Chapter Six


This chapter outlines some of the leadership activities that OVC has sponsored through VOCA funds; identifies OVC's response to emerging issues in the victims' field; and offers legislative recommendations to improve victims' rights and services as a new decade of VOCA-funded activities begins.

VOCA-Supported Leadership Initiatives

National Crime Victims Rights Week

Each year since 1982, National Crime Victims Rights Week (NCVRW) has been formally designated and commemorated at the federal and state levels during the month of April. The observance of this event serves as a reminder that, not so long ago, crime victims were treated only as witnesses for the prosecution -- often denied the dignity, respect, and assistance to which they were entitled. NCVRW affords the country an opportunity to acknowledge the pain and suffering of crime victims and to applaud the numerous reforms instituted to advance their rights and respond to their unique needs.

OVC, the Department of Justice (DOJ), and the White House, working in conjunction with state, local, and private sector entities, lead efforts to implement NCVRW events. The federal observance of NCVRW typically includes the issuance of a Presidential Proclamation formally designating the week, along with the equally important presentation of Crime Victim Service Awards to victim advocates who have made outstanding contributions to the victim services field. OVC annually solicits nominations for the Crime Victim Service Award from nearly 3,000 victim advocates and service providers and recognizes candidates from communities across the nation. Appendix F lists award recipients in FY 1993 and 1994.

State and local activities are held concurrently with the federal observation of NCVRW. Governors typically issue their own proclamations, while victim advocates and survivors plan other events, including vigils, rallies, and local award ceremonies. VOCA funds support the development of a NCVRW resource kit for communities and groups interested in observing the week-long event. The kit contains sample speeches and relevant crime statistics, innovative ideas on how to commemorate the event, and camera-ready poster art on victims' rights and issues.

Crime Victims Fund Awards

During NCVRW, the Attorney General also presents Crime Victims Fund awards to federal employees who have made outstanding efforts to ensure that fines and debts owed to the federal government by offenders are paid as fully and as promptly as possible. These awards recognize innovative strategies to collect these fines and debts and reward individual initiative in government. The Crime Victims Fund Award ceremony highlights the importance of the monies that these individuals collect, which are deposited into the Crime Victims Fund and are used each year to fund VOCA services to victims. Appendix F lists Fund award recipients in FY 1993 and 1994.

The Financial Litigation Unit of the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Eastern District of Wisconsin coordinated with the Office's Assistant U.S. Attorneys to create mechanisms to ensure prompt collection of criminal fines, restitution, and special assessments. The Unit coordinated and shared information with both the Bureau of Prisons and the local U.S. Probation Office. The Unit routinely sends letters to delinquent or defaulted criminal debtors, holding them accountable to complete their payments. By doing so, the Unit has increased collections by 40 percent.

OVC's Response to Emerging Issues in the Victims' Field

The victims' field is constantly changing and encountering new challenges in many areas. OVC is addressing the following important challenges that have been identified by practitioners, policy makers, and leaders from around the country.

Expanded Rights for Victims

Virtually every state has a victims' bill of rights, which gives victims such rights as the ability to deliver a statement to the court about the impact of the crime at the time of sentencing and to discuss plea agreements with prosecutors before they are finalized. However, in many places, these rights remain unenforced. Victims are never informed of what those rights are, and they apply only to certain victims -- not to all victims of serious crimes. In most states, rights are extended only to victims of felonies. Domestic violence and drunk driving cases often are prosecuted as misdemeanors, in which case state victims' bills of rights usually do not apply.

In addition, in the federal system, the right to allocution only applies to violent crime victims, and restitution only applies to certain classes of victims. Victim advocates have recommended that state and federal victims' bills of rights be amended to cover every crime victim, not just victims of some felonies, and restitution should be mandatory in all cases.

In 1996, OVC is publishing a compendium of victims rights around the country, with comments from victim advocates on what should be contained and how they should be enforced. This compendium will offer a state-by-state comparison of rights which will identify gaps in existing legislation and point to needed improvements. Also, as part of the National Crime Victims Agenda project, OVC will publish a comprehensive paper developed by the National Victim Center (NVC) analyzing victims' rights across the country and making recommendations.

