Attorney General Andy Beshear, the AG’s Office of Victims Advocacy and the Survivors Council will emphasize the importance of services and support for victims at an event at noon on Thursday, April 12, in the Capitol Rotunda.
The event is part of National Crime Victims’ Week, April 8-14, and builds on Beshear’s core mission to seek justice for victims.
“We are focused on empowering victims of crime, including advancing victim-centered services, trainings and policy, and raising awareness,” Beshear said. “Our mission is to work with survivors and their families on healing and knowing their rights as victims.”
Joining Beshear at the event will be members of his Office of Victims Advocacy and the Survivors Council, which he created in 2017 to advise and support victim-centered efforts within 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.
Survivor Council member Brittney Thomas, a survivor of the 1997 Heath High School shooting, will give the keynote at the event on the importance of reaching all victims.
“When we broaden our idea of what experiences really make someone a victim of crime, we open the circle and create space for others to stand their sacred ground and write brave new endings to their stories,” Thomas said.
Thursday’s Rotunda event will feature art created by the Survivors Council members – a project supported by a National Crime Victims’ Rights Week Community Awareness Project grant awarded by the National Association of VOCA Assistance Administrators under a Victims of Crime Act grant from the Office for Victims of Crime, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice.
Beshear’s office provides advocacy and information to notify victims of their rights. Resources include:
Earlier this year, Beshear announced a newly created unit in his office focused solely on investigating and prosecuting sexual assault cold cases to seek justice for victims of crime. The unit, funded by a $3 million U.S. Department of Justice National Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI) grant awarded to the Kentucky Attorney General’s Office, includes a victim advocate, investigator, prosecutor and a SAKI coordinator from the three-year U.S Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Assistance funding.
The funding covers the cost to test any remaining untested sexual assault forensic exam or SAFE kits, mainly boomerang kits, ones sent to the Kentucky State Police crime lab, not tested for various reasons then returned to law enforcement agencies.
In 2016, Beshear provided $4.5 million in settlement money to lawmakers to fund requested Kentucky State Police crime lab upgrades and an additional $1 million from the settlement to aid law enforcement and prosecutors in conducting victim-centered investigations and prosecuting sexual assault offenders.
Along with this funding, Beshear’s office has held multiple state trainings on the SAFE kit backlog; launched a collaborative research project with the University of Louisville to provide accountability to address the backlog; and collaborated with the Kentucky Association of Sexual Assault Programs to hold the #VoiceOfJustice video contest to raise awareness of sexual assault on college campuses.