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Terrorism and Mass Violence

With advancing technology, widespread use of the Internet, increased international tourism, and overseas job opportunities, issues of violent crime and mass victimization have become a major concern for agencies that serve victims in the United States and abroad. In addition, the threat of terrorism against Americans worldwide has increased in recent years. New types of weapons of mass destruction, such as chemical and biological agents, pose significant challenges for those charged with responding to victims of terrorist attacks. To meet the needs of this growing victim service area, OVC funds several initiatives to provide victims with timely, appropriate services and to coordinate assistance among service agencies. Each initiative shares the goal of enhancing assistance to victims of terrorism, mass violence, and international crimes and thus supports the efforts of similar programs and victim service providers nationwide.

OVC Victim and Family Assistance Call Center for Victims of Terrorism and Mass Violence Incidents

In the aftermath of a terrorism or mass violence incident, OVC needs to collect and disseminate victim information and provide services for a wide range of victims. In spring 2001, OVC issued a contract that established its capacity to provide immediate emergency crisis management services after a critical event such as a terrorist attack or incident of mass violence. By 4 p.m. on September 11, 2001, OVC had activated a call center that offered 24-hour, toll-free telephone support to collect information from family members about victims and to provide referrals for financial, housing, and counseling assistance. About 37,000 victims and family members received assistance and referrals through the call center following the September 11 attacks. The call center toll-free number is 1-800-331-0075, and it operates during standard business hours (9 a.m. to 5 p.m. eastern time) with after-hours voice mail. Calls are returned promptly the next business day. In the event of a terrorist attack or incident of mass violence, the call center will operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Developing a Strategic Plan for Responding to Victims of Terrorism and Mass Violence: A Community Protocol

Since September 11, 2001, OVC has received numerous inquiries from communities around the Nation seeking assistance with the development of a strategic plan for responding to a terrorist-related crisis and the needs of victims. OVC strongly supports precrisis planning to ensure that communities have identified key personnel, available resources, and the necessary protocols for a comprehensive and effective response. In Fiscal Year 2003, OVC initiated the development of a protocol, or technical assistance, publication to help communities design, develop, and implement a long-range strategic plan for their victim service providers and allied professionals. This plan helps communities establish an infrastructure for the effective management and delivery of federal, state, and local victim services in the event of a mass criminal victimization, such as an act of mass violence or terrorism.

Victims Component for an Office of Domestic Preparedness/Department of Homeland Security Training Course for Emergency Responders

For the past 2 years, OVC's Terrorism and International Victim Assistance Services Division has worked with the Office for Domestic Preparedness (ODP) to develop a victims' component for one of ODP's ongoing courses for emergency responders. A new training module was designed to address the issues and needs surrounding victims of terrorism, including emergency responders as victims. In addition, a PowerPoint presentation called Responding to Victims of Terrorism/Mass Casualty Events was developed and presented at a train-the-trainers meeting in March 2003. To broaden the training audience, ODP plans to produce a CD-ROM or video version of the PowerPoint materials. OVC is working with ODP to provide technical assistance in curriculum development, learning objectives, needs assessment, capacity building, and assessment of the curriculum's instructional effectiveness.

Specialized Training To Respond to the Mental Health Needs of Victims of Terrorism and Mass Violence

Federal law enforcement and community service providers face significant challenges in responding to the mental health needs of victims of terrorism and mass violence. These criminal acts and the Federal Government's response have demonstrated a clear need for planning, training, and coordination. The state and local response, as well as the assistance of community service providers, must be considered. Currently, there is a lack of training for professionals and victim service providers about how to respond to the mental health needs of victims of terrorism and mass violence.

To close this gap, OVC and the Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services collaborated in Fiscal Year (FY) 1999 to provide mental health training, technical assistance, and consultation services for professionals who assist victims. As part of the formal agreement between the two agencies, a training manual was developed in FYs 2002 and 2003 to help mental health providers better serve victims. CMHS and OVC have published the training manual and curriculum and plan to deliver the specialized training to mental health professionals and victim service providers.

International Crime Victim Compensation Program Directory

OVC is finalizing the 2004 update of the International Crime Victim Compensation Program Directory. It identifies countries with crime victim compensation programs that offer financial assistance to citizens and international visitors victimized by crime occurring within their borders. Crime victim compensation programs provide urgently needed financial assistance to help victims pay some of the out-of-pocket costs resulting from a crime, such as medical treatment, mental health counseling, lost wages, loss of support, and funeral and burial expenses. The 2004 directory lists contact information for victim compensation programs in 36 countries and territories, including the United States. OVC worked with the U.S. Department of State to survey U.S. embassies and consulates around the world to identify new compensation programs and determine what modifications had been made to existing programs. This joint effort resulted in the identification of eight new countries and territories not included in the previous directory. The directory was first published in 1996 by OVC and last updated in 1999.

Assisting U.S. Citizens Victimized Abroad

The purpose of this project is to develop a handbook and/or training program for state and local victim service providers who encounter U.S. citizens who have been victimized abroad or lost a loved one to homicide or other crimes abroad and have returned to the United States. The handbook may include information on types of crime, obstacles victims face in foreign countries, the role of OVC and the U.S. Department of State and other federal agencies in providing assistance, and other available resources. The goal of the project is to give victim service providers in the United States the tools to help victims access foreign criminal justice systems, compensation programs, and so forth.

E-Brochures for Victim Service Providers and Foreign Visitors

OVC is developing two electronic brochures (e-publications) that will focus on international visitors who become victims while in the United States. The first brochure will inform victim service providers about the special needs of international visitors who become victims while visiting the United States. The second brochure will provide foreign visitors victimized in the United States with information about how to access appropriate services and compensation resources in this country. These e-publications will be available for download from OVC's Web site.


These initiatives demonstrate OVC's commitment to developing worldwide capacity for responding to mass violence and terrorism. The effort to quickly make information available to people affected by terrorism and other international crimes enables those individuals to seek out resources and support and creates the best possible prospects for successfully coping with events.

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