Today, 25-members of the Office of the Attorney General’s Survivors Council issued a report outlining recommendations on how Kentucky can improve the Commonwealth’s efforts to better support survivors of violent crimes.
Following a year of advocacy work and empowering other survivors, council members issued the report outlining 57 recommendations to 16 individuals and groups.
Those receiving recommendations include the governor, the Office of the Attorney General, the Kentucky General Assembly, youth-serving organizations, schools and universities, employers and the public, among others.
Ensuring each state and local prosecutor’s office has a victim advocate, fully funding services for law enforcement and training for survivor advocates were a few of the recommendations council members highlighted during a news conference held with Beshear today.
“In forming the council our office aspired to give survivors of violent crimes a seat at the table and empower them to drive the change that they know is needed in our criminal justice system,” Beshear said. “I am thankful for their recommendations that now serve as a blueprint for building a better, victim-centered state.”
The Attorney General’s Office of Victims Advocacy established the council in January 2017. The council is the first of its kind in any Attorney General’s office nationwide, and one of only two government hosted groups of survivor leaders in United States.
“The Survivors Council is a powerful group of leaders who have already influenced policy, training and culture in our office in countless ways,” said Gretchen Hunt, executive director of the AG’s Office of Victims Advocacy. “It is my hope that all agencies named in the report will reach out to council members to help implement the recommendations and ensure a victim-centered, trauma-informed approach for our entire Commonwealth.”
The inaugural members of the Survivors Council include survivors of different crimes from across the Commonwealth, including individuals who have survived the violent death of a family member, sexual assault, child sexual abuse, domestic violence, gun violence and other violent crimes.
Over the past year, the members have worked directly to advise and assist the Office of the Attorney General on matters related to victims of crime, including training, awareness and policy initiatives.
Council members held four meetings throughout the year to develop resources for victims, guidance for professionals working with survivors, plan awareness and training efforts and develop recommendations for the annual report.
The members were also active in their communities providing education to advocates and law enforcement, as well as participating in awareness events like the Human Trafficking Awareness Day, Victim Assistance Conference and Victims Rights Day.
Michelle Kuiper, a survivor of sexual assault and Survivors Council co-chair, said the Attorney General Survivors Council has allowed for men and women who have survived all types of victimization to come together.
“We are able to use our voices and experience to create awareness, spread education and have our voices heard,” Kuiper said. “We are a part of a group who can create change now and for future generations.”
Lisa Murray, Survivors Council member and survivor of domestic violence, said the impact of the council in Kentucky is a huge step forward.
“Having a seat at this table has empowered me to affect change in the process while making things better for other victims who have to walk the same road,” Murray said. “Through the experience on the Survivors Council I have learned that people do care, will support and fight, will lift you up when depleted of energy and will celebrate as you learn that you are worthy of all things good in this world. When that realization happened to me, I became a survivor, no one’s victim.”
Murray also wants other survivors to know that the council is leading collaborative efforts to help every survivor recover and ensure they have a voice in building a victim-centered system.
Later this year, the council and the Office of Victims Advocacy plan to issue a comprehensive, trauma-informed guild to help crime victims navigate the criminal and legal system. The guide will help to fill a gap of information and support to crime victims across Kentucky.
Beshear said the Survivors Council announcement comes after 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.