Report to Congress
December 1999

Chapter 5
Improving Services to Victims of Crime

Conferences, Focus Groups, and Symposia
Evaluating Programs To Improve Delivery of Victim Services
Improving Systems and Access to Victim Services and OVC
National Victim Assistance Academy
State Victim Assistance Academy

In FYs 1997–1998, OVC supported local efforts and responded to the needs voiced from the field for improved and enhanced crime victim services and for training and technical assistance resources. OVC devoted substantial resources to the delivery of rights and services to crime victims by convening conferences and focus groups, evaluating programs to improve delivery of victim services, improving access to OVC resources, and keeping victim service providers current with changes in the field.

Conferences, Focus Groups, and Symposia

Conferences, focus groups, and symposia are among the many ways in which OVC serves a leadership role to facilitate information sharing for those in the field. OVC learns of victim issues that need to be addressed through focus groups and uses conferences to share innovative practices or highlight the need for victim services in a particular area. In addition, OVC hosts national symposia and forums that are designed to reach many people in the most efficient manner. Participants take the information learned and apply these new concepts within their own agencies, organizations, universities, and communities.

Line OVC learns of victim issues that need to be addressed through focus groups and uses conferences to share innovative practices or highlight the need for victim services in a particular area. Line

Information gleaned from focus groups and workgroups helps OVC identify unmet needs and develop policies, protocols, and guidelines that respond to those needs. Demonstration projects generate training, technical assistance, curricula, and models for use in standardizing and replicating promising approaches and products that advance victims' rights and services across the country. Several of the conferences and focus groups led to the development of new projects and programs, the formation of partnerships between government agencies and the private sector, and the implementation of new policies or protocols. Some initiatives sponsored by OVC that developed from focus group recommendations in FYs 1997–1998 are listed below.

  • Victims of Gang Violence. Because of a lack of information available on gang violence and victimization and because the needs of victims of gang violence are an important priority for OVC, a focus group of victim advocates, criminal justice policymakers, and crime victims was convened to discuss the unique needs of victims of gang violence and assess available services. As a result of this meeting, OVC competitively awarded a grant to Victim Services, Inc., to design training for law enforcement, victim advocates, hospitals, schools, and funeral directors. The grantee is using a direct services model developed by Orange County, California's Gang Victim Services. OVC plans to pilot test these materials at appropriate VS 2000 and demonstration sites affiliated with OJJDP's Comprehensive Gang Prevention, Intervention, and Suppression program.

  • VOCA Regional Meetings. OVC conducted six regional meetings in January 1997 for State victim assistance administrators to exchange ideas, funding strategies, and action plans for supporting victim service programs in response to the substantial funding increase in the CVF as a result of the Daiwa Bank fraud conviction. This extreme fluctuation in the CVF gave these sessions added importance because they alerted States to the implications of managing the new funds and to the unpredictability of ongoing levels of funding. As a result of this OVC-facilitated opportunity to exchange ideas, States developed long-range funding strategies that would sustain and enhance services for crime victims.

  • NACVCB Training Conferences. In FYs 1997–1998, OVC continued its support of the annual training conferences organized by the National Association of Crime Victim Compensation Boards (NACVCB) and the National Organization for Victim Assistance (NOVA). Held in Atlanta, Georgia, the September 1997 conference for State VOCA compensation and assistance administrators, called "A Continuum of Care," promoted coordination between compensation and assistance programs and provided workshops to assist States in increasing their capacity to administer these programs. In September 1998, State compensation administrators met in Seattle, Washington, to explore ways to control costs, increase restitution, upgrade automated systems, and offer victim assistance within compensation programs. State VOCA administrators were scheduled to come together again for training and technical assistance in September 22–26, 1999, in Chicago, Illinois, with OVC funding support. The theme for the 1999 meeting was "Shaping the 21st Century: New Directions for Victim Compensation and Assistance Programs."

  • Indian Nations Conferences. Every other year, OVC sponsors Strengthening Indian Nations: Justice for Victims of Crime Conferences. These conferences bring together the largest collection of Tribal victim advocates, Tribal victims, Tribal justice professionals, and Tribal leadership in the Nation to discuss crime and victimization issues in Indian Country, train on best practices, and exchange information. The conferences offer skills-building training to victim services providers, prosecutors, law enforcement officials, judicial personnel, and health and mental health professionals from the Tribal, Federal, and State levels who deal with victims of crime in Indian Country. The Seventh National Indian Nations Justice for Victims of Crime Conference was held in Tulsa, Oklahoma, September 28–30, 1999, and was expanded to include participation by all OJP offices and bureaus.

  • Federal Symposium. In FYs 1997 and 1999, OVC sponsored the National Symposium on Victims of Federal Crime. More than 750 victim/witness coordinators from dozens of different Federal agencies convened to discuss strategies for responding to the President's June 1996 Directive to "hold the Federal system to a higher standard of victims' rights than ever before. . . ." Since then training and technical assistance for Federal victim/witness coordinators and heightened interagency collaboration have driven the development of interagency agreements and memoranda of understanding, and request for line-item budget approvals for victim/witness personnel.