Expanded Rights for Victims of Juvenile Offenders

Most juvenile justice systems are cloaked in secrecy. Victims have no rights within many of these systems, which were designed years ago to protect the confidentiality of juvenile offenders. Today, youth violence is one of the fastest growing segments of crime. It is characterized, at times, by unthinkable brutality and inhumanity. There are a number of new state initiatives that establish rights for victims of juvenile violence similar to rights that apply in adult courts.

OVC has worked with other DOJ components to develop federal legislation that would provide greater rights to victims of juvenile offenders. This legislation would help extend certain rights that are already available to victims of adult offenders to victims of juveniles.

In 1995, OVC funded three regional forums to assess the needs of victims of juvenile offenders and to propose actions steps to address these needs. Although the recommendations generated by these forums are not yet available, information learned in the assessment phase of that project can serve as a starting point for identifying promising approaches now in use in various jurisdictions throughout the country. The promising approaches are likely to include newly created statutes for victim rights; innovative services provided to victims by juvenile courts or corrections agencies; and outstanding training programs for victim service personnel on the juvenile justice system and for juvenile justice personnel on crime victims issues.

Victims of Gang Violence

Victims of gang violence or their survivors often are afraid to exercise their basic rights, such as appearing in court, making an impact statement, pursuing restitution, or participating in other case events, due to the retaliation, revenge, intimidation, and fear that commonly accompany such violence. In addition, victims of gang violence and their survivors are often blamed for the violence or dismissed as contributing to the crime.

In 1996, OVC is providing funding to examine a number of issues regarding gang violence, including:

A field-initiated project that will develop technical assistance materials to help victim service providers improve assistance to victims of gang-related crimes. The project will identify and document the successful ways agencies and communities are serving victims of gang violence and their families and describe practical applications for criminal justice and victim assistance staff. A package of technical assistance materials will be developed and pilot-tested in at least two jurisdictions.

The information and materials gained from this project in turn will be used to assist the development of a victim service component for the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention's (OJJDP) Comprehensive Community-Wide Approach to Gang Prevention, Intervention, and Suppression Program, and assist them to develop policies, procedures, and services that address the needs of the victims of gang violence. It is anticipated that this assistance process will aid the grantee in developing the technical assistance package and also provide ample opportunity for pilot-testing the materials.

A one-day meeting of gang violence victims and victim service providers in conjunction with an OJJDP-sponsored gang violence symposium. Participants will explore the strategies that seem to work in their communities, collaboration between gang violence victims' organizations, the value in bringing these groups together, and the role of government in reducing gang violence. The meeting should produce recommendations for future action and a networking plan. A working group of six to eight victims of gang violence and service providers will convene to hold a planning meeting.

Two demonstration programs located in a school or community to assist pre-teen and teen victims and witnesses of gang violence and other juvenile crimes. The two projects would establish comprehensive programs for these victims -- ones that could be replicated in other communities.

The development of a training curriculum for juvenile court personnel and victim service providers covering such topics as victims' legal and procedural rights, victim impact statements, restitution orders, and other programs and services that target victims of juvenile offenders for services or involvement in the court process. The curriculum will be pilot-tested in two juvenile court jurisdictions, then subsequently revised for dissemination nationwide.

Innovative Ways of Providing Medical Exams

Some community partnerships have developed new ways of handling the medical aspects of sexual assault and child abuse cases through increased use of technology, nurse practitioners, and specialized settings. Instead of having doctors handle these cases in busy emergency rooms, some communities have created a special environment for victims and use trained nurse practitioners to conduct the evidentiary medical exam. One such program was initiated in Tulsa, Oklahoma through collaboration between police, prosecutors, and mental health and medical workers. It was recently recognized by the Ford Foundation and Kennedy School of Government as an important public sector innovation. After more than 500 exams conducted by nurse practitioners in a supportive environment, Tulsa police officials noted substantial improvement in the quality of forensic evidence, and a higher rate of conviction due to greater willingness of victims to submit to exams. They also reported that all of the cases prosecuted with nurses providing testimony resulted in convictions.

In FY 1996, OVC will enter into a cooperative agreement to identify promising strategies and practices for evidentiary medical examinations, including the use of nurse examiners and special settings. This project seeks to encourage the participation of child and adult victims of sexual assault and abuse in the criminal justice process by promoting victim-sensitive practices and settings for the collection of medical evidence. It will include a national scope survey and assessment of promising policies, procedures, and training materials used by sexual assault nurse examiner and other non-emergency room programs serving victims of sexual assault and abuse; the identification of competent, experienced sexual assault nurse examiners for training and program replication purposes; and the production of a complete guidebook on the implementation and operation of sexual assault nurse examiner programs and special settings for evidentiary medical examinations.

