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Community Education

What You Can Do If You Are a Victim of Crime

"I don't believe half of the American population or even a small portion knows what can happen to you when you are a victim of a crime going through the criminal justice process."

-A crime victim quoted in New Directions from the Field: Victims' Rights and Services for the 21st Century, 1998.

Crime victimization is a frightening and unsettling experience for the millions of Americans whose lives it touches each year. As recently as 1972, there were almost no services available to help crime victims or their survivors repair the damage done to their lives and property, or contend with the traumatic and frustrating ordeal of prosecution of the offender. Today, however, due largely to the dedicated efforts of advocates, lawmakers, and individual victims of crime, there is a tremendous range of services and resources designed to help victims obtain justice and healing. The Office of Victims of Crime (OVC), the U.S. Department of Justice agency that advocates for the fair treatment of crime victims, wants you to know that if you or someone you love is a victim of crime--you have rights, you can get help, and you can work for a positive change. There are numerous victims of crime offices throughout the country. You can find your local WV Victim Witness Assistance Program office by clicking here or by clicking the VWAP County Programs link to the left.

You Have Rights

A majority of States have amended their constitutions to guarantee certain rights for crime victims. Typically, these include the following fundamental rights:

  • The right to notification of all court proceedings related to the offense.
  • The right to be reasonably protected from the accused offender.
  • The right to have input at sentencing (in the form of a victim impact statement).
  • The right to information about the conviction, sentencing, imprisonment, and release of the offender.
  • The right to an order of restitution from the convicted offender.
  • The right to notice of these rights.
  • The right to standing to enforce these rights.

If you are a victim of or witness to a crime, these rights apply to you. Information about these rights may be obtained through your local victim/witness assistance program (usually located in the prosecutor's office), your State Attorney General's Office, or US Attorneys' offices.

You Can Get Help

Literally thousands of programs now exist in the United States that provide services and sanctuary to crime victims. These programs are located within both State government agencies and private nonprofit or charitable organizations. Services provided through these programs are two general types--compensation and assistance. Crime victim compensation programs reimburse victims of crime occurring within the State (including victims of federal crimes) for crime-related expenses. Crimes include violent crimes such as homicide, rape, drunk driving, domestic violence, and child sexual abuse and neglect. Expenses covered are medical costs, mental health counseling, funeral and burial costs, and lost wages or loss of support. Crime victim assistance programs provide a range of services including crisis intervention, counseling, emergency shelter, criminal justice advocacy, and emergency transportation. Although compensation and assistance are usually provided to individuals, in certain instances entire communities may be eligible to receive assistance when a multiple victimization occurs. Information about compensation and assistance can usually be obtained through your local prosecutor's office or may be provided to you by your local law enforcement agency when you report an offense.

Financial support for many of these crime victims programs is provided through the Crime Victims Fund administered by OVC. The Fund is supported, not by tax dollars, but by fines, penalty assessments, and bond forfeitures collected from convicted Federal offenders and is distributed among the States and Territories annually.

You Can Work for Positive Change

The progress that has been achieved to improve the treatment of crime victims is due largely to the efforts of untold thousands of individuals who have turned their victimization into a force for positive change. Victims and survivors of victims of homicide, rape, child abuse, domestic violence, and other serious offenses have transformed their experience into a vehicle for ensuring that victims of similar types of crime are afforded true justice, meaningful assistance, and compassionate treatment before the law. Many of these victims and survivors have volunteered their own time and resources toward such worthwhile activities as creating and staffing program, conducting legislative advocacy, working in shelters, answering crisis hotlines, and speaking on victim panels. Similar opportunities exist in virtually every community. Working for positive change will help ensure that this progress is not lost and that new ground can be broken as greater justice and healing is gained for all victims of crime.

Courtesy of the OVC--Office for Victims of Crime



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