Chapter 2: Access to Services
Objective: To improve access to comprehensive, quality services for crime victims.
Although the crime rate has declined dramatically in recent years, only a fraction of the Nations estimated 29 million victims has access to comprehensive, quality services in the aftermath of a crime. Certain victim populations, including those who live in remote areas, victims with disabilities, and victims who speak little or no English, may find it difficult to get the help they need. Services such as crisis counseling and mental health care, financial assistance, and criminal justice advocacy can be essential to helping a crime victim recover both physically and emotionally. OVC is committed to improving a victims access to such services, regardless of his or her age, race, religion, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or capability or the nature or geographic location of the victimization. This chapter outlines the ways in which OVC improved access to comprehensive, quality victim services during FYs 1999 and 2000, through various programs including formula compensation and assistance grant programs, Indian Country programs, federal programs, and targeted programs to reach certain underserved groups.
OVC administers two major formula grant programs in accordance with the Victims of Crime Act of 1984: the VOCA Victim Compensation Program and the VOCA Victim Assistance Program. During the past decade, these two formula grant programs have greatly improved the accessibility and quality of services to crime victims nationwide. The two programs complement each other, ensuring that the overall needs of victims are met. The victim assistance program provides for victim crisis intervention, criminal justice advocacy, and social service needs, while the victim compensation program addresses many of the physical care and financial needs of victims. Both programs address the psychological consequences of victimization. Altogether, more crime victims were served under the victim compensation and assistance programs during FYs 1999 and 2000 than in any previous biennium in VOCAs history (see figure 3).
Please note that the data presented below for the victim compensation and assistance programs are based on performance reports submitted by the states to OVC as of June 11, 2001.1
VOCA Victim Assistance
OVC distributes funds for victim assistance based on a formula set forth in VOCA. Currently, all states and territories receive an annual VOCA victim assistance grant. Each state, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico receive a base amount of $500,000. The territories of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, and American Samoa each receive a base amount of $200,000. The remaining funds are distributed based on population. (See appendix A for specific state allocations for VOCA victim assistance grants in FYs 1999 and 2000.)
During FYs 1999 and 2000, OVC distributed more than $608 million to states through VOCA victim assistance grants ($238 million in FY 1999; $370 million in FY 2000). States subgranted these funds to criminal justice agencies, social service agencies, private nonprofit agencies, and American Indian tribes to support direct services to victims of child abuse, domestic violence, sexual assault, drunk driving, elder abuse, and robbery; family members of homicide victims; and victims of other violent crimes. The services provided include crisis counseling, therapy, shelter, information and referral, help in filing compensation claims, and advocacy support. Between FY 1999 and 2000, VOCA funds supported some 4,000 programs across the country and reached more than 6.4 million crime victims. This represents a 15-percent increase in the number of victims served since the previous biennium.
The increase in victims served under VOCA victim assistance programs is a direct result of an allocation of funds to states in FY 1997 in the amount of $397 million, the largest allocation ever. States had 4 years to spend these funds, with FY 1999 and FY 2000 marking the final 2 years of the award. Because of the history of annual fluctuations in deposits into CVF and victim assistance grants to the states, VOCA state administrators planned to use these funds over several years to stabilize existing programs and expand new ones.
VOCA victim assistance allocations to states in FY 1999 and FY 2000 decreased 9.5 percent from the previous biennium (i.e., from $672 million in FYs 19971998 to $608 million in FYs 19992000) because of fewer CVF deposits in FY 1999 and a fund cap in FY 2000. This decrease was offset somewhat by a 6.5-percent increase in state revenues over the previous biennium. A commitment of a 17-percent increase in state appropriations between FY 1999 and FY 2000 indicates that state policymakers understand the value of VOCA in ensuring that crime victim services are available and secured.
Trends for Priority Populations in Fiscal Years 1999 and 2000
The VOCA statute requires states and territories receiving victim assistance funds to give priority consideration to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and child abuse and underserved victims, and to spend a minimum of 10 percent of their funds in each of these priority areas. In each case, states far exceeded these minimum requirements (see figure 4). OVC provides broad discretion to states in determining which victim populations fall within the underserved category. Victims of drunk driving, surviving family members of homicide victims, and victims of physical assault, elder abuse, robbery, hate crime, arson, and financial fraud are generally considered underserved.
