Press release from the Indiana Attorney General, Greg Zoeller’s office:
Fort Wayne Woman Receives High Honor
Turning Victimization into Victims Advocacy
Indianapolis, Indiana (June 30, 2010) – Attorney General Greg Zoeller and Indiana Criminal Justice Institute (ICJI) Executive Director, T. Neil Moore today presented Michelle Corrao, a Fort Wayne native, with the Distinguished Hoosier award for her selfless advocacy and empowerment of victims of crime. Corrao is the community relations director for Hamilton County-based Prevail, Inc., an organization that serves victims of crime and abuse.
The award was presented this afternoon at a ceremony held in the Statehouse and was attended by Zoeller, Moore, Corrao and other allied organizations.
“It is an honor to present the Distinguished Hoosier award to Michelle and thank her for advocating for other victims of crime,” Zoeller said. “She exemplifies the important role advocates play in assisting victims throughout the entire criminal justice process, the advocates we want to support by this recognition.”
Zoeller serves on the board of the ICJI and is a member of the Executive Working Group at the U.S. Department of Justice. The Attorney General’s office is responsible for upholding convictions during the appellate process and administers the Appellate Victim Program which offers notification, education and referral services to victims and victims’ advocates around the state.
On April 16, 2010 Corrao was honored by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder with the Special Courage award for her outstanding work on behalf of crime victims in a ceremony hosted by the U.S. Department of Justice (Washington, D.C.). Corrao was the first recipient from the state of Indiana to receive the award, which recognizes extraordinary bravery in the aftermath of a crime or a courageous act on behalf of a victim or potential victim.
Thirteen years ago, Corrao was abducted from outside her home in Fort Wayne. Three men sexually assaulted and held her captive in the trunk of her own car. She survived due to an observant off-duty Fort Wayne police detective. Since the attack, Corrao has dedicated her career to working with law enforcement, medical personnel, clergy, criminal justice students, prosecutors, and government officials to help them understand the impact they have on victims (more on Corrao’s story below).
The U.S. Attorney General’s victims’ service awards were presented as a prelude to National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, which is observed each April. Corrao was nominated by Moore and his staff for both the Distinguished Hoosier and Special Courage awards.
“Ms. Corrao’s encounter with victimization should never be forgotten. Her story is one of hope and inspiration. She not only survived her tragic ordeal, but she continues to thrive as a powerful advocate and strong voice on behalf of the crime victims she serves on a daily basis,” Moore stated.
According to the FBI, in 2008, there were a total 21,283 violent crimes in Indiana reported to law enforcement. This number includes more than 300 murders, 1,000 acts of forcible rape, 7,500 robberies, and 11,000 acts of aggravated assault.
Similarly, domestic violence is another aspect of violent crime that must not be overlooked. The Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence reports that from July 1, 2008- June 30, 2009 there were a total of 53 deaths in Indiana related to domestic violence – an 18.5 percent decrease compared to the same time period the previous year (2007-2008).
“The Indiana Criminal Justice Institute remains committed to advancing victims’ rights by funding programs throughout the state that equip service providers to meet the physical and emotional needs of those impacted by crime,” Moore added.
“This is an amazing honor not only for me but for all victims of crime and those who serve them. I wish to thank the Attorney General and Dr. Moore for all they do to support crime victims and I am grateful to those in our community who take these issues very seriously,” Corrao said. “I will never forget the trauma I experienced that night or the drive home from the hospital wondering how I was ever going to live life again and be happy. By faith, family and friends I am here to pay it forward to provide inspiration and hope to those victims in need. I will continue thanking all who have walked and continue to walk this journey with me to make a difference in the lives of others. I say very proudly ‘Life does not get better than this. There is hope.’ ”
Michelle Corrao was abducted 13 years ago at her front door by three men. Kidnapped, raped, and beaten unconscious, she was bound and thrown into a car trunk. She knew she would die, so, with much difficulty, she removed her rings and bracelet and tucked them under the trunk carpet in hope that her body could eventually be identified. But from the terror and despair of the dark trunk came salvation in the face of off-duty Fort Wayne Detective, Art Billingsley, who happened to make a stop when he saw some suspicious activity around the car. During this time, Detective Billingsley’s Chief of Police was ICJI Executive Director, Neil Moore. Ever since, Ms. Corrao was able to overcome her own victimization and has dedicated her career to sharing the extraordinary message of the profound impact that first responders have on victims to a broad audience including law enforcement, medical personnel, clergy, criminal justice students, prosecutors, and government officials.
The Indiana Criminal Justice Institute (ICJI) serves as the state’s planning agency for criminal justice, juvenile justice, traffic safety and victims’ services. The Victims Services division of ICJI administers federal dollars awarded to the state of Indiana from the Office for Violent Crimes (OVC); Victims of Crime Act (VOCA). On June 18, ICJI awarded more than $7.5 million in VOCA assistance and training grants to more than 170 programs statewide. These funds support programs that address issues such as sexual assault and domestic violence, while providing counseling and other outreach services needed to aid victims of crime.
Additionally, ICJI awarded $2.6 million in STOP (Services, Training, Officers, Prosecution) funding to more than 70 programs throughout the state that provide services aimed at ending the cycle of domestic violence and sexual assault.
The Office of the Indiana Attorney General works to assist victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking by helping them return to normal, safe lives. One of the ways the Attorney General’s Office does this is through the Address Confidentiality Program. Participants in the program are assigned confidential addresses. Mail received at these confidential addresses is sent to the Attorney General’s Office for forwarding on to the victims’ actual homes.
The Address Confidentiality Program keeps all personal information private. However, the information must be released if it is requested by law enforcement officers. Private information may also be released by court order. For more information about the Address Confidentiality Program visit www.in.gov/attorneygeneral/2375.htm.