“The police never found the person or persons who killed my husband. I have had to learn to live with this lack of resolution. Our then 13-year-old son, Michael, was so devastated he tried to commit suicide and was hospitalized over the next three years with depression, and still struggles with it today. Over and over, I have met other families in dire need of support and traumatic grief counseling services. Most don’t have any insurance. Nor are they resourceful in knowing who to go and beg for help. For most of these families, the notion of a death sentence in their loved ones’ murders isn’t even a remote thought. They are struggling to hold their households together, to help their families grieve and survive the trauma one day at a time.”
— Crime Survivor
What do crime survivors need?
Our justice system assumes that the primary needs of crime survivors involve punishment of the person who harmed them. Yet the vast majority of crime survivors’ needs have nothing to do with what happens to the person who harmed them.
These needs include medical assistance, physical therapy, trauma and grief counseling, relocation to a safe space, replacement of lost wages and other financial assistance, time off from work, help with funeral expenses, accompaniment to medical appointments, mental health services for an affected child, and much more.
How are victim services funded?
The largest source of funding comes from the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA). VOCA was signed into law in 1984, establishing the Crime Victims Fund. Crime Victims Fund dollars don’t come from taxpayers. Millions of dollars are deposited annually into the Fund from criminal fines, penalties, forfeited bail bonds, and special assessments collected in federal cases. Since the start of the Fund, more than 60% of the funds have come from corporate cases with fines of $100 million or more.
VOCA funds have been vital in support of traditional victim service providers, particularly within domestic violence, sexual assault, and child abuse cases, and in justice system-based Victim/Witness Assistance Programs.
However many people who have been victimized do not access services through these traditional victim service providers. This is especially true in communities of color, where people are at greater risk of victimization but may be less likely to have access to victim services or to identify themselves as crime victims.
The VOCA “cap”
The Crime Victims Fund releases a set amount each year based on a cap set by Congress in the federal appropriations bill. (This is called the “VOCA cap.”) Funds are allocated to states each year. States then grant the funds to eligible public and nonprofit organizations and service providers through a grants process specific to their state.
In December 2014, the federal government increased the VOCA cap to the tune of an additional $1.6 billion. This creates an unprecedented opportunity to reach the full range of crime survivors – including those who have been underserved. EJUSA is part of a team of organizations working to ensure that increases in VOCA funding make their way to those communities, so the groups most impacted by crime and violence can reach more people and save more lives.