In addition, OVC has provided funding to develop a film that highlights promising practices for providing medical services to child victims, including through new technologies.

Use of Technology in Serving Victims

Technology should be used more widely to benefit crime victims. Computers, for example, can enhance communications between service providers and help them identify available local services or even gaps in services. Computers can support databases that identify potentially dangerous suspects, and track stalkers, rapists, and child molesters. Emerging technologies such as the Internet and World Wide Web can be sources of important policy and funding information.

Some technologies not only serve as repositories of information but proactively get crucial information to victims. By linking technologies such as computer databases and telephone systems, victims can be informed when their assailants are released from prison, as they are in Louisville, Kentucky. Through the city's Victim Information and Notification Everyday (VINE) offender case management information system, crime victims can call in to learn of their offender's status and will receive automatic computer-generated phone calls notifying them when their offender is released.

As part of its effort to identify "promising practices" in victim services, OVC entered into a cooperative agreement that will identify promising practices in the area of applied technologies that enhance victim services. This project also will feature a conference that brings together victim advocates, criminal justice professionals, and technology experts to examine strategies and technologies that could be applied to improve the delivery of victim services and enhance communications between service providers.

OVC also will consider responses to uses of technology that cause serious harm to victims. Although the Internet, World Wide Web, and other emerging technologies offer victim service providers new opportunities to assist victims, they also offer others new ways to harm victims. The potential for harm was exemplified in a recent case involving a college student who became obsessed with another student and published on the Internet a series of sexually explicit narratives about how he planned to hunt down, rape, torture, and murder her. He also published the victim's real full name and other identifying descriptions. During subsequent e-mails between he and another man who read the narratives, plans were made to rape and kill this student, as well as a child under the age of 14. In this instance, law enforcement intervened before any physical harm occurred, but the potential for criminal activity clearly exists. In other instances, e-mail and on-line chat rooms have been used by pedophiles to lure children and teens into sexual liaisons.

Strategies to address these concerns must be developed to protect children and others exposed to harm through the Internet.

Multidisciplinary Centers for All Crime Victims

As noted in Chapter 2, the crime victims' field has been moving towards the provision of comprehensive, multidisciplinary victim services. Efforts such as the Jacksonville Victim Services Center and the approximately 300 children's advocacy centers completed or in development across the country have demonstrated the effectiveness of this approach. OVC is supporting this effort in a number of ways.

In FY 1996, OVC is funding a project entitled "Victim Services 2000," which will support the development of a comprehensive victim service system in two select communities, one in an urban setting and the other in a rural area. The purpose of this initiative is to support comprehensive, collaborative services for all crime victims in a victim-centered environment. These demonstration sites will include participation from victim service providers, criminal justice and local emergency response personnel, support groups, medical and mental health providers, clergy, schools, and youth groups. Sites also will be encouraged to develop linkages with the media, professional educators, legislators, elected leadership, community leaders, the private sector, professional associations, and others to improve services to victims. The integration of recently developed technologies, special service settings, community-based programs, appropriate state and local laws, interagency linkages, and an internal assessment process will be critical to the success of these Victim Services 2000 laboratories which will be used as training sites for other communities.

The initiative will require three phases: community planning and model development, component implementation, and training and information dissemination. During the first phase, sites will conduct a collaborative needs assessment and planning process, creating a model for a comprehensive victim service environment in their communities and a detailed plan for implementing the model. In subsequent years, they will implement the plan by enhancing existing services, filling service gaps, and integrating new promising programs and strategies into their system of services. Once the demonstration sites are fully implemented, they will assume two additional functions: to serve as a training laboratory for victim service personnel from other communities and to produce information useful to others wishing to replicate or adapt their model.

In addition to Victim Services 2000, OVC is expanding its support of other comprehensive victim services. In FY 1996, OVC is joining other Office of Justice Programs bureaus to support the Child Safe Project, which will coordinate federal, state, and local resources within a comprehensive prevention and intervention program for child victims and their families. The Child Safe Project will create systemic reforms to improve services for abused children; provide training and technical assistance support to practitioners who serve child victims and their families; strengthen a continuum of family support services to assure that assessment, counseling, and victim assistance services are available; assure the uniformity of evaluation protocols across sites; and provide prevention education and public information.

