Paving the Path to Justice
A powerful way to commemorate the Silver Anniversary of NCVRW
is to examine victims' rights and services 25 years ago
to help people understand just how limited they were in 1981
and to highlight the tremendous growth of the victim assistance
field. This national perspective offers a view of
victims' rights and services in 1981 (you can also offer
your state-specific perspective of these national landmarks).
You may want to consider developing a 25 year progress
report for your own state or jurisdiction, which can be
used for all your NCVRW victim outreach and public awareness
- Without the President's Task Force on Victims of Crime established by President Ronald W. Reagan, there was no national
recognition of the plight of crime victims, or a national focus
on expanding crime victims' rights and services.
- There was no Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) within the
U.S. Department of Justice. Established in 1983, OVC has provided
ongoing leadership and vision to the ever-expanding field of
- There was no Victims of Crime Act Program or Crime
Victims Fund to provide financial support for victim compensation,
victim services, and a variety of programs that enhance crime
victims' rights and services. Since October 1985, more than
$6 billion derived from criminal fines, forfeitures, and penalties
have been deposited into the VOCA Fund.
- There was no federal funding for victims of sexual assault
and domestic violence. The passage of the Family Violence
Prevention and Services Act in 1984 and the Violence Against
Women Act in 1994 and its reauthorization in 2000 have provided
billions of dollars to address violence against women.
- No national telephone hotlines existed to provide crisis intervention
and assistance to victims. Today, the National Domestic Violence
Hotline, the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, and Childhelp
USA provide hotline services to victims of domestic violence,
sexual assault, incest, and child abuse and neglect 24 hours
a day, seven days a week.
- There were 32 victim compensation programs in the United States.
Today, compensation programs help victims defray the many costs
resulting from crime in all 50 states, the District of Columbia,
Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico.
- Only one stateWisconsinhad a Victims' Bill
of Rights. Today, every state and the District of Columbia
have Bills of Rights and broad statutory protections for victims.
- No one even thought of elevating victims' rights to constitutional
status. Today, 32 states recognize victims' rights in their
- Because the victims' rights laws enacted beginning in
1980 did not have any enforcement mechanisms, they were often
called Victims' Bills of Good Intentions instead
of Victims' Bills of Rights. Over the next 25
years, many states and local agencies have created programs to
secure compliance with victims' statutory and constitutional
rights through ombudsmen programs, victims' rights boards
and committees, and legal clinics and advocates.
- There were no fair treatment standards for victims and witnesses
of crime in federal jurisdictions. Beginning in 1982 with the
passage of the Federal Victim and Witness Protection Act,
a wide range of rights and protections are now provided to federal
victims and witnesses. In 1983, Attorney General William French
Smith issued the first Attorney General Guidelines, which outlined
standards for the implementation of victims' rights contained
in the Federal Victim and Witness Protection Act.
- There was no federal funding available in Indian Country specifically
designed to address the needs of crime victims and their families.
In addition to lacking adequate services for crime victims, American
Indian and Alaska Native communities were experiencing increased
rates of reported child sexual abuse. Heightened awareness of
these issues resulted in both the inception of the Victim Assistance
in Indian Country (VAIC) Discretionary Grant Program and the
enactment of the Anti-Drug Abuse Act (ADAA) of 1988. The
ADAA amended the Victims of Crime Act of 1984 and authorized
the use of Children's Justice Act (CJA) funds in Indian
Country to improve the investigation, prosecution, and case management
of child physical and sexual abuse. Today, OVC continues to provide
federal funding to support victim services in Indian Country
through grant programs, technical assistance, and the development
of new programmatic initiatives.
- No designated advocates for victims of crime within the federal
justice system existed in 1981. Today, there are victim/witness
and victim assistance professionals in the U.S. Drug Enforcement
Administration, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Immigration
and Customs Enforcement, Internal Revenue Service, U.S. Attorneys' Offices,
the U.S. Marshals Service, the U.S. Postal Service, and the U.S.
Department of State.
- There was no federal funding for victims of terrorism and
mass violence. The 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal
Building in Oklahoma City focused the Nation's attention
and Congressional action to make resources available to address
both domestic and international terrorism. With the passage of
the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act in 1996,
Congress gave OVC the authority to establish an Antiterrorism
Emergency Reserve Fund to be used to assist victims of terrorism
and mass violence. This Fund supports compensation and assistance
services to victims of domestic terrorism or mass violence; supports
assistance services for victims of international terrorism; and
directly supports an International Terrorism Victim Expense Reimbursement
Program. In 1988, OVC provided funding to the State Department
to support the development of a Victim Assistance Specialist
position to improve the quality and coordination of services
provided to U.S. citizens who are victimized abroad. In January
2002, OVC released final program guidelines and an accompanying
application kit for the Antiterrorism and Emergency Assistance
Program for Terrorism and Mass Violence Crimes, which provides
funding to compensate and assist victims of terrorism and mass
violence that occur within and outside the United States.
