Photo August 14, 2017, Office for Victims of Crime,
In November of 1987, Darlene Hutchinson Biehl's life changed forever. Biehl was a junior in college at Troy University in Troy, Alabama, studying journalism. A native of Seminole, Fla., and graduate of Keswick Christian High School, she was in college 400 miles away from home. School had just let out for Thanksgiving break and she was going to a post office to check her mailbox, when she was kidnapped at gunpoint by a stranger. She was just 20 years old. She was blindfolded and bound, and after two days was able free herself and escape. Fortunately, she survived and led police to the offender who pleaded guilty to kidnapping and rape and served 20 years in prison.
Since her attack, she has seen firsthand the needs of victims and how the criminal justice system failed at times. A passion to help other victims like herself began to develop. This passion has lead her on the path to recently being appointed by President Donald Trump's to a key role in his administration. On August 14, 2017, Biehl was sworn in as the director for Office for Victims of Crime (OVC), within the U.S. Department of Justice.
A longtime friend of Biehl’s, Rachel Johnson Collier knew she was an excellent choice for this position. "When Darlene got appointed to this position, I knew no one deserved this more! I have known her for 32 years. We have been roommates, sorority sisters, and of course, friends for life! Darlene has worked diligently with the victims and families of victims for many years. She goes to parole hearing, meetings with officials, and any other means necessary to help as many people as she can. She has helped get laws changed when it seemed there was no hope of getting legislature to change. Most of her work and accomplishments have been on a volunteer basis. Most people would not devote their lives to a cause and not expect anything back, but she is an exception to the rule! I just want to end by saying I am so very proud of Darlene for stepping out and facing her own situation to go to such lengths for so many people. She had blessed my life by being the very best friend a person can have and for making our world a little safer with her efforts!”
Biehl’s accomplishments over the past twenty plus years is incredible. She has volunteered countless hours to helping victims and their families. Her work includes legislation and public policy, teaching at police academies and accompanying victims of all types to court and parole hearings. Her volunteerism includes 10 years with rape crisis centers in Montgomery, Alabama, and Collin County, Texas, as well as seven years as president of a victims’ support and advocacy group. She has received many awards for her dedication to empowering survivors and protecting their rights, while enhancing public safety. Biehl has also played a key role in the development of Alabama’s innovative victim notification system, as well as the passage and ratification of a Victims’ Constitutional Amendment in Alabama.
Those who have worked with Biehl over the years including Alabama’s Attorney General Steve Marshall know she will be an asset to the country. He recently released this statement in a press release, "Darlene Hutchinson Biehl is well known as a tireless advocate for crime victims' rights in Alabama and nationwide. She has an extensive background in fighting for those victimized by violent crime, ensuring they are given a voice in the criminal justice system. Over my 16 years as prosecutor, I have worked closely with Darlene to protect the rights of crime victims and I know President Trump made the right choice in appointing her to lead the US DOJ Crime Victims Office.”
Biehl has roots in Pinellas County. She grew up in St. Petersburg and is a 1985 graduate of Keswick Christian High School. "We were extremely proud to hear that one of our alumni was selected to this critical position in our country. Darlene is a woman of character and integrity, has a heart and compassion for people, and consistently exemplifies the love of Christ. She will be an excellent leader in a very sensitive area and we look forward to seeing how families will be helped in a great time of need by her guidance and support. We pray the Lord’s blessing over her life and position,” said Nick Stratis, Superintendent Keswick Christian School.
According to the OVC website, Biehl will oversee assisting crime victims and helping provide leadership in changing attitudes, policies, and practices to promote justice and healing for all victims of crime. OVC was established in 1988 through an amendment to the Victims of Crime Act of 1984. Besides being a crime victims' advocate Biehl has more than 25 years in publishing, including eight years as the editor of law enforcement publications in Alabama, Washington, D.C., and Texas. Plus, she served nearly 6 years as the Communications and Media Director for the Dallas Bar Association.
"It's been a whirlwind, but I'm loving it and so very honored to have this opportunity to serve victims of crime on a national level," said Biehl.
Biehl resides in Alabama with her husband Mark, but is splitting her time now in Washington, DC.