This week is National Crime Victims’ Rights Week. The theme this year is Serving Victims. Building Trust. Restoring Hope., which highlights the need for early intervention and victims services that build trust with crime survivors, and creates hope that healing is possible.
We’ve been working with crime survivors for over 10 years. And what we’ve learned from them over and over again is that these services – and a commitment to healing – remain out of reach for the vast majority of them.
Crime survivors aren’t getting the help they need
The numbers agree – estimates are that more than 90% of crime survivors don’t access any victims services. You read that right: 90% of the people in the U.S. who’ve been hurt, robbed, shot, assaulted, abused, raped, or had a family member murdered got no formal help to process their trauma, cope with their grief, or rebuild their lives in even practical ways.
Shelby Farah was a bright, compassionate, determined 20-year-old when she was shot to death during a robbery at the Metro-PCS store where she worked. Shelby’s murder shocked the community in Jacksonville, Florida, and her family has spent the last two and a half years grieving their loss.
The death penalty has added to this trauma, as they have been forced to endure an extended legal process, increased media scrutiny, their own complex feelings about the death penalty, and a polarizing, public debate about it at a time when they need each other most.
Colorado has opened its application process for organizations to apply for funds through the Federal Victims Of Crime Act (VOCA). If you are an organization in Colorado that works with crime survivors or victims’ families, you may be eligible to apply through this RFP process.
Through our VOCA Funding Toolkit, and assistance from our Grassroots Capacity Building Specialist, EJUSA can help groups determine if they are eligible, answer questions about the process, and provide some support for your group’s application. Please contact Latrina Kelly-James at firstname.lastname@example.org or (203) 823-5826 or download the toolkit here.
You spoke, and Congress listened! Thanks to everyone who participated in our #DontCutVOCA action, we have something to celebrate in the New Year: Congress approved an appropriations bill that increases funding for crime survivor services, known as VOCA funding, by over 15% in 2016.
The Partnership for Safety and Justice, a criminal justice reform organization in Oregon, just launched a new website, Help.Hope.Heal, for people whose friends or family members have been harmed by crime or violence. The website includes advice and resources to help you learn what to say and do to support your friend and yourself, so that you can be the best caregiver you can be. The site is beautiful and inviting.
As part of our growing work to bring racial equity to victims’ services, EJUSA published a comprehensive toolkit to help groups apply for Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) funding. The toolkit is geared towards organizations serving crime survivors – particularly in communities of color – that have not had access to federal funding in the past.
EJUSA Grassroots Capacity Building Specialist Latrina Kelly-James led a webinar to introduce the toolkit and help organizations understand the funding that is available. Over 45 organizational leaders participated, and many more have downloaded the toolkit or reached out for support in applying for funds.
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Every year, Congress sets a level of spending from a fund known as VOCA. These are not tax dollars. Many of these funds go to community groups to support vital services like trauma intervention and counseling for people who have been harmed by crime and violence.
On September 25, in honor of National Day of Remembrance for Murder Victims, I spent time reaching out to several family members of murder victims. Some survivors shared the traditions they have developed over the years to mark the day, including visiting burial grounds or viewing commemorative videos and photographs. Others told me that the day was just as difficult as any other day of loss and grief.
For Tamika Darden-Thomas, an African American resident of Newark, New Jersey, sharing her story with others has been a source of great healing, and she was eager to also share it with me.
For 25 years, you’ve helped us tackle one of the most serious flaws in the U.S. justice system: the death penalty. We’re not done with that work. But you know what? We’re almost there. Really.
So what’s next when we end the death penalty?
We believe it’s not enough to just dismantle the parts of the justice system that aren’t working. We also have to build up the system we want in its place.
Today, we’re expanding that part of our work with two new programs that I’m thrilled to share with you:
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