OVC is providing selected grantees with training, technical assistance, and training materials that improve services for child victims. Examples of assistance to be provided include a video that features promising practices for conducting forensic medical examinations for children, descriptions of community programs that serve child and spouse abuse victims, mentoring or training programs for communities wishing to establish a children's advocacy center, and use of the OVC Trainers Bureau to provide training to Child Safe grantees.

OVC also is supporting the establishment of a children's advocacy center in the District of Columbia U.S. Attorney's Office for one year to improve the investigation and prosecution of child abuse cases. Specifically, funds will be used to hire a child interview specialist to: (1) assist in the implementation of a joint interview/assessment process among the key agencies; (2) improve the quality of information we receive from child victims and reduce the trauma to children in the process; and (3) enable the Victim-Witness Assistance Unit to provide more effective services to child victim and witnesses. The program is intended to serve as a training site for other federal agencies that have significant responsibility for child abuse cases.

Victim Services in Rural Areas

While some communities provide extensive services for crime victims, in too many communities -- particularly in rural areas -- there are no services. More must be done with funding and strategic planning at the federal and state levels to ensure that services are provided equally throughout the country.

In 1996, OVC is funding a project that identifies promising practices in rural areas -- one of the most underserved areas in victim services. Through this project, OVC will learn which programs seem to be more effective in rural areas and strategies for spreading similar efforts to other rural areas. One of the Victim Services 2000 demonstration projects ultimately will be centered in a rural community to enhance services in that area and to serve as a laboratory for other rural communities that wish to establish similar programs.

Victim Impact Panels

Crime victims should be involved more widely to educate everyone about victimization, including service providers and offenders. Victim impact classes, in which victims or survivors of victims describe how the crime has affected their lives, should be used routinely to train law enforcement, prosecutors, and judges, as well as school-age children and offenders. Victim impact panels have been used successfully by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) to raise awareness among drunk driving offenders of the human impact of their crime. In California, the Department of the Youth Authority conducts "Impact of Crime" classes in all of their correctional facilities where more than 10,000 young felons are housed. The impact of property and car theft, child abuse, sexual assault, domestic violence, homicide, and robbery are studied, with victims and survivors of victims often assisting in the education.

In FY 1996, OVC is funding a MADD project on victim impact classes/panels that is updating and integrating the CYA training curriculum and its own training curriculum on implementing victim impact panels, traditionally targeting only DUI offenders. MADD is recruiting a select group of trainers, who are well positioned to further spread this program expertise, to attend a 4-day training seminar in the summer of 1996. A train-the-trainer curriculum is being produced, as is a training video and a publication that describes this project.

Expanded Services to Victims of Violence Against Women and Children

In the decades since the origin of the battered women's movement, public awareness and efforts to address the plight of women targeted by violence have grown dramatically. This was evidenced most recently by the passage of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) within the 1994 Crime Act. VAWA authorized more than $1 billion in grants to improve the law enforcement, prosecutorial, educational, and victim service response to female victims of violence. It mandated a number of studies on violence against women issues, such as confidentiality, campus rape, and battered women's syndrome. VAWA also enhanced penalties for those convicted of certain violent acts against women and mandated restitution to victims of sex crimes.

In FY 1994, state victim compensation and assistance programs awarded roughly $25.5 million to provide direct service and financial compensation to domestic violence victims, compared to a total of $130,000 in FY 1986. Data illustrating the distribution of VOCA funds for child abuse reveals a comparable growth. See Chart 10, Combined Distribution of VOCA Victim Assistance and Compensation Funds: Child Abuse, Spousal Abuse, and Sexual Assault, 1986-1994.

Victim advocates, criminal justice professionals, the medical community, and allied professionals in some instances have expanded their focus on domestic violence to include child abuse. Although estimates of the number of abused children who live in homes where their mothers also are being physically abused vary, recent child abuse studies establish a clear link between physical abuse of women and abuse of the children living in their homes.

In 1995 and 1996, OVC worked collaboratively with the Violence Against Women Office to co-sponsor a number of important projects, including mentoring programs to assist community teams in developing a multidisciplinary approach to handling domestic violence cases; initiatives to implement the full faith and credit provisions of the Violence Against Women Act; and a project to develop effective anti-stalking laws. In addition, OVC is providing funds for projects which will help to coordinate domestic violence and child abuse programs.