Domestic Violence. Of the 6.4 million crime victims served under VOCA victim assistance during the FYs 19992000 biennium, domestic violence victims accounted for approximately 3.3 million (50 percent) of the number of victims servedan 11-percent increase from the previous biennium. At the same time, crime victim compensation programs awarded a dramatic 36 percent more claims to victims of domestic violence during this biennium than in the previous biennium. This is a direct result of state programs reaching out to domestic violence programs, seeking changes in legislation, and expanding compensable expenses to meet the needs of this population. The increase in services and financial assistance to domestic violence victims occurred during the same years that the majority of available VOCA funding was directed to this category of victims.
Sexual Assault Victims and Adults Molested as Children. Since the previous biennium, VOCA victim assistance services decreased slightly for the number of sexual assault victims and adults molested as children; however, the victim compensation program saw a 17-percent increase in the number of claims awarded and dollars expended. States also significantly increased the amount of money spent for forensic sexual assault examinations (from $7.4 million in FYs 19971998 to $8.4 million in FYs 19992000). OVC, many state policy officials, and most, if not all, advocates in the sexual assault field believe that sexual assault victims should not be required to pay for evidence collection just as victims of other crimes are not required to do so. Some states have created designated state accounts to pay for these examinations and have delegated administration of these accounts to the state victim compensation program. In doing so, state victim compensation programs are eligible to receive a 40-percent supplement from VOCA for these expenditures.
Child Abuse. The number of victims served, claims awarded, and victim compensation dollars all increased for this priority population. In the VOCA victim assistance program, this reflects increasing work with multidisciplinary responses to incidents of child abuse, including subgrants awarded to child advocacy centers. The significant increases in victim compensation awards demonstrate the success of state programs that reached out to child protection programs and other organizations serving child abuse victims.
Underserved Victims of Crime. During the FYs 19992000 biennium, states demonstrated a major commitment to increasing services to previously underserved victims, with a 39-percent increase in the number of victims served by victim assistance programs and increases in the number of claims awarded and amount of compensation dollars expended. In VOCA victim assistance, this particularly reflects increases in serving victims of physical assault, drunk driving, elder abuse, child exploitation, economic crime, hate crime, and stalking. Of interest is that the number of survivors of homicide victims receiving services decreased from the last biennium, in part reflecting a decline in homicide rates nationwide. Emerging issues and underserved populations, according to state performance reports, include child witnesses to domestic violence, cybercrime, substance abuse, immigrant victims, and rural issues.
Improved Service Delivery Trends
States and subgrantees have made and continue to make major strides in several key areas in working with crime victims. First, significant improvements are being made in the criminal justice system response to crime victims. Specialized domestic violence courts, community policing, automated notification systems, registries of protective and restraining orders and of sex offenders, and standardization of sexual assault evidence collection all support services to victims and increase offender accountability. Second, the need for and value of collaboration with other disciplines, agencies, and systems is recognized. Protocols are now in place for domestic violence and sexual assault cases and for criminal crisis response. Criminal justice officials and community-based advocates coordinate activities and, with increased training, both fields are more aware of the responsibilities of the other. Finally, states are increasingly expecting persons who serve crime victims to be trained and, in some instances, certified. Some states have developed standards for programs that receive VOCA funding. Several states have annual statewide conferences and others are implementing state victim assistance academies.
Victim Assistance Program Management Issues
Because CVF deposits vary from year to year, large funding fluctuations can affect VOCA victim assistance programs. Variable funding support poses the most significant challenge for states in terms of managing the VOCA funds and developing strategic plans, according to a recent evaluation of state VOCA compensation and assistance programs conducted by The Urban Institute and the San Diego Association of Governments (see chapter 4 for details about this evaluation). VOCA allows for programs to take up to 4 years to obligate victim assistance funds, but that does not completely alleviate the pressure caused by fund fluctuations. Over the past few years, OVC has undertaken efforts that encourage states to develop strategic plans and manage these large funding fluctuations. OVC also is developing new program guidelines that allow VOCA funds to be spent on an array of new services and for victims not traditionally covered.
