During Sexual Assault Awareness Month, U.S. Attorney Moran recognizes important DOJ work assisting assault survivors
(STL.News) – Seattle-April is Sexual Assault Awareness month, and as part of this week’s focus on National Crime Victims’ Rights, U.S. Attorney Brian T. Moran highlighted the important work his office is doing to support and protect victims of sexual assault. Over the past year, the office has prosecuted cases of assaults on tribal lands, military installations, national parks, and on board aircraft. In each case, specially trained members of the Victim Witness Unit work closely with victims to ensure their rights are protected and their voices are heard.
“Throughout my career as a prosecutor at the county, state, and now federal level, I have never forgotten that we do this work for the victims–many of whom have suffered unimaginable trauma,” said U.S. Attorney Moran. “In a system designed to protect the rights of the accused, I commend those who do the critically important work of guiding and assisting victims through the criminal justice system, working to ensure they are not further traumatized by the legal process and that they are heard and given a voice.”
Federal law enforcement has a unique responsibility in tribal communities to investigate and prosecute sexual assault and domestic violence. The U.S. Attorney’s Office works closely with the federally recognized tribes in the Western District of Washington to ensure such cases are investigated and prosecuted in tribal, state, or federal court depending on the jurisdictional complexities unique to each tribal nation.
Similarly, on military installations and federal lands, the U.S. Attorney’s Office works with federal law enforcement to investigate and prosecute cases of sexual assault, child molestation, enticement, and exploitation.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Washington was one of the first to identify and actively pursue cases of sexual assault aboard aircraft. In an awareness campaign with the FBI and Port of Seattle, the U.S. Attorney’s Office highlighted the importance of the public awareness.
Autumn, a young woman who was sexually assaulted on a flight from Alaska to Seattle, said intervention from others was key. “If it hadn’t been for the woman who helped me up and told me to report you, the flight attendant who could tell something was wrong, and the airport staff she contacted, I wouldn’t have reported. I was too scared that no one would care. I was scared that people would judge me for not reacting better. Our youth shouldn’t have to grow up with those fears,” Autumn told the defendant in court at sentencing.
Now as she looks back on her experience with the criminal justice system, Autumn is grateful for the victim advocate, FBI agent and federal prosecutor who guided her through the process. “I was terrified, but I was pleasantly surprised by the process and the people I got to work with… If we don’t report these (assaults) there isn’t going to be any justice. I hadn’t wanted to speak at sentencing, but doing that helped me get some closure.”
Court-ordered restitution is paying for counseling and self-defense training which Autumn says has been valuable so that she can respond differently in the future.