Post-Conviction Victim Services

A victim's rights and needs within the criminal justice system do not end once the offender has been convicted and sentenced. Often victims want to be kept informed of the offender's status in the correctional system. Post-conviction notification programs are very critical to instill a feeling of safety for victims.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) notifies victims and witnesses, identified by U.S. Attorney's offices, of all significant release activities of federal inmates, including: parole hearings, transfers, deaths, escapes, paroles, and releases. BOP has established an Office of Victim Assistance to further enhance its Victim/Witness Notification Program and the Victim/Witness Notification program has been automated to provide immediate access to information. As of November 1994, the BOP was monitoring 2,541 inmates and providing notifications to approximately 5,500 victims and witnesses. This is a 77 percent increase in the number of inmates monitored by BOP and a 24 percent increase in the numbers of victims and witnesses enrolled in the program between FY 1992 and FY 1994.

Table 4: BOP Notification Program

FY 92 FY 94
# Inmates monitored 1439 2541
# VW enrolled* 4431 5500

* Victims and witnesses participating in the notification program

In FY 1995 and FY 1996, OVC funded two important initiatives to improve post-conviction services to crime victims. One program is identifying promising practices in improving the correctional system's response to the needs and rights of crime victims. This is being accomplished by: 1) conducting a survey to determine the current level of victim services provided by correctional agencies; 2) identifying promising practices and programs used by correctional agencies to address victim needs; 3) producing up-to-date training materials for institutional corrections, paroling authorities, and jail personnel; 4) providing training and technical assistance to selected correctional agencies and jurisdictions; 5) disseminating information about promising practices to correctional personnel; and 6) evaluating the impact of the training and technical assistance activities on individuals and the field. This project combines the coordinated effort of six agencies: the National Victim Center, the American Correctional Association, the American Jail Association, the Association of Paroling Authorities, International, the American Probation and Parole Association, and the Restorative Justice Association.

Also, OVC is funding the American Probation and Parole Association (APPA) to identify, disseminate, and encourage the replication of innovative policies, procedures, and programs developed by probation and parole agencies to respond to the needs of crime victims. The project is identifying elements of exemplary victim-related probation and parole practices through a literature review and a planning meeting with project consultants. Information about exemplary programs will be published in a compendium and an OVC Bulletin.

Services for Elderly Victims

Crimes against older Americans are especially traumatic to the victims. Many elderly victims are specifically targeted for their vulnerability by scam artists. To combat these crimes, the 1994 Crime Act authorized the Federal Sentencing Guidelines to provide for increasingly severe punishment for a defendant convicted of violent crimes against elderly victims, taking into account the vulnerability of the victim. The Crime Act also enhanced penalties for offenders who target older Americans while committing telemarketing fraud and provided mandatory restitution for victims of telemarketing fraud schemes.

In this manner, the 1994 Crime Act responded to a growing number of federal fraud cases involving elderly victims in which U.S. Attorneys' offices asked for harsher sentences that departed from the sentencing guidelines. For example, in late 1993, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the conviction of a man who had preyed on lonely, older widows who sought pen-pals through magazines. The court ruled: "Not only were the victims specifically chosen for their age, loneliness, and gullibility, but the district court could have reasonably concluded that lonely, elderly widows, as a group, are more susceptible to this type of fraud."

Since many elderly victims of crime are not able to travel long distances to testify at criminal trials, Victim-Witness Coordinators increasingly have videotaped testimony or visited victims in their homes in order to gather testimony that might lead to the conviction of their offenders and prevent future crimes. For example, the Victim-Witness Coordinator from the Middle District of North Carolina drove to Tennessee at the request of the Eastern District of Tennessee Victim-Witness Coordinator to visit an 81-year-old victim of a telemarketing scheme. The Coordinator assessed that the victim was not able travel to North Carolina for the trial, but that he was very capable of expressing himself. He was later comfortably deposed by videotape in the familiar surroundings of his own home. Convictions were handed down on all 31 counts of the indictment.

State VOCA victim assistance subgrantees allocated $993,963 in FY 1993 and $911,881 for elder abuse services. In addition, VOCA-funded state victim compensation programs reimbursed many older Americans for the costs of their victimization.