Technological Advances To Improve Victim Assistance Programs
VOCA allows state assistance administrators to use up to 5 percent of the federal award each year for administrative purposes, including developing technology and purchasing equipment. With the significant increase in federal funding over the past decade and the resulting growth in programs, OVC has promoted data-driven program planning at the state level. OVC is currently working with the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) to adapt the National Crime Victimization Survey software for use by states to assess the needs of crime victims. In addition, the National Institute of Justices Crime Mapping Research Center is working with OVC to develop a bulletin that will inform state administrators on how to use geographic information systems software to map crime and victim services.
VOCA Victim Compensation
VOCA victim compensation funds contribute significantly to the victim compensation programs in operation in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and the territory of Guam. These funds help crime victims pay for expenses such as medical bills, mental health counseling, lost wages, crime scene cleanup, and other crime-related costs. In FYs 1999 and 2000, OVC awarded approximately $148 million to state compensation programs, up from the previous 2-year period. By statute, each year state victim compensation programs receive an allocation of 40 percent of the total amount each program paid out to victims in the previous 2-year period. For example, FY 1999 VOCA compensation grant allocations were based on the amount of compensation payments states made to victims during FY 1997.
FYs 1999 and 2000 represent state victim compensation programs biggest biennium ever in the number of crime victims served and in the amount of money given to and on behalf of crime victims. During this biennium, states paid out more than $600 million in compensation claims to victims, which represents a 15-percent increase over the previous 2-year period; the number of victims served increased by 4 percent. The availability of VOCA victim compensation funds supported the large increase in expenditures. For example, various states increased coverage amounts for funerals and mental health expenses and expanded coverage to include relocation expenses for battered women and crime scene cleanup. Some states also increased the maximum amount of funds that could be paid on a per claim basis.
Figure 5 shows the total amounts that states paid for certain expenses during FYs 1999 and 2000. As has been the case in previous years, compensation programs paid out the largest amount of money for medical and dental expenses, economic support, and mental health treatment. States spent significantly more money this biennium than in the past for forensic sexual assault examinations, indicating an increase in claims for these exams and a heightened sensitivity by medical and criminal justice personnel about their importance.
Figure 6 shows the number and amount of victim compensation claims paid by type of crime in FYs 1999 and 2000. Physical assault was the crime for which states spent the largest amount of money and for which states received the most claims (41 percent). Child abuse (25 percent) and domestic violence (14 percent) ranked second and third in number of claims.
-Dan Eddy, Executive Director, National
Association of Crime Victim
-Dan Eddy, Executive Director, National Association of Crime Victim Compensation Boards
The BJS publication American Indians and Crime, published in 1999, reported that American Indians are subject to twice the rate of violent victimization than the rest of the Nation. While OVC has provided funding for services to American Indians and Alaska Natives since 1988, this disturbing finding prompted OVC to look for ways to increase its commitment to crime victims in Indian Country. OVC accomplished this through funding increases for the Childrens Justice Act and Victim Assistance in Indian Country programs, developing and disseminating Indian-specific publications, and sponsoring Indian crime victim assistance personnel to attend the Federal Symposium, grantee meetings, and training conferences.
Childrens Justice Act Partnerships for Indian Communities
Childrens Justice Act (CJA) funds help Indian tribes and tribal organizations develop, establish, and operate programs to improve the investigation, prosecution, and handling of child abuse cases, particularly cases of child sexual abuse, in a manner that mitigates additional trauma to child victims. The program focuses on developing strategies and resources to handle child abuse cases from initial disclosure through investigation and prosecution to case resolution in an effective and timely manner.
Since 1989, the CJA program has provided more than $10 million to approximately 45 tribes. As a result, the tribes have made a number of systemic improvements in how they handle child abuse cases. For example, tribes have revised tribal codes and procedures to address child sexual abuse; created protocols for reporting, investigating, and prosecuting cases of child sexual abuse; and developed working agreements that minimize the number of child interviews. Tribes also have enhanced case management and treatment services, established childrens advocacy centers on reservations, and offered specialized training for prosecutors, judges, investigators, and other professionals who handle child sexual abuse cases. In working with these tribes, OVC has embraced the community readiness theory, which is based on the premise that change and healing must be community specific, culturally relevant, and consistent with the level of readiness of the community to intervene.
Listed below are examples of CJA programs OVC is funding to improve services to child physical and sexual abuse victims in Indian Country.
