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Public Papers - 1991 - April

Remarks at a White House Ceremony for the Observance of National Crime Victims' Rights Week

1991-04-22

Welcome to the White House. A while ago it seemed a little warm, and now I don't know what's happened to us. But I'm delighted to be here, and I'm also very pleased to welcome all of you to the Rose Garden, very pleased to be with the Attorney General, who is doing an outstanding job in this area -- many areas, but this one that brings us together in expressing our concern in trying to help the victims of crime. I'm pleased to see so many Members of the House and the Senate here with us today. We welcome you all.

I'm glad to see Jane Burnley, the Director of the Office for the Victims of Crime. And also Mayor Daley, from Chicago, honoring us, who's been long interested in this. Rich, welcome, sir, to the White House. And I want to thank the State legislators as well who are with us.

Over the past couple of years, 2 years, we've traveled across the country praising those involved in service to others. And our crime victims effort is a very special part of that tradition. Shortly after I took office, the Attorney General invited 1989's honorees to meet me in the Oval Office. A year ago this week, we gathered here in the Rose Garden to salute the 1990 honorees. And moments ago, I signed a proclamation declaring this National Crime Victims' Rights Week.

And now it is again a privilege to stand with a new group of honorees and salute you not only as Points of Light, helping other people, but also as points of courage.

Ladies and gentlemen, standing before you are seven good Americans who simply refused to surrender, seven good Americans who won against the odds, representing seven good reasons why our efforts for crime victims will continue to triumph and to grow.

Far too often, for too many years, victims of crime became the forgotten people, subjected to continued victimization by the system itself. Then people like Virginia's Frank Carrington, rightly regarded as one of the founding fathers of the movement, stepped into the breach. They fought back. They got involved. And they proved to America that one man or one woman can make a difference.

Maybe you heard about this 11-year-old girl up in Alaska. She tried to help when her mom was attacked at home just after Christmas. The assailant got away, but not without the girl showing the police where the man left his fingerprints. And 10 weeks went by without a lead. And then the girl spotted the accused at a convenience store. And she didn't hide. She didn't run away. She called the police, and then, unbelievably, she grabbed a neighbor and chased this man down the street. And when the police made the arrest she was holding onto his hair for all she was worth. True story.

Like a real-life version of the gutsy child in ``Home Alone,'' Diana Bowles stood up for family, stood up against crime, and stood up to be counted when the chips were down. Like the seven all-American heroes we honor today, she symbolizes a new America where people refuse to be the victims anymore.

And I think of pioneers like California's Gail -- this one's a tough one -- Abarbanel and Jayne Crisp, of South Carolina. A generation ago, a continent apart, each of these two women helped cultivate the grassroots effort to assist the victims of rape. Out of efforts like these, America came to understand a simple truth: that every victim of every crime deserves to be treated with dignity and compassion.

Over the past decade, community efforts like those represented here have been backed up by a new partnership with the White House and America's cities and States. While the crime bill I signed last year fell far short of the effective criminal justice reform that I had sought, it did create the first-ever Federal crime victims bill of rights. It gave the Justice Department enhanced authority to ensure that the system treats crime victims fairly. And it contains new measures to protect child victims and witnesses.

Working with Congress, we not only reauthorized the 1984 Victims of Crime Act, we also boosted its annual Victims Compensation and Assistance Fund to 0 million -- dollars that came not from taxpayers but from criminals' fines and penalties. We stepped up efforts to fully implement the Victim-Witness Protection Act and the new Victims' Rights and Restitution Act. And there's probably no better model of their success than one of today's honorees, Nancy Stoner Lampy, our victim-witness coordinator in South Dakota, an outstanding advocate for Native American crime victims.

We've made real gains. But many challenges remain. Two of today's honorees can help point the way: California's John Gillis and Tennessee's Barbara Reed. They've both made their mark fighting for tougher laws. They know the real way to help the crime victims of tomorrow is by taking dangerous criminals off the streets today.

Almost exactly 1 year ago, on this same occasion, I stood here and called on the Congress to enact our full range of tough new anticrime proposals. Regrettably, most of them never made it back to my desk in there. And we've got to do better. Each day that passes is one too many. Each victim lost is more than we can afford.

Our Violent Crime Control Act of 1991 contains a wealth of new proposals that support the growing national concern for innocent victims of all crimes. And it includes new protections for witnesses and abused kids, new rules to enhance the Federal prosecutions of sexual violence involving children, mandatory HIV testing of accused sex offenders, and it guarantees a victim's right to address the court at sentencing. Just as important, our crime bill proposes bold new reforms of habeas corpus appeals, the exclusionary rule, and the death penalty. These three reforms are based on three simple and fundamental virtues: First, that victims should not have to endure endless years of frivolous appeals; second, that victims have an interest in knowing that courts will consider all relevant evidence when deciding guilt or innocence; and third, that victims and survivors have an interest in knowing that the punishment imposed will be commensurate with the brutality of the crime.

Seven weeks ago I put a challenge to Congress, and I said: If our forces could win the ground war in 100 hours, then surely the Congress can pass this legislation in 100 days. The clock is running. America wants it done right, and America wants it done responsibly, and, in my view, America wants it done now.

I've saved one honoree for last. She's Josephine Bass, who founded a shelter in Chicago for women and children who are victims of domestic violence. It's called the Neopolitan Lighthouse. And I like the symbolism. Like each of you, a lighthouse shines through the storm and gives hope at night. And like each of you, it is a beacon to hundreds of others, an immovable light by which to chart one's course to safety. And like each of you, it is proof that each Point of Light matters. Each time your message gets through can mean one life changed and another life saved.

Together, let's pledge to take back our streets. Congratulations to all of you. Congratulations to the winners. And thanks to all of you, and may God bless our great country. Thank you very much.

[At this point, the awards were presented.]

May we invite the Members of Congress to come up and congratulate our winners.

Note: The President spoke at 2:11 p.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House. In his remarks he referred to Attorney General Dick Thornburgh; Jane Nady Burnley, Director of the Office for Victims of Crime; Richard M. Daley, mayor of Chicago; crime victim Diana Bowles; and the following recipients of Department of Justice awards for outstanding public service on behalf of victims of crime: Frank Carrington, Gail Abarbanel, Jayne Crisp, Nancy Stoner Lampy, John Gillis, Barbara Reed, and Josephine Bass. The proclamation is listed in Appendix E at the end of this volume.

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