Why Celebrate the Victims of Crime Act?
2009 National Crime Victims’ Rights
Last year in the City of Federal Heights, a man left work
after arguing with his boss, stopped for a few drinks, than drove home in a
foul mood. When he found his wife outside
caring for the children instead of making dinner he flew into a rage. As the children watched in horror, he threw his
wife on the ground, kicked her, and when she tried to get up, twisted and
fractured her arm. It was the fifth such attack in three months.
saw the commotion and called the police, who arrived immediately, witnessed the
woman’s injuries and arrested the husband.
The officers called victim
services to respond and called an ambulance that took her to the hospital. When the victim returned home, she decided
–for the first time-to seek help.
The next day, the victim spoke with a victim
advocate, received information and referrals of resources, services and
criminal justice process information. The victim used this information and through a
collaborative effort with victim advocates throughout the system, she was able
to obtain shelter information, a protection order, walk through criminal
justice proceedings against her husband, arrange for counseling for her and her
children and assist in referrals for her to find a job. They
helped her seek victim compensation to receive health care and counseling and
to enroll in the state’s victim notification system so she would know the
instant that her husband was released from jail. For the first time, she and her children were
on the road to a safer life.
years ago, most of the services that helped this victim were in short
supply. Although many programs stated they
had victim compensation, most programs were poorly funded. A few grassroots victim assistance
organizations had formed throughout the nation, but relatively few victims had
access to their services. Victims whose
cases reached the criminal justice system found the courts bewildering and
indifferent to their needs. No one
helped them negotiate the court system, find service or stay safe.
Then in 1984, in response to a report from President
Ronald Regan’s Task Force on Victims of Crime, congress passed the landmark
Victims of Crime ACT (VOCA). VOCA established the Crime Victims fund-supported
by fines from offenders rather than taxpayers-to fund victim compensation and
victim services throughout the nation as well as training for service
providers. In the past 25 years, the
Fund has grown from $68 million to more than $2 billion, disbursed in amounts
determined by Congress every year. In
2006, VOCA grants helped fund more than 4,400 public and nonprofit agencies
serving almost 4 million victims throughout the country.
local domestic violence victim, VOCA opened the door to safety and hope. VOCA helped fund the resource cards the
police officer gave her, the victim advocate who counseled her, and the victim
compensation that paid for health care and counseling. Other services-such as VOCA funded
hotlines-were available if she had sought them.
Every year for the victim and millions like her, VOCA offers the tools
to build a better life.
National Crime Victims’ Rights Week (April 26 to May 2) celebrates
the 25th anniversary of the Victims of Crime Act. The
theme, “25 years of Rebuilding Lives; Celebrating the Victims of Crime Act,”
spotlights the network of lifelines VOCA has extended through our nation. In 25 years, VOCA has become “a part of what
we are and . . . how we take care of people,” said Kathryn Turman, director of
the FBI Office of Victim Assistance. “The better job we do in taking care of victims, the
healthier our communities will be.
National Crime Victims’ Rights Week celebrates the Victims of Crime Act this
Editor’s Note: The
domestic violence case described above is a fictional “composite” drawn from
many actual domestic violence cases.