By the President of the United States of America

A Proclamation

For too long, the victims of crime have been the forgotten persons of our criminal justice system. Rarely do we give victims the help they need or the attention they deserve. Yet the protection of our citizens -- to guard them from becoming victims -- is the primary purpose of our penal laws. Thus, each new victim personally represents an instance in which our system has failed to prevent crime. Lack of concern for victims compounds that failure.

Statistics reported by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other law enforcement agencies indicate that crime continues to be a very serious national problem. But statistics cannot express the human tragedy of crime felt by those who are its victims. Only victims truly know the trauma crime can produce. They have lived it and will not soon forget it. At times, whole families are entirely disrupted -- physically, financially and emotionally. Lengthy and complex judicial processes add to the victim's burden. Such experiences foster disillusionment and, ultimately, the belief that our system cannot protect us. As a Nation, we can ill afford this loss of faith on the part of innocent citizens who have been victimized by crimes.

We need a renewed emphasis on, and an enhanced sensitivity to, the rights of victims. These rights should be a central concern of those who participate in the criminal justice system, and it is time all of us paid greater heed to the plight of victims.

Now, Therefore, I, Ronald Reagan, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim the week beginning April 19, 1981, as Victims Rights Week. I urge all Federal, state and local officials involved in the criminal justice system to devote special attention to the needs of victims of crime, and to redouble their efforts to make our system responsive to those needs. I urge all other elected and appointed officials to join in this effort to make our justice system more helpful to those whom it was designed to protect. And I urge all citizens, from all walks of life, to remember that the personal tragedy of the victim is their own tragedy as well.

In Witness Whereof, I have hereunto set my hand this eighth day of April, in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and eighty-one, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and fifth.

Ronald Reagan

[Filed with the Office of the Federal Register, 3:01 p.m., April 8, 1981]