Congressional Victims Rights Caucus

Holds Annual Award Ceremony

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


WASHINGTON, DC Co-Chairs Congressman Ted Poe (R-TX) and Congressman Jim Costa (D-CA) will join members of the bipartisan Congressional Victims Rights Caucus to honor this years outstanding individuals that have given of their time and service to helping victims. 

WHEN:          Wednesday, April 6, 2011

                        6:00 8:00pm EST


WHERE:       122 Cannon House Office Building

                        Washington, DC


The 2011 Victims Rights Caucus Recipients:


Eva Murillo Unsung Hero Award

Helga Luest, Founder/President & CEO, Witness Justice

Helga Luest serves as the Founder, President and CEO of Witness Justice, a national non-profit organization that addresses the gaps in programs that survivors rely on to seek justice and experience healing.   She promotes the right to live trauma free following acts of violence.  Her knowledge of trauma and its direct impact on the well being of the individual is the core of her advocacy work.  Helga Luest exemplifies the Eva Murillo Unsung Hero Award as she has used her experiences as a crime victim and a survivor to promote public awareness, public education and policy development. 


Ed Stout Memorial Award for Outstanding Victim Advocacy

Pam Kallsen, Executive Director, The Marjaree Mason Center

Pam Kallsen has presided over the Marjaree Mason Center in Fresno, CA during a time of great need and great growth.  As the preeminent domestic violence shelter in Californias Central Valley, Marjaree Mason has served hundreds of clients, going beyond traditional services and providing legal representation, hotline services, and counseling sessions.  Earlier this year, Pam Kallsen was instrumental in securing city approval and leveraging private funding for a new Marjaree Mason extension facility in adjacent Clovis, CA.  Successfully launching self-sufficiency programs, building relationships with the community she serves, and weathering turbulent economic downturn, Pam Kallsens leadership of the Marjaree Mason Center exemplifies the spirit of the Ed Stout Memorial for Outstanding Victim Advocacy. 


Ed Stout Memorial Award for Outstanding Victim Advocacy

Mary Ellen Stone, Executive Director, King County Sexual Assault Resource Center

Mary Ellen Stone has served as Executive Director of the King County Sexual Assault Resource Center (KCSARC) since 1979.  Through her vision and passion she has helped transform the legal and political landscape of sexual assault violence in Washington State and throughout the nation.  Under the leadership of Mary Ellen, KCSARC has grown to be the largest sexual assault victims service organization in the state; making a positive difference in the lives of thousands of children, women, men, parents and families who previously had nowhere to turn when their lives were affected by sexual assault.  Mary Ellen was involved with some of the first rape crisis centers in the country dating back to the early 1970s when very little was available to victims and victims could not even talk about their abuse.  Mary Ellen committed her life to helping victims of sexual assault find their voices again after traumatic crimes. 


Lois Haight Award for Excellence and Innovation

Susan Smith Howley, Director of Public Policy, National Center for Victims of Crime

Susan Howley has devoted the past 20 years to the development and implementation of major crime victim related public policy initiatives at the local, state and national levels. Susan has worked for the National Center for Victims of Crime on critical policy positions since 1991 and has served as the Centers Director of Public Policy.  She has gained a national reputation for substantive, non-partisan advocacy for crime victims rights and services.  Advocates from around the country seek her expertise by conducting extensive training of criminal justice officials and state legislators on the importance of enforcing victims rights laws.   In addition to bringing her well-respected national perspective to state lawmakers and advocates, Susan has played important roles drafting and implementing in many pieces of federal victim-related legislation and is frequently requested to provide testimony to Federal and state legislative committees on a variety of crime victim issues. 


Suzanne McDaniel Public Awareness Award-

Jessica Smochek, Peace Corp Volunteer

Jessica Smochek took her own experience being victimized while serving in the Peace Corps to advocate for changes in the organizations response to victims and their families.  She has engaged the national media, Congress, victims organizations throughout the country, and other Peace Corp victims and their families to call for a change in the Peace Corps response to victims.  With her help, this issue has garnered wide attention with a 20/20 special on the issue as well as an upcoming Congressional hearing.  She has pushed the issue to the forefront, with the help of other victims and families, forcing the Peace Corp to respond and reevaluate their practices.


Allied Professional Award

Nilda Valmores, Executive Director, My Sisters House

Nilda Valmores is the Executive Director of My Sisters House: a Northern California domestic violence shelter which focuses on the needs of immigrant Asian/Pacific Islander women and children.  Through Nildas work, My Sisters House and the larger issue of domestic violence facing immigrant women has received a wide variety of local media coverage.  In 2010, the shelter was one of 46 national sites to receive OVW funds to provide culturally and linguistically appropriate services.  It also currently is working with Sacramentos Rescue and Restore Coalition on Human Trafficking initiatives.  Ms. Valmores is the co-facilitator of the Sacramento Domestic Violence Prevention Collaborative, a group of 20+ members of local government agencies, non-profits, and law enforcement officials and is the sole representative of a domestic violence shelter on a Statewide Asian/Pacific Mental Health Disparities Workgroup.