Few individuals could have predicted how technology would support the present-day victims' movement. For example, OVC uses its Web site and e-mailing lists to inform and to provide easy access to online publications, funding resources, services, promising program strategies, and training resources. To further the use of technology, OVC funds various initiatives that promote cooperation among service providers. Information-sharing among victim service agencies at the state and local levels creates a critical, seamless network of victim services. Automated notification systems are an effective method of informing victims about the status of their cases and the subsequent release of perpetrators.
In addition to these uses of technology, the Crime Victims Fund supports initiatives that promote the use of technology in delivering training and technical assistance and in processing expense reimbursement claims for victims of international terrorism.
VS2000 System Information Technology Project
In 1997, OVC began developing Victim Services 2000 (VS2000), a 5-year demonstration project to create model systems for victim service delivery. VS2000 was established to improve the range, quality, and accessibility of services for all victims through the development of integrated victim service systems in urban and rural settings. VS2000 has three technological components: resource directory management, agency training registration, and case management for community agencies. OVC provided funding to the Denver Victim Assistance and Law Enforcement (VALE) Board in 2003 to further expand these components, which will be made available to other interested communities in the future. OVC funded a pilot test of the system in Denver, Colorado, and plans to eventually replicate it nationwide. System developers are working to prepare the system for replication nationwide. To view the Denver system, including an online newsletter, description of the VS2000 model development, resource center, and other components, visit the VS2000 Web site.
Also see the OVC Bulletin, Making Collaboration Work: The Experiences of Denver Victim Services 2000.
Online Directory of Crime Victim Services
OVC developed an online Directory of Crime Victim Services for use by victims and service providers. This directory includes more than 6,000 service providers who address various victim needs. Launched October 31, 2003, the directory offers a centralized, searchable database of victim assistance programs nationwide; users may search by location, type of victimization, service needed, and agency type. OVC continually updates the database with new programs that have been carefully screened. New programs may enroll online. View the online directory.
OVC Web Forum
In early 2004, OVC launched a Web forum, the OVC Message Board To Help Exchange Lessons and Practices (HELP) in Victim Services, to link victim service providers and allied professionals with colleagues throughout the Nation who face similar challenges and experiences. An online bulletin board, the OVC Web forum, allows peer-to-peer dialogue on innovative practices and services in victim assistance. A guest host is featured each month, allowing participants to ask questions of and receive insight from nationally recognized experts on the featured topic. Guest hosts have covered such topics as helping child victims, assisting victims of identity theft, assisting victims of drunk and drugged driving, and managing "compassion fatigue."
In 2005, OVC launched an expanded Forum, featuring new tools to enhance collaboration. New features include:
- OVC News and Announcements: Reports current OVC-focused initiatives and relevant topics and events with a primary focus on best practices.
- Search Engine: Scans and retrieves posts by topic of interest, keywords, or date.
- Hot Topics: Features posts from unique users or forum topics that are relevant to current events in victim assistance.
- Post of the Month: Highlights a post that expresses information of value to the online community and contributes to the body of knowledge concerning crime victims and best practices.
For more details, visit the OVC Web Forum.
OVC's Web Site
OVC's Web site is its most vital link with its constituents. The site is accessed by victims, victim advocates, state VOCA1 administrators and subrecipients, discretionary grantees, educators, policymakers, and the general public. It is the main portal to the vast resources that are available through OVC, including:
- The OVC Web Forum, an interactive message board for the field.
- "Featured Resources," highlighting a new topic each month.
- "Grants and Funding," including the "Discretionary Toolbox," a one-stop resource for information on solicitations, compliance and monitoring requirements, and financial information for grantees.
- "Help for Victims" offers Internet links to topical resources for victims, including OVC's Directory of Crime Victim Services.
- "Publications" provides links to OVC publications that can be viewed online or downloaded. Users may also view digital clips for select video products and public service announcements.
