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National Crime Victims' Rights Week: April 10-16, 2005 bannerNational Crime Victims' Rights Week: April 10-16, 2005 bannerNational Crime Victims' Rights Week: April 10-16, 2005 banner


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 activities.

In 1981:

  • 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 victim services.

  • 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 state–Wisconsin–had 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 state Constitutions.

  • 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 victims' issues.

  • 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 states.

  • 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 system.

  • 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 and services.

  • 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.
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National Crime Victims' Rights Week: Justice Isn't Served Until Crime Victims Are April 10–16, 2005
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