"It was helpful to see how other agencies worked their victim/witness programs. It gave me a better overall understanding of what victim advocates are trying to achieve through government and law enforcement."

—Federal Symposium Participant

  • Restorative Justice Focus Group. Restorative justice is a victim-centered response to crime that provides opportunities for active involvement by the victim and the community. In June 1998, OVC sponsored a Victims and Restorative Justice focus group at OJP, attended by representatives from national victim organizations and renowned experts in the restorative justice field. Participants discussed ways for OVC to provide leadership to the victims' field in this area. They encouraged OVC's role as facilitator of dialogue on topics relevant to restorative justice rather than as a policymaker. A series of regional Restorative Justice Symposia explored how restorative justice practices could be incorporated into criminal justice practices and promoted within communities. To further educate the Nation about restorative justice, NIJ added a link to its Web site that contains materials from the Restorative Justice Regional Symposia participant notebooks and followup technical assistance to host sites and pilot seminars.

  • Symposium on Working With Victims of Crime With Disabilities. In January 1998, leaders in the disability advocacy, victim assistance, and research fields were brought together to address issues of justice and access to services for victims with disabilities. This was one of the first national-scope forums to focus exclusively on individuals with disabilities within the criminal justice system—as victims and not offenders. In response to one of the many recommendations made by symposium participants, OVC awarded a grant to the National Organization of Victim Assistance (NOVA), enabling NOVA to partner with Arc of the U.S., the largest advocacy group in the Nation for people with mental retardation. This partnership is to develop and enhance the capacity of victim and disability advocates to identify and serve victims with disabilities. NOVA and Arc will develop training and resource materials that will serve as the basis for training tracks at their national conferences.

  • National Symposium on Child Sexual Abuse. In FY 1998, OVC sponsored the participation of dozens of multidisciplinary professional teams from Indian Country to attend the National Symposium on Child Sexual Abuse. Team members included assistant U.S. attorneys, victim/witness coordinators, FBI special agents, and Tribal prosecutors, judges, law enforcement officers, and social service staff. The purpose of the symposium was to provide training to Federal criminal justice professionals to improve their skills in responding to victims of child sexual abuse and to promote coordination among these professionals. The symposium workshops featured the most current techniques used in State and local jurisdictions to investigate and prosecute child physical and sexual abuse cases.

  • Technology Symposium. On February 27–28, 1998, OVC sponsored a symposium titled Promising Strategies and Practices in Using Technology To Benefit Victims of Crime, which convened approximately 35 participants from the victim services and criminal justice fields and technology companies to discuss a range of technically oriented topics. Organized by the National Center for Victims of Crime (NCVC), the symposium followed a survey of victim service and criminal justice professionals conducted by NCVC to identify victim-oriented technologies. The survey identified 45 technologies used to assist victims, including those dealing with victim-specific case management, case tracking, notification, protection, management of legal and financial obligations, interactive training, and information support via the Internet. Symposium recommendations for the victim services field included creating a technical assistance package for developing victim-related Web sites.

  • Focus Group on Stalking Victims. In October 1998, OVC conducted a focus group on "Addressing the Needs of Stalking Victims." The meeting brought together stalking victims, victim advocates, prosecutors, and law enforcement officers who have worked with stalking victims to explore how acts of stalking affect victims and how communities can better address the needs of those who are stalked. Stalking victims described the destructive effects that stalkers' terrorist tactics had on their lives, while other participants shared information gleaned from their experiences in assisting victims. Participants identified gaps in services and barriers to accessing available services. OVC will disseminate the findings from this focus group as an OVC bulletin to inform victim assistance providers and justice system responders on the local, State, and Federal levels.

Evaluating Programs To Improve Delivery of Victim Services

Evaluation of VOCA-funded grant programs administered by OVC improves the delivery of victim services. During the last biennium, OVC provided funding to NIJ to contract for evaluation support for several of its major programs, some of which are described below:

  • National Study of Victim Needs and Assistance. This project, contracted to Victim Services, Inc., with VERA Institute and WESTAT as subcontractors, has two primary objectives: to uncover the emotional, behavioral, and financial impact of the crime and the resulting needs of the victim and family, and to examine whether victim assistance was sought and, if so, from whom or from which organizations (e.g., family, friends, clergy, hospital, 911, law enforcement, domestic violence program, or a comprehensive victim services agency). The results of this study will be used to increase the capacity of criminal justice, victim services, and other systems so they may respond more appropriately to victims of crime.

