Commemoration helps victims cope

Each April, the U. S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) helps lead communities throughout the country in their annual observances of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week.

The program is designed to promote victims’ rights and honor crime victims and those who advocate on their behalf. OVC publishes an extensive list of resources for NCVRW on their website at .

We saw an example of the local commemoration of NCVRW on Sunday when Pine Bluff Mayor Debe Hollingsworth proclaimed the week of April 21 to April 27 National Crime Victims Rights Week in the city.

Hollingsworth’s remarks at the opening ceremony reflect sentiments that many of us hold when she stated that she “didn’t know a word to describe the depth of the pain, the grief and the suffering you are going through, but with the help of the Lord, you will survive.”

The Rev. David Morgan, director of Healing Place Ministries, a co-sponsor of the event, said this was the eighth year the memorial service has been conducted. He told the packed church that “we’re praying for you, we love you, and we hope you find a new normal because the loss never fully goes away.”

While NCVRW helps us keep crime victims and their families in our mind, this is just the tip of the OVC iceberg. One of the most beneficial resources managed by the OVC is the Crime Victims Fund. According to the OVC website, the CVF was established by the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) of 1984. It is financed by fines and penalties paid by convicted federal offenders, not from tax dollars. It is a major source of funding for victims services and advocacy all across the country.

In 2012, the balance had reached more than $8 billion and includes deposits from federal criminal fines, forfeited bail bonds, penalties and special assessments collected by U.S. attorneys’ offices, federal U.S. courts and the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Federal revenues deposited into the CVF also come from gifts, donations and bequests by private parties, as provided by an amendment to VOCA through the USA PATRIOT Act in 2001 that went into effect in 2002.

From 2000 to 2008, the amount of the annual contributions to the CVF varied from $500 million to $625 million. The contributions for 2009 and 2010 were $635 million and $705 million, respectively.

These monies help fund a vast array of public programs and services. Among them are: State crime victim compensation program formula grants; state victim assistance program formula grants; OVC discretionary grants; victim-witness coordinators in U.S. attorneys’ offices; Federal Bureau of Investigation victim specialists; the Federal Victim Notification System; Children’s Justice Act formula grants; as well as revenue to replenish the Antiterrorism Emergency Reserve.

One of the most important aspects of the OVC’s work is the provision of victims assistance funding. This assistance can take many forms including: Crisis intervention, emergency shelter, emergency transportation, counseling and criminal justice advocacy.

To this end, more than 4,000 VOCA awards are made by states annually to public and private nonprofit organizations to provide these and other essential services to victims of crime. According to OVC, each state determines how its share of the funds will be allocated. One stipulation OVC places is that VOCA assistance funds may be used only for direct services to crime victims.

Here in Arkansas, victims and their families have many avenues through which they may avail themselves of VOCA-funded programs. A short list of programs and service can be found by going to the state-specific resource page on the OVC website ( ).