Today, Attorney General Andy Beshear and survivors of violent crimes received an award for their pioneering work to establish a Survivors Council within the Office of the Attorney General.
The Kentucky Association of Sexual Assault Programs presented their innovation award to Gretchen Hunt, executive director, Office of Victims Advocacy, and members of the Survivors Council today in Frankfort at an event honoring Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month.
The 22 member Survivors Council was formed by Beshear in January 2017 to help advise and support victim-centered efforts of the Office of the Attorney General. Beshear is the first attorney general in the nation to create a Survivors Council. Council members are survivors of child abuse, sexual assault, mass shooting, gun violence, homicide, domestic violence and other violent crimes.
“We appreciate being recognized for our continuing efforts to give survivors a seat at the table and empower them to drive the change that they know is needed to ensure Kentucky is a victim-centered state,” said Beshear. “I am thankful to each survivor for the courage they have shown and for so generously lending their time, passion and voice to helping other survivors.”
In January, following a year of advocacy work and empowering other survivors, council members issued a report outlining 57 recommendations to 16 individuals and groups. Several of the recommendations for members of the General Assembly in the report were passed into law during this legislative session, including Senate Bill 48, a bill that sets a minimum age for marriage and protects youth against exploitation.
Survivors Council-member Donna Pollard shared her experience of working on Senate Bill 48.
“As survivors, we have a deep understanding of the cyclical effects of trauma contributing to the critical need for more protective legislation. The near unanimous passage of Senate Bill 48, addressing child marriage, is an example,” said Pollard. “This legislation sends a message to perpetrators that we will no longer allow them to hide their offenses behind a marriage license, while reinforcing to our vulnerable youth that we recognize the need to safeguard them from exploitation. Breaking traumatic cycles starts with survivor leadership.”
The Attorney General’s Office of Victims Advocacy worked with Beshear to establish the council in January 2017.
“Having diverse survivors involved in the process of advocating for legislative change, training and education allows Kentucky to make greater and more rapid changes to impact survivors of crime and prevent crime,” said Hunt. “Survivor leaders bring a level of urgency and expertise that complements the work of state agencies and non-profits working for change. Our council members are changing culture and empowering one another to lead local and statewide efforts to reduce crime and seek justice and healing for other victims.”
Beshear said the Survivors Council announcement comes after more than two years of immense progress on his office’s core missions of seeking justice for victims of sexual assault, human trafficking, violent crime and child abuse.
Beshear’s office will host an event to celebrate National Crime Victims’ Rights Week on April 12 at noon in the Capitol Rotunda. Survivors Council member and mass shooting survivor Brittney Thomas will speak on the theme of “Expanding the Circle, Serving All Victims.”