  • Evaluation of VOCA State Compensation and Assistance Programs. OVC partnered with the National Institute of Justice to fund a multiyear project that evaluates the effectiveness of VOCA-funded compensation and assistance programs. The Urban Institute is the contractor developing the study. Phase I will examine, indepth, the provision of rights and services to victims in five to six States. Victims will be surveyed about the impact of crime upon them, the services offered to them, and whether the services met their needs. Phase II will examine a representative sample of VOCA-funded programs and determine if VOCA compensation and assistance programs deliver a coordinated, comprehensive set of services that lowers the cost and consequences of crime for the victim. The final report is due spring 2001. Upon receipt of the final reports from these two studies, OVC will host a forum, scheduled for late fall 2001, for policymakers and victim advocates to review the results of the study and to formulate recommendations for VOCA design, administration, and operation.

Improving Systems and Access to Victim Services and OVC Resources

OVC has led the way in raising awareness for the complex needs of crime victims and answering to the demand for more coordinated, multidisciplinary responses. OVC has undertaken multiple and varied outreach efforts to increase the availability of victim assistance resources for victim services providers, victim advocates, criminal justice personnel, and allied professionals. Its delivery of training, publications, and other resources through centralized access points stands to greatly enhance multidisciplinary intervention efforts. OVC "instruments" for increasing its outreach ability include TTAC, OVC's Resource Center and OVC's Web site (see chapter 3). OVC also supported the National and State Victim Assistance Academies to professionalize the field. Both of these efforts are described below.

Line U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno cited OVC's establishment of the National Victim Assistance Academy as one of its primary successes in protecting and supporting crime victims by bringing the most up-to-date training to victim service providers across the country. Line

National Victim Assistance Academy
Recognizing the need for a comprehensive victim assistance curriculum, OVC funded the first National Victim Assistance Academy (NVAA) in 1995 to, among other things, encourage professionalization of the field through nationwide, academic-based courses of study in victim assistance at colleges and universities. NVAA has become the centerpiece of OVC's efforts to train crime victim advocates and allied professionals. The 1997 and 1998 Academies, both conducted on four university campuses in different States, used current distance-learning technology to join students and faculty at all four campuses. The 45-hour rigorous curriculum emphasizes victims' rights fundamentals and new developments in the victim assistance field. For example, the fourth annual NVAA held July 1998 included presentations on victims with disabilities, victims in remote areas, and financial fraud victims. In FY 1999, OVC funded the complete update and reformatting of the Academy text. The sites for this year's Academy were California State University in Fresno, California; Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas; American University College of Law in Washington, D.C.; the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, South Carolina; and Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas.

U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno cited OVC's establishment of the National Victim Assistance Academy as one of its primary successes in protecting and supporting crime victims by bringing the most up-to-date training to victim service providers across the country. Through NVAA, OVC ensures that services will be met by a competent victim services field. Since 1995, nearly 700 students representing all 50 states, 1 American territory, and 6 foreign countries have completed the Academy. OVC looks to the Academy to educate victim advocates and victim services providers about emerging issues concerning unserved victims and new developments on specific issues. The NVAA becomes an important tool for OVC to improve victim services both in this country and around the world.

State Victim Assistance Academy
When it received a request in FY 1998 from Michigan State University to establish a State Victim Assistance Academy (SVAA), OVC provided funding supplemented with university and State VOCA funding, and the first OVC-sponsored State Academy was born. Michigan State University, in partnership with the Michigan victim assistance community, intends to continue to sponsor a State Academy annually. OVC's new SVAA grant initiative is intended to encourage similar initiatives in other States, with the ultimate goal of establishing a 50-State network of State Academies (see chapter 9, "Looking to the Future," for more detailed information about the SVAA grant program). Although no direct funding was provided, the New Mexico VOCA victim assistance administrator has used the NVAA Academy text to host its own version of a State Victim Assistance training institute. OVC has uploaded the Academy text and updates to the text onto its Web site to provide similar access to other States and communities looking for quality training aides for their victim training initiatives. Marquette University in Wisconsin also plans to incorporate the Academy text within its undergraduate courses on victimology.


As the crime victims' movement matures the emphasis is shifting from merely establishing rights and programs for crime victims to enhancing the quality of services to victims of crime. OVC has relied extensively upon input from the field during this delicate transition period. Training and technical assistance efforts and conferences and symposia have been fashioned to respond not only to the demands of crime victims, but also victim advocates and allied professionals who are committed to making victim services a profession on equal footing with other human service and justice system disciplines. OVC-sponsored efforts have received tremendous acceptance by the field, supported national trends in the response to crime and victimization, and helped to integrate victim-sensitive practices in nontraditional settings. Amendments to VOCA authorizing OVC to fund demonstration projects have provided an opportunity for OVC to create community-based laboratories where promising practices can be identified, evaluated, and eventually replicated in other jurisdictions, and as a result the quality of services to crime victims is improved.

Report to Congress Report to Congress December 1999                                           OVCOffice for Victims of Crime

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