OVC has funded a few key projects to address crimes against older Americans, particularly through its support of the TRIAD program. Initiated in 1989 by Sheriff Charles Fuselier in St. Martin Parish, Louisiana, TRIADs are local partnerships between police, county sheriffs, and local agencies on aging to develop strategies to prevent crimes against older Americans. These local partnerships were later duplicated in Bridgeport, Connecticut, when the local sheriff met with senior citizen groups and decided to pay for a bus that would take seniors living in one housing project to the market each week. Many were afraid to buy food alone because of the high crime rate. Some of the senior women crocheted outfits for teddy bears, which the sheriffs then used to give to children who had been sexually abused. More than 260 TRIAD programs in 44 states currently are benefitting seniors and law enforcement.

In FY 1994, OVC entered into an agreement with the National Sheriffs Association, the Bureau of Justice Assistance, and the Administration on Aging at the Department of Health and Human Services to support regional TRIAD conferences. These regional training conferences have helped to spread TRIAD programs into more communities around the country, as well as an elder abuse training curriculum for law enforcement developed under an OVC grant with the Police Executive Research Forum, as describe in Chapter 4. Due to early successes with this program, OVC is providing increased funding to support the TRIAD program in FY 1996.

Victims of Hate/Bias Crimes

The Federal Hate Crimes Statistics Act defines hate crimes as those that manifest evidence of prejudice based on race, religion, sexual orientation, or ethnicity. Nearly 7,600 incidents, such as cross burnings in front of African American churches and assaults against people because of their sexual orientation, were reported to the FBI in 1993. These reported crimes involved almost 9,400 victims.

The response to victims of hate/bias crimes requires careful attention to a number of sensitive victim assistance issues, as the victims have been targeted for crime primarily due to who they are or who they appear to be. As noted in Chapter 4, to respond to the field's need for training on responding to hate/bias crimes, OVC funded the development of a comprehensive bias crimes training curriculum for law enforcement and victim service providers, as well as training programs for criminal justice and victim services personnel using the "Bias Crimes Training for Law Enforcement and Victim Assistance Professionals" curriculum.

Beyond training, an increasing number of prosecutors and victim service providers are developing methods for responding to hate and bias crimes and their victims. For example, the Eastern District of California has formed a Hate Crime Task Force to resolve local hate crimes through joint federal, state, and local investigations and prosecutions and to develop a proactive plan to prevent future hate crime activity. The Victim-Witness Coordinator and crime victim groups are an active part of this initiative. These collaborative efforts improve agency cooperation as they respond to these crimes.

Victims of hate and bias crimes have turned to VOCA-funded programs for services. VOCA victim assistance funds have been subawarded to a number of programs that specialize in services to victims of hate and bias crimes.

Concerns About AIDS/HIV

AIDS and HIV issues are a growing concern for crime victims and victim assistance providers. In addition to having to deal with the trauma of sexual assault, these victims also must confront the possibility of the transmission of the HIV virus. The 1994 Violence Against Women Act requires the Justice Department to pay for testing of federal victims of sex offenses following sexual assaults that pose a risk of transmission of sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS. Federal Victim-Witness Coordinators and local victim assistance professionals have had to learn more about these issues in order to provide victims with the most effective and supportive services.

Some non-sexual cases have led to concern about the transmission of the HIV virus. An example of such a case occurred in the Northern District of California, where a bank customer tackled a man trying to rob the bank and was bitten by the robber, drawing blood. The victim was very concerned about the possibility of HIV infection. However, no federal provision of law allows the victim of a non-sexual assault to request an HIV test of the perpetrator. The Victim-Witness Coordinator and the federal prosecutor worked with the defense attorney to get the defendant to voluntarily agree to be tested as part of a plea agreement and a doctor trained in HIV testing provided the victim with the results.

In FY 1996, OVC is funding NVC to collect research, resources, and other materials related to HIV/AIDS and victim services; design a comprehensive training manual and trainers' guide that includes an overview of the medical, legal, and counseling aspects of HIV/AIDS; and pilot test the training manual. Training is being provided in four sites.

