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 1-800-331-0075. 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. A draft publication is currently undergoing peer review.
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 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 were developed to help mental health providers better serve victims. In 2004, a training manual was produced and distributed, followed by a field guide in November 2005.
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
This project is developing a resource guide and/or training program for state and local victim service providers who encounter U.S. citizens who have been victimized abroad or have lost a loved one to homicide or other crimes abroad and have returned to the United States. The resource guide 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 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 other services.
See also, OVC's Focus On page in this section for the International Terrorism Victim Expense Reimbursement Program, which began accepting applications from victims for reimbursement in October 2006. A wealth of additional information for international victims is provided under Resources for International Victims.
Antiterrorism and Emergency Assistance Program Serves Victims of Domestic and International Terrorism and Mass Violence
The Antiterrorism and Emergency Assistance Program (AEAP) is supported through the Antiterrorism Emergency Reserve, which provides funding through a discretionary grant process. State victim assistance and victim compensation programs, public agencies (including federal, state, and local governments), and victim service and nongovernmental organizations are eligible to apply.
An incident qualifies as mass violence if it is an intentional, violent crime; the FBI or other law enforcement agency opens an investigation; and it results in widespread physical, emotional, or psychological injury severe enough to increase the burden on local victim services to the extent that other victims in the jurisdiction will not be served, or that responding will create undue financial hardship. More about the program, eligibility, and allowed expenditures.
Through AEAP, OVC provides assistance to communities reeling from terrorist attacks and other cases of mass violence. There is no minimum or maximum award, and all applications are considered on a case-by-case basis. AEAP grants offer five categories of assistance:
- Crisis response grants (emergency/short term, up to 9 months after the incident) provide funds to help victims build adaptive capacities, decrease stressors, and reduce symptoms of trauma immediately following the event.
- Consequence management grants (ongoing/longer term, up to 18 months after the incident) provide supplemental funding to help victims recover from the traumatic event and restore their sense of equilibrium.
- Criminal justice support grants (ongoing/longer term, up to 36 months after the incident) facilitate victim participation in an investigation or prosecution related to the incident.
- Crime victim compensation grants (available anytime in the aftermath of a crisis) provide supplemental funds to state crime victim compensation programs to reimburse victims for out-of-pocket expenses related to victimization.
- Training and technical assistance grants (available anytime in the aftermath of a crisis) and nonmonetary assistance (e.g., providing training through consultants) help federal, state, and local authorities identify victim needs, coordinate services, develop response strategies, and address related issues.
International Terrorism Victim Expense Reimbursement Program
The International Terrorism Victim Expense Reimbursement Program (ITVERP) is intended to alleviate some of the financial hardships victims may encounter. The program reimburses victims of terrorism outside the United States for related expenses. The list of eligible expenses includes out-of-pocket costs related to funeral, burial, mental health counseling, medical care, property loss, repair and replacement, and miscellaneous expenses such as temporary lodging, local transportation, telephone costs, and emergency travel.
Eligible claimants are those who, on the date that the act of terrorism occurred, were nationals of the United States or officers or employees of the Federal Government, including contractors. Coverage under ITVERP is retroactive to events occurring on or after December 21, 1988. The final regulations for ITVERP's administration were published in the Federal Register in September 2006, and the program began accepting applications for reimbursement that October.
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.