Despite the increase in rights and services for victims over the past two decades, many victims still struggle to discover what rights they have, what services and resources are available, and how to access them. OVC recognizes its responsibility to lead the way in improving the treatment of victims, highlighting victims' rights, and improving the scope and delivery of victim services. OVC programs help communities expand and reinforce their ability to serve victimswhether through helping victims pay for emergency needs, enhancing services in underserved areas, or offering specialized information to service providers.
Services for Trafficking Victims
Human trafficking is a widespread form of modern-day slavery. According to the Attorney General's Annual Report to Congress on U.S. Government Activities to Combat Trafficking in Persons, Fiscal Year 2006, “ ....traffickers often prey on individuals, predominantly women and children in certain countries, who are poor, frequently unemployed or underemployed, and who may lack access to social safety nets. Victims are often lured with false promises of good jobs and better lives, and then forced to work under brutal and inhuman conditions. It is difficult to accurately estimate the extent of victimization in this crime whose perpetrators go to great lengths to keep it hidden. Nonetheless, the United States has led the world in the fight against this terrible crime.”
- Although the exact numbers are not known, the U.S. Department of State estimates that up to 17,500 people are trafficked into the United States every year. The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA), Pub. L. 106-386, was signed into law, enhancing three aspects of Federal Government activity to combat human trafficking: protection, prosecution, and prevention. The TVPA was reauthorized in 2003 and 2005. The victim-centered approach of the TVPA provides for new protections and assistance for victims of human trafficking and authorizes the Attorney General to make grants to provide services and support to victims of these crimes. Beginning in FY 2002, Congress has appropriated $10 million annually for the Department of Justice's Services for Victims of Human Trafficking Discretionary Grant Program. OVC made its first awards in 2003, and currently funds 30 comprehensive services projects and one specialized services grant. Comprehensive services may include the following:
- Shelter and sustenance
- Case management
- Medical, mental health, and dental care
- Crisis intervention
- Legal/immigration assistance
- Criminal justice system advocacy
- Job training
- English as a second language training
OVC services are intended to assist victims during “precertification,” a period of time that covers a victim's first contact with law enforcement and continues until he or she is certified to receive other benefits through the Department of Health and Human Services. A complete list of OVC-funded trafficking grantees and their areas of geographical service coverage is available.
Beginning in FY2004, the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) within the Office of Justice Programs began funding anti-trafficking law enforcement task forces across the Nation that work closely with service providers, federal authorities, and other partners to identify and rescue victims of human trafficking. OVC 's 32 grantees work with BJA's 42 anti-trafficking task forces to ensure that rescued victims receive needed services and support to remain free of their traffickers and to build new lives either in the United States or back in their homeland, if they wish to be repatriated. (See attached map (pdf, 87 kb)).
BJA and OVC, under the auspices of the OVC Training and Technical Assistance Center, have established the framework, goals, and objectives for a federal working group that will inform both BJA and OVC efforts to provide comprehensive training and technical assistance to the anti-trafficking task forces across the Nation. Several agencies within DOJ, as well as relevant agencies from the Departments of State, Labor, Health and Human Services, and Homeland Security have been invited to participate in the working group, which will meet monthly for 6 months beginning in October 2007.
During Fiscal Year 2007, OVC awarded supplemental funding in the amount of $3,404,273 to support the continuing activities of twelve comprehensive services grantees and one specialized services grantee who serve primarily pre-certified victims of human trafficking in the United States. With the additional funding, the specialized services grantee, Project Reach, will extend its current service provision area from the Eastern Seaboard and Texas to the entire United States. Project Reach, based in Brookline, MA, is a mobile crisis intervention team of trauma specialists who work with local service providers to address the psychological needs of trafficking survivors. Services include on-site psychological evaluations and brief intervention for survivors, as well as training and consultation to providers. There is no charge for these services. Geographical service provision areas remain the same for the comprehensive services grantees.
For Information on How to Assist Victims of Human Trafficking:
OVC has developed a 20-minute training DVD and accompanying CD of informational resources on human trafficking aimed primarily at established victim service providers who have little or no experience working with victims of human trafficking. The DVD, titled Responding to Victims of Human Trafficking: A Training Video for Victim Service Providers, will be available in early 2008. The DVD and Resource CD will be sent at no charge to individuals and organizations who request a copy from NCJRS (the National Criminal Justice Reference Service).
Victim Services in Rural Law Enforcement
Victims in rural areas face additional obstacles that affect the availability, timeliness, and quality of victim services: long distances, geographic isolation, limited funding and resources, a lack of information about victimization, and social attitudes that may discourage victims from seeking help. Law enforcement officers are often the first individuals to approach victims after a crime and may be the only contact that victims have with the criminal justice system. In rural communities with limited resources for helping victims begin the emotional, physical, and financial healing process, law enforcement agencies need help identifying resources and promising practices that creatively and economically meet this need.
In Fiscal Year 2002, OVC inaugurated the Victim Services for Rural Law Enforcement Initiative, a multiyear demonstration project, and provided funding for the Alabama Attorney General's Office and the National Sheriffs' Association to develop projects to help integrate a strong victim assistance component into the services provided by rural law enforcement agencies. Each project competitively selected 10 rural sites to receive a grant to complete a planning process and community needs assessment. Subsequently, the sites received additional funding to develop or significantly enhance their ability to provide assistance to victims, including the first response to victims by law enforcement. The demonstration project concludes in 2007, after which time OVC will release a bulletin documenting the experience of the pilot sites and providing a guide for rural law enforcement agencies to develop similar efforts.
Victim Reunification Travel Program: Addressing
International Parental Child Abduction Cases
OVC supports a Victim Reunification Travel Program to assist left-behind parents in cases of international child abduction. The program serves crime victims by working to return children from overseas who are victims of international parental abduction. The International Parental Kidnapping Act of 1993 codified at 18 U.S.C. 1204 makes international parental kidnapping a federal felony offense and authorizes criminal fines or prison terms for anyone who illegally removes a child from the United States or unlawfully retains a visiting child in a foreign country. Support under this program is provided via an intra-agency authorization with the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention and a grant with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). OVC has provided funding for this project since Fiscal Year 1997.
OVC provides support to the parents who are left behind, including payment for transportation services required to attend a court proceeding with the child, translation of documents related to court hearings and the reunification process, and counseling support to prepare the parents for reunification and minimize the trauma for the child. In FY 2006, OVC facilitated travel for left-behind parents in recovering 27 children. The program is funded and monitored by OVC's Terrorism and International Victim Assistance Services Division. For additional reading about international parental abduction of children, visit NCMEC.
OVC is committed to helping victim service organizations secure the training, technical assistance, and material resources they need to build their capacity. Many initiatives are directed toward victims of crime whose cases fall under federal criminal jurisdiction. However, each program seeks to broaden the support for all victims in the United States and abroad.