Culturally Appropriate Services to Victims

As the population becomes increasingly diverse, culturally appropriate and accessible services to crime victims are needed. OVC continues to make efforts to tailor training materials for diverse cultural groups. State training workshops provide background, cultural expectations, traditions, customs, and world views of different cultures within the country. As noted in the description of the Law Enforcement Training for Domestic Violence grants in Chapter 4, brochures, guides, pamphlets, and training protocol handbooks for both law enforcement officers and victims often were printed in a variety of languages, from Spanish to Japanese. These materials were incorporated into state and local law enforcement training academies.

In 1996, OVC is providing funding for the development of a film about cultural diversity and victim services. In addition, OVC is funding the development of materials on victims' issues for Native Americans. Efforts also are underway to further define principles, issues, and practical approaches to interacting with victims of crime in specified settings, such as among Native American cultures. Such issues include, but are not limited to, the impact of one's own values and beliefs on the delivery of effective services; cross-cultural assessments of victims' emotional, physical, and financial needs; and culturally sensitive interviewing techniques. OVC currently is funding the development of a trainer's guide and curriculum about cultural sensitivity in service delivery.

Professionalization of the Field

Victim service providers must be accountable for the quantity and quality of services they provide to victims of crime. Evaluation of victim services and professionalization of victim advocacy and victim assistance providers is becoming increasingly important in the victims field. As described in Chapter 4, OVC has funded numerous efforts to train professionals who work with victims -- such as social workers, police, prosecutors, medical professionals, the clergy, and others -- on the unique needs of crime victims.

At the same time, efforts are being made to professionalize the victims field by creating specific "victimology" courses in schools. As noted in Chapter 4, OVC has supported the initial development of a National Victim Assistance Academy through which victim assistance professionals are trained with a structured curriculum by leading advocates and experts. In FY 1996, OVC is expanding its National Victim Assistance Academy by providing comprehensive training for 120 advocates at three different sites simultaneously as part of its continuing Intensive Professional Seminar. In addition, the Academy curriculum will be made available to states to assist in their training programs. The Academy also will support a train-the-trainer seminar series to increase the number of qualified trainers to address hate/bias crime, elder abuse, victim assistance in community corrections, responding to staff victimization in correctional agencies, and death notification.

OVC will continue to examine all aspects of the training and support of victim assistance professionals and volunteers and offer recommendations to improve training that ultimately enhances services to crime victims.

Federal Crime Victims' Issues

Cases With Large Numbers of Victims and Witnesses: As crimes such as telemarketing fraud become more widespread, cases with large numbers of victims and witnesses will present challenges to even the most resourceful federal Victim-Witness Coordinators. These cases also illustrate the unavailability of victim rights for certain classes of crime victims. For example, in the Southern District of California, approximately 10,000 people were victimized in a high-pressure, deceptive large cash "sweepstakes." Many of the victims testified in San Diego at the trial. Most of these were elderly, had never traveled before, and required assistance to get to California for the trial. Victim-witness staff had to identify all of the victims of the case, keep them informed of significant case events, and otherwise ensure that their rights and needs were upheld. This exemplifies how one case can overwhelm staff.

To address the lack of services for victims of white collar crimes, in FY 1996, OVC is funding a project in the Northern District of California to create a white collar crime victim advocate position. The primary concern of most victims in these cases is to get their money back. While criminal investigators and prosecutors share concern for this goal, it is often not the primary objective of a complex white collar investigation. By the time a case is ready for prosecution, all too often, the defendant has hidden or spent victim assets. The white collar crime victim advocate funded by this project would be expert in all matters related to the identification and recovery of victim assets involving complex financial transactions. A guide ultimately will be prepared to assist other United States Attorneys' offices with techniques to secure, protect, and collect assets rightfully belonging to victims of white collar crimes.

Victims of Bank Robbery: Federal districts continue to report that they are providing services to an ever-growing number of bank employees. Bank tellers are often so traumatized by violent robberies that they must undergo psychological counseling. Costs for this counseling can be reimbursed through VOCA victim compensation funds.

OVC is developing training and technical assistance programs to help U.S. Attorneys offices and financial institutions respond to the needs of victimized employees. In FY 1996, OVC is funding the United States Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Wisconsin to develop a video for bank robbery victims and witnesses, as well as a companion guidebook for victim/witness professionals. The video will help victims and witnesses deal with their psychological trauma and understand and prepare them for the court process. It is also intended to aid the professionals and managers who work with victims and witnesses. The guidebook will provide technical assistance to victim/witness coordinators on how to establish a crisis response program, as well as how to establish a bank tellers support network.

