Sunday, April 6th marks the beginning of National Crime Victim’s Rights Week.
Only 30 years ago, crime victims had virtually no rights and no assistance. The criminal justice system often seemed indifferent to their needs. Victims were commonly excluded from courtrooms and denied the chance to speak at sentencing. They had no access to victim compensation and or services to help rebuild their lives. There were few avenues to deal with their emotional and physical wounds. Victims were on their own to recover their health, security, and dignity.
Today, the nation has made dramatic progress in securing rights, protections, and services for victims. Every state has enacted victims’ rights laws and all have victims compensation programs. More than 10,000 victim service agencies now help people throughout the country. In 1984, Congress passed the bipartisan Victims of Crime Act (VOCA), which created a national fund to ease victims’ suffering. Financed not by taxpayers but by fines and penalties paid by offenders, the Crime Victims Fund supports victim services, such as rape crisis and domestic violence programs and victim compensations program that pay many of victims’ out of pockets expenses from the crime, such as counseling, funeral expenses, and lost wages.
Victim’s rights advocates have scored remarkable victories over the last 30 years, but there is still a lot of work to be done. As we move forward, we are increasingly expanding our reach to previously underserved victim populations, including victims of color, American Indians and Alaska Natives, adults molested as children, victims of elder abuse, and LGBTQ victims. Over three decades, VOCA pioneered support efforts for victims of once-hidden crimes like domestic and sexual violence. Today, officials are shining a spotlight on other abuses that have long been unreported and often not prosecuted, including hate and bias crimes, bullying, and sex and labor trafficking among others.
“Our commitment to reaching every victim of crime is stronger than ever,” said Joye E. Frost, director, Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) U.S. Department of Justice. “For 30 years, VOCA has represented hope, healing, and justice. Our message to all victims of crime is this: ‘You are not alone.’”
National Crime Victim’s Rights Week is April 6th-12th, 2014. Logan County honors crime victims and celebrates crime survivors.
If you are a crime victim and need help, contact an advocate at the Municipal Prosecutor’s Office: (937) 599-1205, County Prosecutor’s Office: (937) 599-7272, New Directions: (937) 593-5777, or CASA: (937) 599-2272.