- There was no global recognition of the impact of crime on
victims. In 1985, the United Nations adopted the Declaration
of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse
of Power, which served as the basis for victim service
reform at the national and local levels throughout the world.
Also, the World Society of Victimology (WSV) was formed in 1979.
The WSV promotes research about crime victims and victim assistance;
advocates for victims' interests; and advances cooperation
of international, regional, and local agencies concerned with
- Limited efforts were made in 1981 to promote victimology as
a discipline within academia. The American Society of Victimology,
founded in 2003, today serves as a national unified forum for
American academicians and practitioners on all topics related
to victimology in partnership with the WSV.
- No programs for victims of human trafficking existed in 1981.
In October 2000, Congress passed the Trafficking Victims Protection
Act of 2000 to combat trafficking in persons and to protect
victims of this crime. Congress authorized the Attorney General
to make grants to states, Indian tribes, units of local government,
and nonprofit, nongovernmental victim service organizations to
provide services to alien victims trafficked into the United
States. During Fiscal Years 2002 and 2003, Congress appropriated
approximately $20 million to fund services to trafficking victims.
OVC currently funds 20 programs nationwide that provide services,
including shelter, medical and mental health care, legal assistance,
interpretation, and advocacy, to trafficking victims.
- The lack of technology in 1981 often resulted in barriers
to the investigation and prosecution of crime, and the ability
to manage and share information to enhance crime victims' rights
and services. Today, the Web readily provides information about
and referrals to victim services in America and around the world.
The award-winning Online Directory of Victim Services sponsored
by OVC provides quick linkages to a wide range of victim assistance
programs, and its Web Forum offers countless opportunities for virtual education
and networking among professionals and volunteers who serve victims
of crime. OVC has also developed secure Web sites for victims
of mass terrorism crimes, including for the victims and families
of the Pan Am 103 bombing and the terrorist attacks of September
11, 2001. Innovative DNA technology has enhanced crime scene
investigations and increased arrests of violent offenders, and
improved the investigation and prosecution of rape cases. The
use of telemedicine offers vital consultation and medical services
to victims of crime in rural, remote, and frontier regions of
the country, who would otherwise not have access to such expertise
and services. And today, all victims of federal crimes receive
automated notification of information related to their cases
and the status of their offenders through the Victim Notification
System (VNS), with similar technology used to provide automated
victim information and notification services to victims in most
- Victim services and victims' rights within America's
juvenile justice system did not exist. The publication of the
landmark Report and Recommendations on Victims of Juvenile
Offenders by the American Correctional Association in 1994
and the national training and technical assistance efforts sponsored
by OVC beginning in 1996 helped define the rights and needs of
victims of juvenile offenders, and resulted in the establishment
of countless victim assistance programs within the juvenile justice
- In 1981, there were only seven national organizations committed
to expanding quality victims' rights and services: the National
Organization for Victim Assistance; the National Association
of Crime Victim Compensation Boards; the National Coalition Against
Sexual Assault; the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence;
the National Organization of Parents Of Murdered Children; Victims' Assistance
Legal Organization; and Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Today,
there are more than 50 national organizations that address the
needs of virtually every type of crime victim and related victims' rights
- No national criminal justice associations sponsored Victims
Committees to help formulate policies, protocols, and programs
that benefit victims of crime. Today, the American Correctional
Association, American Probation and Parole Association, Association
of State Correctional Administrators, International Association
of Chiefs of Police, National Criminal Justice Association, National
District Attorneys Association, and National Sheriffs' Association
all have some type of Crime Victim Advisory or Policy Committee.
- Victims' voices were never heard in unison as
a voting block. Since 1981, dozens of crime victims' rights
initiatives have been introduced by citizen referenda and passed
into law in various states, usually with vast support from the
electorate. The fact that victims vote has had a
powerful impact on public policy implementation that establishes
and improves crime victims' rights.
|National Crime Victims' Rights
Week: Justice Isn't Served Until Crime Victims Are
||April 1016, 2005