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Contact: Janine Kava, Press Office
New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services/Crime Victims Board
(518) 457-8828 or (518) 275-5508 – cell
For immediate release: Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2007

New York State Crime Victims Board honors three for advocacy on behalf of victims in Rockland, Westchester and Suffolk counties
Special Achievement Awards presented at 2007 conference in Syracuse

Two individuals and one organization have been recognized for outstanding service and advocacy on behalf of crime victims in Rockland, Westchester and Suffolk counties by the New York State Crime Victims Board.

The board presented its 2007 Special Achievement Awards during its statewide conference, which was held last week in Syracuse. More than 400 advocates, counselors and law enforcement officials attended the Crime Victims Board's three-day conference, which featured 30 different workshops on topics including an overview of the laws that govern crime victims' restitution; identifying elder abuse and human trafficking; advocacy in the state's Family Court system; and new advances in treatment and therapy for crime victims.

This year's honorees are: Laura Ahearn, founder and executive director of Parents for Megan's Law and the Crime Victims Center in Stony Brook; F. Richard Steinberg, a volunteer with Westchester Victims Assistance Services and a member of the Crime Victims Board's Advisory Council; and the Rockland Family Shelter, a non-profit organization that has served victims of domestic violence and sexual assault since 1979.

“On behalf of the Crime Victims Board and residents of New York State, I commend these honorees for their tireless work on behalf of crime victims,” Crime Victims Board Chairwoman Tina M. Stanford said. “They have done so much to promote understanding and awareness of victims' rights, and also to offer healing, closure and support to women, men and children who have been victimized.”

In her nomination on behalf of the Parents for Megan's Law and Crime Victims Center's Board of Directors, Deborah Felber, the organization's assistant director, wrote:

“If I were to describe Laura Ahearn in two words they would be ‘courage' and ‘heart.' She has the courage to confront any obstacle to help a victim and a heart that sees the good and potential in everyone…. Her success can be measured in the numerous people she has helped and the lives she has changed.”

Founded 10 years ago, Parents for Megan's Law works to prevent sexual victimization and provide services to victims of sexual abuse and violent crime. It offers educational programs to adults and children; training to law enforcement; and also serves as a state certified rape crisis center, providing 24 hour a day, seven days a week access to crisis intervention, victim advocacy, counseling for children and adults; medical, legal and other referrals; and crime victims compensation assistance and advocacy. The organization also staffs the National Megan's Law Helpline, providing valuable prevention information and crime victim referrals.

“Providing services to victims of sexual abuse and to victims of violent crime requires strength, compassion and the fortitude to push the envelope when necessary. Crime victim advocates are individuals who, with great devotion, put themselves between a victim in crisis and an often overwhelming and cold system,” Ms. Ahearn said.

“To me, there is no greater calling and more fulfilling way to serve society. It is truly an honor to be recognized by my colleagues and by the dedicated team at the New York State Crime Victims Board,” she added. “Together, crime victim advocates across the state have all made, and will continue to make a difference in the lives of all innocent victims.”

Mr. Steinberg was nominated for the honor by the co-chairs of the Downstate Coalition for Crime Victims, Martha Hauze and Susan Xenarios. In their nomination, they wrote: “His commitment, passion and compassion are unsurpassed…. Richard Steinberg is a treasure to the crime victims' movement in New York State. And he is a gem to those of us who have been fortunate to work with him as a colleague and an angel to those victims he served.”

After working for nearly 40 years as a social worker, Mr. Steinberg came out of retirement in 1998 and embarked upon a new career as a counselor with Westchester Victims Assistance Services. Mr. Steinberg's eldest daughter had been murdered six years earlier in Manhattan, and he felt that his personal history, in combination with his years of professional experience, could provide perspective and support to crime victims.

The Danbury, Conn. resident, however, is more matter of fact in describing why he decided to join the agency. “I came out of retirement to work, and frankly, it was a way of trying to pay back an agency that helped me maintain my sanity after the murder of my daughter.”

“I'm extremely honored to have received this award and most appreciative of the kind and complimentary words of my colleagues who nominated me,” Mr. Steinberg added.

The Rockland Family Shelter provides a range of services, including an emergency residential shelter for battered women and their children; the Mary Weingard Domestic Violence Law Project, which represents abused women in Family Court and offers free legal consultation and referrals for domestic violence victims; a teen dating violence prevention program; transitional housing support services; non-residential services to survivors and family members of domestic violence and sexual assault; and a comprehensive crime victims' assistance program in partnership with the Rockland County District Attorney's office.

In nominating the shelter, Board of Directors President Diane Sussman wrote: “By providing comprehensive, replicable programs that address all aspects of domestic violence and sexual abuse, and by reaching out to all segments of Rockland's marvelously diverse community, the Rockland Family Shelter stands as a model of service, commitment and innovation that has achieved unparalleled success in brining these issues to the forefront of public awareness.”

Shelter Executive Director Carolyn Fish, who was one of the shelter's founding members, said the award is a reflection of the work of employees and volunteers.

“It lifts us up in our community, that we have agency that is worthy of acknowledgement,” Ms. Fish said. “Our board, our staff and our volunteers have worked extremely hard and I'm very proud that they have been acknowledged. It's not easy work. I truly believe this is a testament to their integrity, their compassion, their hard work and commitment.”

The Crime Victims Board was established in 1966 to provide compensation to innocent victims of crimes. It also funds victim assistance programs in all 62 counties across New York State. Those grants fund programs offered by local district attorneys' offices; probation and police departments; hospitals; and non-profit organizations including YWCAs, rape crisis centers and child advocacy centers.

In 2005-06, 193 programs received approximately $23 million in funding, serving more than 200,000 crime victims from rural Allegany and Schoharie counties to the five boroughs of New York City and everywhere in between. For a list of those programs, visit www.ovs.ny.gov and click on “Victim Assistance” in the menu on the left.