Comprehensive Indian Resources for Community and Law Enforcement (CIRCLE). This 3-year initiative funded by six different DOJ agencies is designed to empower American Indian communities to more effectively fight crime, violence, and substance abuse. The three tribes participating in the CIRCLE program are the Northern Cheyenne Tribe of Montana, Oglala Sioux Tribe of South Dakota, and Pueblo of Zuni Tribe of New Mexico. OVC is providing funds to support specific victim services, such as counseling, court advocacy, and emergency transportation to and from court, and to improve the investigation and prosecution of child physical and sexual abuse cases.
Telemedicine Pilot Project. OVC awarded funds to Wiconi Wawokiya, Inc., in Fort Thompson, South Dakota, to provide telemedical support for state-of-the-art medical evaluations for maltreated children on the Crow Creek Reservation. The program supports a nurse practitioner and a forensic interviewer to evaluate children who have been severely physically and sexually abused.
Indian Health Service Mental Health/Forensic Child Specialist Program. This project supports a mental health forensic interview specialist at the Indian Health Service hospital serving the Wind River Indian Reservation in Fort Washakie, Wyoming. The specialist conducts forensic interviews, tracks and manages cases, and assists the Wind River Indian Reservation Child Protection Team for sexual and physical abuse victims at the same time that the FBI and U.S. Attorneys Office investigates and prosecutes these cases.
Post-Rape Stress Video for Indian Country. OVC is funding the development of a video to be shown to women and girls in Indian Country who have been raped. The projects goal is to reduce anxiety before and during forensic medical exams and long-term post-rape distress for female victims in Indian Country. Although similar videos exist for African American and European American women, this particular video will focus on broad cultural relevance to American Indian and Alaskan Native adult and adolescent female victims.
Victim Assistance in Indian Country
The Victim Assistance in Indian Country (VAIC) program awards grants to Indian tribes and tribal organizations to establish reservation-based victim assistance programs in remote areas of Indian Country. Since its inception in 1988, the VAIC program has touched the lives of thousands of American Indians and has stimulated the growth of a responsive victim assistance network that has become a permanent part of American Indian communities. Although OVC has been funding services in Indian Country for more than a decade, the level of funding has remained fairly stagnant and has not kept pace with inflation or the needs of this underserved population. Beginning in FY 1999, OVC awarded all VAIC grants on a competitive basis. Because of limited discretionary funds, OVC awarded approximately $2.4 million to support 28 of the 150 eligible tribes under federal criminal jurisdiction during FYs 1999 and 2000. VAIC programs served some 6,000 victims in 1999; in 2000, that number increased to 8,711 victims.
One example of the type of program funded with federal discretionary dollars is the development of a demonstration program to assist elderly individuals who are victimized in tribal communities. With funding from OVC, the Blackfeet Child and Family Advocacy Center of Montana is attempting to provide a coordinated response to elderly victims by adapting the TRIAD approach to Indian Country. TRIAD combines the efforts and resources of law enforcement, senior citizens and organizations that represent them, and victim assistance providers to support a comprehensive network of services.
An important focus for OVC continues to be to assist tribes in managing their VAIC programs and provide opportunities for sharing information and networking. Since 1999, OVC has sponsored a yearly VAIC postawards conference, which includes training for tribal finance personnel and program staff, and allows staff to network and share information and concerns with one another. During FY 2000, OVC staff initiated a series of semiannual working groups to strengthen communication and collaboration between VAIC grantees and state VOCA program administrators. Issues of mutual concern include tribal sovereignty, improving American Indian representation on VOCA decisionmaking bodies, and increasing the number of VAIC grantees who receive crime victim assistance program funding through state VOCA grants.
OVC is responsible for funding direct services to victims of federal crimes and working to enhance services for victims throughout the federal system. Some of the ways OVC tackles this responsibility are listed below.
Developing Federal Victim Assistance Programs
One way OVC is working to improve services for crime victims within the federal system is to fund victim specialist positions in certain key agencies, with the goal that those agencies will eventually institutionalize and assume the funding for those positions. OVC has funded victim specialist positions for 3 years in numerous federal agencies, including the FBI, the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys (EOUSA), the U.S. Department of the Treasury, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the U.S. Department of the Interior, the U.S. Department of State, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and DOJs Civil Rights Division. This funding has led to increased training on the legal requirements for providing services to victims, new policies to improve how crime victims are treated, and insight into the specific needs of victims seeking assistance from a specific agency.
