Department of Law and Public Safety to Host Crime Victims’ Rights Week Event to Honor Crime Victims and Those Who Support Them

AG Platkin Announces Recipients of OAG Excellence Awards for Victims’ Justice

For Immediate Release: April 27, 2023

Office of the Attorney General
– Matthew J. Platkin, Attorney General
Division of Violence Intervention and Victim Assistance
– Patricia Teffenhart, Executive Director
Division of Criminal Justice
– Pearl Minato, Director

For Further Information:

Media Inquiries-
Tara Kamp

TRENTON – In honor of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week (NCVRW), Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin, the Division of Violence Intervention and Victim Assistance (VIVA), the Victims of Crime Compensation Office (VCCO), the Division of Criminal Justice (DCJ), and the State Office of Victim Witness Advocacy (SOVWA) will host an event to recognize crime survivors and those who assist them. This event will amplify survivor voices, raise awareness of important resources and services, and highlight the role varied disciplines play in the healing journeys of crime victims across the State.

After holding the event virtually for the past three years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, New Jersey’s NCVRW event will be hosted in-person at the Richard Hughes Justice Complex in Trenton. Following the ceremony, two of VIVA’s offices, the Office of Violence Intervention and Prevention (OVIP) and VCCO will conduct training workshops to provide overviews on the eligibility and compensation requirements for crime victim benefits and the various community violence intervention and prevention programs supported by Attorney General Platkin and the Department of Law and Public Safety.

“We recognize the devastating impact that violent crime has on individuals, their loved ones, and our communities, and we remain committed to ensuring New Jersey is using a systemic, statewide approach to prevent violent crime as we assist those who have been affected by it,” said Attorney General Platkin. “Each victim has their own story and their own journey of healing, and we honor them with today’s ceremony. After holding this event virtually for the last few years, it is a pleasure to be with my colleagues and our partners who work tirelessly to help victims and survivors pursue justice and healing.”

This year, the U.S. Department of Justice, Office for Victims of Crime declared April 23 – 29, 2023, as National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, to honor and recognize crime victims and those who assist them. This year’s theme – Survivor Voices: Elevate. Engage. Effect Change – calls upon communities to amplify the voices of survivors and create environments where survivors have the confidence that they will be heard, believed, and supported.

This theme underscores Attorney General Platkin’s work to ensure that his office uses survivor-centered, trauma-informed approaches to supporting individuals and communities impacted by crime and violence. Last September, Attorney General Platkin established VIVA through directive and appointed long-time survivor advocate Patricia Teffenhart as its inaugural Executive Director.

“After years of attending the New Jersey Crime Victims’ Rights Week event in the audience, it is truly affirming and rewarding to now be part of the team organizing this year’s event,” said Patricia Teffenhart, Executive Director VIVA. “It is an honor to collaborate with colleagues at the Division of Criminal Justice and the State Office of Victim Witness Advocacy, along with VIVA’s team within the Victims of Crime Compensation Office to advance our shared commitment to survivor-centered, trauma-informed approaches to public safety.”

VIVA was established to exist with equal influence and importance as the Division of Criminal Justice, thereby ensuring that our efforts to hold accountable those who cause harm are informed by best practices that are responsive to trauma, supportive of healing, and keeping the best interest of those who have been harmed, in the center of our policies and practices.

“This week serves as a reminder to law enforcement of the crucial role we play in supporting survivors of crime,” said Pearl Minato, Director of the Division of Criminal Justice. “Our duty extends beyond just investigating and prosecuting crime, it is also our responsibility to provide vulnerable victims with access to support services on their journey to recovery. This important work is only made possible by the dedication of our law enforcement officers, attorneys and victim witness advocates who strive every day to ensure that victims are treated with dignity and respect. New Jersey thanks them wholeheartedly, not just during National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, but every day.”

As part of this Friday’s NCVRW event, the Attorney General’s Office will acknowledge the ongoing work of victim advocates, service providers, and law enforcement by presenting the 2023 OAG Excellence Awards for Victims’ Justice. Five honorees will be publicly recognized for their work in delivering justice to victims and their loved ones.

The following is a list of the award recipients who were nominated by their colleagues and selected by the Department’s Crime Victims’ Rights Week Committee:

Crime Victims’ Rights Award – Presented to:
Co-Located Trauma Recovery Center and Hospital-Based Violence Intervention Program
University Hospital

The Crime Victims’ Rights Award reflects the 2023 National Crime Victims’ Rights Week theme: “Survivor Voices: Elevate. Engage. Effect Change.” This award will be presented to an individual or agency whose actions capture the spirit of the theme – a pioneer in the victims’ rights movement, an activist who sought progress from pain, a visionary looking to further innovate, or any individual or agency striving to enhance the services provided to victims in this state.