- "Resources for International Victims" offers information on global and international issues for victims, including a series of publications in French, Spanish, traditional Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai, and Vietnamese.
- "Victim Assistance by Faith-Based Organizations" offers a background of OVC-funded programs, government resources, and nongovernmental resources.
In the event of a terrorist attack or incident of mass violence, OVC will post critical information for victims on its Web site.
In 2005, OVC launched a companion Web site, crimevictims.gov, as part of an integrated campaign to increase awareness about victims' rights, educate the public about the impact of crime, and promote crime victim resources. The site was tied to the release of seven public service announcements (PSAs) that began to air nationally during National Crime Victims' Rights Week (April 1016, 2005). The PSAs target three audiencescrime victims, volunteers, and victim service providersand are available in Spanish. Crimevictims.gov targets these same audiences, with links to Web sites, publications, databases, and hotlines. The site mirrors the look and feel of the PSAs, giving a face to crime victims, volunteers, and service providers through photos and brief testimonials.
In addition to serving as the portal to its many resources and Web products, OVC's Web site also provides partner agencies with exposure for their services and resources. For more details, visit the OVC Web site.
Nationwide Automated Victim Information and Notification System
Computer automation provides a means to integrate federal investigative, prosecutorial, and corrections components with the victim notification requirements specified in the Attorney General Guidelines for Victim and Witness Assistance. Money allocated from the Crime Victims Fund has been used by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Executive Office for United States Attorneys, and the Federal Bureau of Prisons to develop and implement a nationwide automated victim information and notification system (VNS) for the federal program. The system provides consistent information and reduces the time and resources necessary to notify victims of key case events. A pilot test of the system in Fiscal Year 2001 produced favorable results. VNS is operational. As of early July 2005, the database was populated with 492,721 victims in pending FBI cases; 222,938 victims with the United States Postal Service; and 149,535 victims in cases referred to the U.S. Attorney's Office by federal, state, and local agencies.
OVC Training and Technical Assistance Information System
The OVC TTAC Information Source (OTIS) was developed to support all Training and Technical Assistance Center (TTAC) operations and functions, ensure effective management, facilitate proactive project planning, and identify areas that may need targeted services. OTIS is a comprehensive, Web-based information management system that provides OVC and select audiences with a single information source for TTAC resources and activities. The system contains data on training and technical assistance recipients, consultants, TTAC coordination activities, and needs and evaluation. It provides a timesaving, standardized way of collecting and tracking data to support daily project planning and management functions, and it enables staff to query any data area or module. Separate modules track training and technical assistance requests, consultants, evaluation data, and scholarship data. OTIS data helps guide OVC decisionmaking and programming by tracking field needs for training and assistance.
Information Technology Support for the International Terrorism Victim Expense Reimbursement Program
Created under the Victims of Crime Act,2 the International Terrorism Victim Expense Reimbursement Program (ITVERP) authorized OVC's director to reimburse victims for expenses associated with terrorism incidents that occur outside the United States. To be eligible for reimbursement under ITVERP, an individual must have been a national of the United States or an officer or employee of the U.S. Government on the date the act of terrorism occurred (incidents must have occurred on or after December 21, 1988, and an investigation or prosecution must have been ongoing as of April 24, 1996). The individual must have suffered direct physical or emotional injury or death as a result of international terrorism.
OVC is working with the Office of Justice Programs' Office of the Chief Information Officer on information technology support for ITVERP such as software development, implementation, and database maintenance, including the electronic filing and processing of victim expense reimbursement claims.
OVC recognizes the vital importance of keeping the victims' field abreast of new programs and information. Through the Internet and other innovative technologies, OVC gives victims proven avenues to access resources and services. These enterprising technologies are designed to help victims get the information they need in a timely manner.
1. Victims of Crime Act (1984). VOCA crime victim assistance grants are administered by OVC; see Formula Grant Applications.
2. Title II, 42 U.S.C. 10603c, 1404C.