COLUMBUS, Ohio (Nov. 20, 2017) — Executive Director Cathy Harper Lee has been named Nonprofit Executive Director of the Year by Smart Business Columbus magazine’s Medical Mutual Pillar Awards. She will be recognized during the Smart Business Columbus Pillar Awards at 5 p.m. on January 25 at the Ohio Statehouse.
Cathy Harper Lee created the organization after surviving ten years of sexual violence as a child and later pursuing the successful prosecution of her abuser. The predator walked free during the three years following her report, and he continued to sexually assault at least 15 other children.
When she told her story on America’s Most Wanted with John Walsh, she was overwhelmed by hundreds of phone calls from other survivors who shared similarly frustrating experiences of the criminal justice system.
She recognized that crime victims needed a place to report and receive assistance when the criminal justice system was failing. In 2000, she created the Ohio Crime Victims Justice Center (formerly the Justice League,) which is recognized as first victims’ rights legal services organizations in Ohio and the fourth in the nation.
Today, OCVJC has two offices, ten employees, and dozens of volunteers who work together. And under Cathy’s continued leadership, the OCVJC continues to evolve and grow in order to better serve victims.
Last year, the organization launched The Victims’ Rights Toolkit (victimsrightstoolkit.com) which is the first online self-help resource to help crime victims understand and exercise their rights at each stage of the criminal justice process. The Victims’ Rights Toolkit is a searchable database that summarizes hundreds of state and federal rights, administrative code, protocol, and best practices. The Victims’ Rights Toolkit provides crime victims and advocates the ability to search based upon the type of crime and age of victim, streamlining the process.
Recently, Cathy – on her own time, helped champion the successful ballot initiative for Marsy’s Law in Ohio, a constitutional amendment to provide crime victims enforceable rights and better involve them in the justice process.
“Cathy has always done the work, never looking for glory, just the satisfaction of a job well done, helping those in need. I am pleased others have noticed what we board members see daily.” Craig Henderson, OCVJC Board Member
Cathy has “proven to be an innovator and effective leader,” wrote nominator Kelley Morris, who is a business development representative for the Columbus Chamber of Commerce.
“She recognized a deficiency and pioneered a solution that did not previously exist. She has grown an organization, started from her dining room with no funding, to an organization that serves the entire state of Ohio.”