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. Moreover, 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.
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 established the capacity to provide immediate emergency crisis management services after a critical event. By 4 p.m. on September 11, 2001, OVC had activated a toll-free call center that offered 24-hour 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 OVC call center following the September 11 attacks.
The call center toll-free number is 18003310075. The center 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 2005, 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 will help 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.
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. Recent incidents and the Federal Government's response have demonstrated a clear need for planning, training, and coordination, especially at local levels. Yet, training for professionals and victim service providers about how to respond to the mental health needs of victims of terrorism and mass violence is not widely available.
To close this gap, OVC and the Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services began collaborating in 1999 to provide mental health training, technical assistance, and consultation services for professionals who assist victims. Two publications have been developed to help mental health providers better serve victims:
Directory of International Crime Victim Compensation Programs
The Directory of International Crime Victim Compensation Programs: 2004-2005 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 directory lists contact information for victim compensation programs in 35 countries and Taiwan. 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. See the 2005 Directory.
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 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.
OVC is committed to developing worldwide capacity for responding to mass violence and terrorism. By quickly making information available to victims of terrorism and other international crimes, OVC empowers individuals to seek out resources and support. This, in turn, creates the best possible conditions for successfully coping with and recovering from events.