Home to the New Jersey Trauma Center (NJTC), University Hospital (UH) in Newark sees 4,200 injured patients, with approximately 1,600 victims of violence and over 600 firearm injury victims annually, making it among the highest volume of penetrating trauma in the nation. In 2017, the hospital started New Jersey’s first Hospital-Based Violence Intervention Program (HVIP) and has supported over 600 patients in the ensuing years, with an engagement rate of over 70% and an early positive outcome rate of greater than 60%. In 2021, UH started the Trauma Recovery Center (TRC), uniquely positioning it as the first HVIP/TRC hospital collaborative model in the state. Both programs provide services to individuals who are victims of interpersonal and community violence, such as gunshot wounds, assaults, domestic violence, human trafficking, homicide survivors, vehicular assaults, and hate crimes. This model demonstrates an innovative approach to fusing trauma-informed mental health care and survivor-centric healing services to treat the root causes of violence in New Jersey.

Endurance Award – Presented to:
Bobbi Mowery
Retired, Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office

This award honors a Victim Witness Coordinator, advocate, and/or staff member who consistently sets the standard for excellence by going above and beyond to assist victims and prosecution teams. This award does not require decades of service but recognizes one’s perseverance in providing quality assistance to victims.

After 13 years of handling child abuse cases as a social worker, Ret. Lt. Bobbi Mowery devoted her new career in law enforcement to the goal of protecting children. As head of the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office’s Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Unit, Bobbi not only endeavored to prevent future harms, but to also provide aid to victims and their families. She was committed to bringing justice and determined to hold offenders responsible for the harm they caused. These cases are not easy and can be excruciatingly depressing, but Bobbi’s passion for giving our youngest and most vulnerable residents a voice always fueled her to carry out her life-changing work.

Gladiator Award – Presented to:
Jessica Gomperts
Assistant Prosecutor, Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office

This award recognizes an Assistant Prosecutor or Detective who has demonstrated extraordinary commitment and zeal to ensure that the criminal justice system treats victims with compassion and dignity during the prosecution process.

Jessica Gomperts has served as an Assistant Bergen County Prosecutor since September 2000.  During her tenure, she has worked in the Appellate, Juvenile, Grand Jury, and Trial Sections of the office. Over the past twelve years as Chief of the County’s Domestic Violence Squad, she has handled hundreds of cases, including attempted murders, aggravated sexual assaults, interferences with custody, kidnappings, aggravated assaults, and more. Jessica also played a significant role in the creation of the Extreme Risk Protective Order Act, the nation’s first statewide directive to law enforcement implementing an “extreme risk” gun safety law, which makes it easier for officers to keep firearms away from individuals who present a significant risk of harming themselves or others. Jessica is a law enforcement hero for domestic violence survivors and continues to lend her expertise to innovative policy and social change efforts across the state.

Ronald W. Reagan Award – Presented posthumously to:
Joan McKenna
Founder, Women Against Rape (WAR)

This award honors President Ronald W. Reagan for his compassion, vision and commitment to crime victims’ rights. President Reagan placed victims’ rights in the forefront of the national agenda during his administration, which resulted in the creation of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, the President’s Task Force on Victims of Crime, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the Victim of Crime Act of 1984 (VOCA), and countless other initiatives. This Award is presented to an individual or agency that has: 1) shown a consistent commitment to victims’ rights and services; 2) employed extraordinary efforts in the delivery of services; and 3) advocated for victims via policies, protocols, legislation and other measures.

At a time when victim services were in their infancy, Joan Mckenna’s persistence and courage laid the foundation for what victim services look like today. While her diverse and influential activism spans decades, it was in 1973 that she founded WAR – Women Against Rape. WAR provided a 24/7 service to victims of sexual assault, equivalent to today’s Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) programs. Joan gave survivors not only support, but also a voice – and through that voice – power. WAR also protected children from sexual assault by developing tools for schools to help children understand, identify, and report illegal behavior and establishing a “safe place” where victims and their families could stay while their houses were being restored back from a crime scene to a home. She educated the right players on the importance of support systems for sexual assault victims and helped to shape policies, protocols, and legislation by stressing the importance of a victim-centered approach. Today’s high services standards are undoubtedly a direct consequence of the astounding work of Joan McKenna over her lifetime.

The Above and Beyond Award – Presented to:
Seastreak Ferries

 New this year, created by the Division of Violence Intervention and Victim Assistance, this award recognizes an individual or organization that has, outside of its primary business or professional purposes, gone above and beyond to support individuals, families, and/or communities impacted by violence, crime, and/or traumatic events.

On September 11, 2001, we witnessed one of history’s darkest days. But on that tragic day, and the days and years that would follow, we saw the light of the American spirit shine brightest. Among the many individuals and organizations that lent helping hands in the aftermath, Seastreak Ferries showed outstanding kindness and compassion in providing transportation to New Jersey’s 9/11 surviving family members attending the New York Commemorative Services. It is an honor to recognize their generosity and support for their community.


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