OVC's Legislative Recommendations

The following recommendations would improve the responsiveness of the VOCA victim compensation and assistance programs, as well as improve services to victims throughout the criminal justice and social service systems at the federal, state, and local level.

Amendments to Strengthen Victims' Rights and Services

OVC recommends the following:

Increased services for victims of mass violence. VOCA should be amended to provide $500,000 in additional funding to assist the victims of the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City to attend the trial proceedings in Denver. These funds should be made available from the OVC reserve fund authorized by Section 1402(d)(4).

Expansion of the rights of victims of juvenile offenders. Crime victims should not be discriminated against based upon the age of their offenders. Congress should adopt legislation that provides victims of federal juvenile offenders with rights similar to those of victims of federal adult offenders, including the right of allocution at the time of adjudication. The Juvenile Justice Action Plan developed by OJJDP for the Juvenile Justice Coordinating Council supports this view and recommends that these rights include offender release and escape notification; restitution; return of property; victim impact statements; protection from intimidation, harassment, and harm; information and referral services; and access to information about their offenders' status.

The Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 enacted a number of important amendments to VOCA that have strengthened OVC's ability to serve a variety of victims, including victims of terrorism. The statute enacted the following VOCA amendments:

Assistance to Victims of Terrorism: VOCA was amended to provide authority to the Director of OVC to provide supplemental victim compensation and assistance grants to states in cases of mass violence and domestic terrorism using funds retained in the reserve fund authorized by Section 1402(d)(4). It also provides supplemental victim compensation and assistance grants for American victims of terrorism abroad using funds retained in the reserve fund authorized by Section 1402(d)(4).

Year-of-Award Plus Two: Section 1402(e)(1) of VOCA was amended to increase the time in which grant monies must be spent from the current year-of-award plus one to a year-of-award plus two years. Often, victim assistance programs are unable to spend all of their grant funds during the award period because the states do not award the grants until well into the grant year. Many federal grants operate on a three year grant cycle. This amendment will ensure that limited Crime Victim Fund dollars that are not obligated will have another year in which to be spent.

Unobligated Funds Returned to the Crime Victims Fund: Section 1402(e)(1) of VOCA was amended to allow for any remaining unobligated or deobligated Crime Victims Fund dollars less than $500,000 to be returned to the Crime Victims Fund, rather than to the "general fund of the Treasury." This ensures that monies deposited into the Fund are spent on crime victim services.

Victim Assistance Base Award Increase: Section 1404(a)(5) of VOCA was amended to increase the VOCA victim assistance base award to $500,000, with the remaining funds being distributed on the basis of state population. Each state victim assistance program had received a base award of $200,000. The increased base award recognizes the growth in the Crime Victim Fund since its origins. Under the previous $200,000 allocation, only $11.4 million of the total victim assistance allocation was exhausted by the base award. In 1986, the first year of the program, this represented 27.6 percent of the total VOCA victim assistance grant to states. For FY 1994 Fund deposits, the base awards represented only 14.3 percent of the total VOCA victim assistance grant to states. Under the recommended change, $28.5 million of the total victim assistance allocation is used, with the remaining millions distributed by formula.

In particular, this recommendation provides additional funding to smaller, rural states, where it is extremely difficult and expensive to provide services to victims living in remote areas. More than half of the states in the nation receive less than $500,000 in victim assistance funding annually. The increase would allow these states in particular to develop comprehensive victim services throughout the states and to do effective outreach to unserved and underserved populations.


Much has been accomplished for crime victims in recent years, due to the vision set forth by Congress in the Victims of Crime Act of 1984, as amended. Despite these achievements, OVC and the federal government have a responsibility to continue their advocacy on behalf of crime victims and criminal justice system reforms. Issues that have been identified in this chapter, such as expanded rights for victims, enhanced services, and the application of new technologies, are likely to have a marked impact on the crime victims field in the years to come. OVC must provide leadership by responding appropriately and effectively to these issues.

The legislative and policy recommendations set forth in this chapter will improve the responsiveness of VOCA to the rights and needs of crime victims, as well as have long-term impact on how criminal justice and social service systems at all levels of government respond to crime victims. By implementing these changes, Congress can enable OVC to continue its efforts to serve crime victims and to allow them to find the justice and healing they truly deserve.

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