FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Congressman Ted Poe:Karina Erickson (202) 225-6565
Congressman Jim Costa: Claudia Larson (202)-570-5195
Congressman Dave Reichert: Kathryn Hopper (202)-225-7761
Congressman Brian Higgins:Theresa Kennedy (716) 803-4281
CONGRESSIONAL VICTIMS’ RIGHTS CAUCUS HOLDS ANNUAL AWARD CEREMONY
WASHINGTON, DC – Yesterday, Co-Chairs and Co-Founders Congressman Ted Poe (R-TX) and Congressman Jim Costa (D-CA) joined members Dave Reichert (R-WA), and Brian Higgins (D-NY) 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 12th anniversary of the caucus.
The Congressional Victims' Rights Caucus (VRC) is a proven and effective leader in advocating for crime victims. During its 12-year existence, the VRC has taken the lead in protecting programs that provide critical support for victim services throughout the nation, including programs established under 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 supporting and empowering survivors of crime. Stories like Meagan Rondini’s have started a national dialogue regarding sexual assault on college campuses and has encouraged Congress to consider legislation on the issue. We will all continue to fight in her name and improve our response to on-campus sexual assault. In addition, organizations such as SafeSport are working to eradicate abuse from our sports programs. The organization is a shining beacon that empowers our youth to stand up for what is right. With programs like SafeSport, our future is in good hands.”
“Those serving survivors are often a vital lifeline, but far too frequently their hard work and dedication goes unnoticed,” said Rep. Costa. “Today, I had the opportunity to honor two of these remarkable individuals: Arien Pauls and Julie Nauman. By using her painful experience to relate to other survivors in Fresno and support them in their recovery, Arien is an example of true strength and the triumph of the human spirit. Julie’s innovative and powerful outreach programs to education survivors across California about their rights have made a real difference in communities across our state. Both are an inspiration, and I am deeply honored to recognize them for their selfless commitment to victim advocacy and serving our survivors.”
“I am honored to present Jessica Johnson with this award for outstanding victim advocacy. Jessica and her team at Safety, Advocacy, Growth, and Empowerment (SAGE) do incredible work in Wenatchee, Washington providing resources for victims who have faced traumatic experiences,” said Rep. Reichert. “From my more than 33 years of experience in law enforcement, I know firsthand how important places like SAGE can be for those who don’t know where else to turn. Through ongoing partnerships with local law enforcement and community assistance programs, SAGE is able to provide unique assistance to those in need. Our community of Central Washington is better thanks to the dedication of Jessica and her colleagues at SAGE.”
“For Erie County Family Court Judge Lisa Bloch Rodwin, the quest for justice isn’t simply what she does, it’s who she is,” said Rep. Higgins. “Throughout her lifetime of service she has sought not only to resolve the immediate challenge facing an individual victim or a family but pursued improvements to fix the system, change the law, elevate support services and ultimately prevent future occurrences of crime and abuse.”
The awards were live streamed on Congressman Ted Poe’s Facebook Page.
Suzanne McDaniel Memorial Award for Public Awareness
In honor of Megan Rondini
Nominated by Rep. Ted Poe (TX-02)
On July 1st, 2015, Megan Rondini was sexually assaulted after a night out in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Immediately following the assault, Megan went to a hospital to get a rape kit. However, the hospital did not have anyone on staff trained to deal with sexual assault victims or trained to collect forensic evidence. Immediately following the failed hospital visit, she went to the police. When she recounted her story, the police openly questioned and disregarded her. Megan then sought help at her university, the University of Alabama. She was again met with disdain and disbelief. The trauma of her rape, coupled with receiving utterly no assistance from the school, police, and hospital, ultimately led Megan to take her own life. Her story and her voice live on, and real efforts to improve responses to sexual assault have been undertaken both at her University and on the federal level.
Allied Professional Award
U.S. Center for SafeSport
Nominated by Rep. Ted Poe (TX-02)
The U.S. Center for SafeSport is an organization dedicated to protecting athletes from bullying, hazing, sexual misconduct or any form of emotional or physical abuse within their sport. Accepting the award on behalf of the organization is Shellie Pfol, SafeSport’s President and Chief Executive Officer. Shellie Pfohl is President and Chief Executive Officer of the United States Center for SafeSport.
Eva Murillo Unsung Hero Award
Nominated by Nominated by Rep. Jim Costa (CA-16)
Arien Pauls became a victim of human trafficking soon after graduating high school. Her trafficker isolated her from her friends and family and forced her to have sex with strangers for money for four years. Luckily, after enduring a forced abortion, Arien was able to escape her trafficker and start a new life. She became an advocate for human trafficking victims, using her experiences to relate to and help others. She volunteered with Breaking the Chains and the Central Valley Justice Coalition, where she shares her story with hundreds of young women. Through this group, she is able to educate students about the dangers of human trafficking.
Suzanne McDaniel Memorial Award for Public Awareness
Nominated by Rep. Jim Costa (CA-16)
Julie Nauman serves as the Executive Officer of the National Association of Crime Victim Compensation Board in California. Under her direction, the Board has conducted multi-lingual victim outreach and public awareness efforts to reach crime survivors. She is actively involved in ensuring that victims of crime receive all the help and compensation they require. Even though it is not required, Julie often reaches across state lines to offer assistance in cases where resources are scarce. She is a dedicated public servant and staunch defender of victims’ rights.
Lois Haight Award for Excellence and Innovation
Honorable Judge Lisa Bloch Rodwin
Nominated by Rep. Brian Higgins (NY-26)
Judge Lisa Bloch Rodwin has dedicated her life defending individuals and families. Her extensive record in public policy on abuse, neglect, juvenile justice, custody and family violence has earned her national recognition. During Lisa’s storied career, she has worked with the Erie County District Attorney’s office, served as Chief of the Domestic Violence Unit, and was most recently appointed by the New York State Governor as an Erie County Family Court Judge. Lisa is just one of a few select judges chosen to serve on the New York State Family Court Advisory and Rules Committee, which is responsible for drafting and reviewing legislation on Family Law. She has also been appointed to the NYS Advisory Council on Immigration Issues in Family Court. Before being appointed to the bench, Lisa was the founder of the New York State’s first Domestic Violence Bureau outside New York City.
Stout Memorial Award for Outstanding Victim Advocacy
Nominated by Rep. Reichert (WA-08)
The Safety, Advocacy, Growth, and Empowerment (SAGE) program in Wenatchee Valley works to aid individuals who have experienced domestic abuse. For the past 12 years, Jessica Johnson has gone above and beyond, serving SAGE to the best of her ability. In 2016, Jessica was promoted to Executive Director. Her work with SAGE has helped to provide a safe-haven for those who faced sexual abuse, domestic violence, stalking, poverty, and sex trafficking in Central Washington.