OVC provided funds for victim/witness assistance specialist positions at FBI headquarters to incorporate and expand victim-related training into existing programs and to provide mandatory annual training to field offices. This includes training on federal victims laws, the AG Guidelines, and emerging and advanced issues that include child sexual exploitation on the Internet and domestic and international terrorism. OVC also has funded a forensic child interview specialist position in the FBIs Crimes Against Children in Indian Country Unit. The person who fills this highly specialized position will train agents who investigate crimes against children on child development issues, competency, traumatic effects of victimization, and appropriate and effective methods for interviewing children. Additionally, OVC has funded a clinical-level victim/witness specialist in the FBIs Baltimore field offices Innocent Images Project. This specialist will help train agents to identify, contact, and interview child victims of online pornography and identify services for them.
Federal Victim Information and Notification System
In 1997, OVC allocated $8 million to support the development of an automated victim information and notification system for the federal criminal justice system. Under this project, victims will be notified of major case events through an automated system. OVC transferred funding to EOUSA to spearhead the project with the assistance of a working group comprising representatives from the FBI, OVC, and the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP). The group hired an outside consulting agency, PricewaterhouseCoopers, to analyze each components requirements for an automated system, review current available systems that might be expanded to meet the specific needs of the initiative, and develop the system. The analysis was completed in January 1999. A pilot test of the notification system is scheduled for the spring/summer of 2001 in Tampa, Florida, and the full system is expected to be deployed in the field in the fall of 2001. Approximately 1,200 DOJ staff will be trained on the system before it is deployed to the field.
Federal Crime Victim Assistance Funds
The purpose of the Federal Crime Victim Assistance Funds (FCVAF) is to provide limited funding for support services of an emergency nature to federal crime victims and their families when no other resources are available. The funds are not intended to create a separate system of services for federal crime victims, but to ensure that funds are available to pay for needed items and services, such as food, clothing, shelter, transportation, forensic medical exams, and emergency legal assistance. OVC provides this emergency assistance through the FBI and EOUSA.
The FBI has used the fund to allocate victim resources in the following cases:
Meanwhile, EOUSA has used the fund to serve victims in the following cases:
OVC continually strives to improve access to services for all victims of crime, including victims living in rural areas, victims with disabilities, and victims who have immigrated to this country or who are not familiar with the language and customs of the United States. The following are some of OVCs recent efforts to address the needs of these crime victims.
Services for Victims in Rural Areas
Approximately one-quarter of all Americans live in rural areas, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2000. In 1997, violent crimes dropped 6.2 percent in cities with populations of more than 1 million, while rural counties experienced a 3.1-percent increase, the FBI reported in its 1998 Uniform Crime Reports for the United States. Crime victims in rural areas face significant challenges in obtaining the services they may need in the aftermath of crime. Not only do victims often have to travel long distances to obtain specialized services and participate in the criminal justice system, but in many cases, the health, mental health, and other services they need simply do not exist. OVC has undertaken several initiatives in the past 2 years to address these issues.
OVC began negotiating with the National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry to support a demonstration project in one rural community to address the mental health needs of crime victims. The goal of the project is to develop a community-based program that implements effective practices for delivering integrated volunteer and professionally administered mental health services to crime victims and that will serve as a model for other rural jurisdictions across the United States.
OVC also has entered into discussions with the Rural Caucus of the National Association of Counties about victim issues in rural America. The Rural Caucus is made up of about 100 county officials.
Services for Immigrant Populations
Services for Victims With Disabilities
For the past 2 years, OVC has continued efforts to ensure that comprehensive, quality services are available to crime victims with disabilities. Efforts have included focus groups and publications to inform victim service providers, criminal justice professionals, researchers, and others of the barriers that hinder victims with disabilities from fully participating in the criminal justice process and obtaining the help they may need. As part of this effort, OVC has provided the following funding support:
1 As of June 11, 2001, OVC had not received victim assistance data from the District of Columbia, the Northern Mariana Islands, Palau, and Utah, and had not received complete victim compensation data from Indiana. Data presented in this section do not include information from these states and territories.