of the Crystal Judson Family Justice Center in Tacoma, WA, which was established in 2005 to serve the needs of the domestic violence victims and their children by providing comprehensive victim services in order to help families heal and bring them hope. My Judson also lead the fight to incorporate the Crystal Judson Domestic Violence Protocol Program into the 2006 Violence Against, which created a grant available to law enforcement agencies to use in training their officers in the area of domestic violence. Mr. Judson has turned unimaginable tragedy into positive action to advocate on behalf of all domestic violence victims.
Eva Murillo Unsung Hero Award
Nominated by Rep. Seth Moulton (MA-06)
Maureen Mahoney’s parents and brother were murdered in a robbery gone wrong when she was a young adult. She has used this tragedy to educate the community and raise funds for community-based organizations who combat crime and support survivors and their families.
Stout Memorial Award for Outstanding Victim Advocacy
The Stout Memorial Award is in memory of Ed Stout, the Director of Aid for Victims of Crime in St. Louis. The Honoree is a professional or volunteer whose efforts have directly benefited victims and survivors of crime.
Beth Hassett, Executive Director, WEAVE-Ed
Nominated by Rep. Doris Matsui (CA-06)
Beth Hassett is the Executive Director of WEAVE, an agency that works to meet the needs of victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. While the agency is proud of its past accomplishments, it remains a forward-looking, visionary agency working to change the way victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking are treated within the various systems in which they face obstacles.
Established in 1978, WEAVE is Sacramento’s oldest and most comprehensive domestic violence agency and sole Rape Crisis Center. WEAVE works to build a community that does not tolerate domestic violence and sexual assault and provides survivors with the support they need to be safe and thrive. The agency provides in-person and telephone support to more than 12,000 survivors each year.
Suzanne McDaniel Memorial Award for Public Awareness
The Public Awareness Award is in memory of Susanne McDaniel, one of the first prosecutor-based victim advocates in Texas and the nation. The honoree is an individual or organization that has used his/her/its voice, throughout the media, to promote and to bring about change at the National level for crime victims.
Blanca Kling, Hispanic Liaison, Media Services Division, Montgomery County Department of Police
Nominated by Rep. Chris Van Hollen (MD-08)
Since 2005, Ms. Kling has worked tirelessly to develop open and productive lines of communication between the MCPD and various communities, with a special focus on the Hispanic community. Previously, the MCPD recognized that there was significant distrust between MCPS and the Hispanic community, which had a detrimental impact on the effectiveness of the MCPD in responding to crime and community issues.
Ms. Kling conducts outreach to the 170,000 Hispanics who live and work in Montgomery County. She is instrumental in supporting the Latino community, particularly newly arrived immigrants who face challenges in assimilating to a new culture, language and legal system. Thanks to her outstanding work, people are less fearful about reporting crimes that have been committed against them or that they have witnessed. This has had a significant impact on the individual and public safety in Montgomery County.
Ms. Kilng has been extremely effective in disseminating information to Spanish-language media in order to provide support to victims and prevent crimes in the Hispanic community. She has also worked with local, national, and international leaders to ensure that they have the tools to ensure safety for their constituencies. Her work as a media spokesperson, community leader, and a victim rights advocate has helped thousands of victims and survivors of crime and their families.