This issue of the Crime Victim Services Division e-Newsletter discusses community activities across Texas for the observance of National Crime Victim Rights Week, April 26-May 2, 2009. This year's theme – "25 Years of Rebuilding Lives: Celebrating the Victims of Crime Act" – echoes the mission of the Division and reminds us that 25 years ago, victims had little help.
When it was enacted in 1984, The Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) established fair treatment standards for victims as well as a fund that provides financial assistance to state crime victims' advocacy and compensation programs. Since the Office of the Attorney General began administering the compensation program in 1991, we have received and distributed almost $300 million in VOCA compensation funding for Texas crime victims.
VOCA also helps millions of victims via direct service grants to advocacy organizations and law enforcement. Twenty-five years ago, a victim might have faced the emotional, financial, and physical trauma of violence, alone. Now VOCA grant funding provides vital support to assistance programs that help victims all across Texas.
Finally, I invite you to attend our Crime Victims Services Division Conference in Austin on November 19-21, 2009. This multidisciplinary training offers foundation courses as well as cutting edge training for seasoned advocates. Most importantly, it offers the opportunity for advocates of all disciplines to network and collaborate, ensuring that we are working together to rebuild the lives of victims and their families.
Attorney General of Texas
Texas is observing National Crime Victims' Rights Week April 26 – May 2 in 2009. This year's theme is “25 Years of Rebuilding Lives: Celebrating the Victims of Crime Act.” Communities across the state are supporting crime victim rights by coming together and holding memorials, educational activities, hotlines, conferences and other events.
A statewide observance will be held in Austin on April 29 at the Texas Capitol with Attorney General Greg Abbott providing remarks and representatives from statewide agencies and organizations honoring Texas crime victims.
Please contact local organizations for more information about this year's event or to become involved in planning for next year.
View Calendar of events for National Crime Victim Rights Week
The Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) has launched the OVC Gallery of multimedia products promoting crime victims' rights and services. View the Gallery to browse through selected posters and promotional materials from National Crime Victims' Rights Week (NCVRW), the annual observance promoting victims' rights and honoring crime victims' and those who advocate on their behalf.
In the OVC Gallery you can—
For additional information on NCVRW, including the online 2009 Resource Guide and visit www.ovc.gov/ncvrw. Start now to plan for next year's observance.
The Crime Victim Services Division provides training to victim advocates, victim coordinators and liaisons, law enforcement, non-profit organizations and professional service providers to ensure that victims receive every assistance in accessing the Crime Victims' Compensation Program (CVC) and Address Confidentiality Program (ACP). Please visit the Crime Victim Services Division Training Web page to review upcoming training opportunities and to register online for Presumptive Eligibility and Advanced Track training.
The Address Confidentiality Program is currently conducting training sessions in the Austin area for advocates who assist victims of sexual assault, domestic violence and stalking. By statute, victims must first meet with local advocates to apply for the ACP program. Advocates must receive training before helping victims apply. To arrange Address Confidentiality Program (ACP) training sessions via phone or to come to a training in Austin, contact the ACP hotline, Monday through Friday, 8-5pm, (888) 832-2322.
The Crime Victim Services Division Biennial Conference, Horizons, will be held November 19 -21 in Austin at the Renaissance Hotel. Discover what is on the horizon in victim services for Texas and the nation. Join us in learning new skills, improving existing services and working toward a brighter horizon for victims and their families. Come share your challenges, your solutions and your vision as you network during Texas largest multidisciplinary victim services conference. Conference registration will open online on September 1, 2009.
"So far my residence address is now protected on my driver's license, Austin County tax records, library, and voter registration. The only place that insists on home address and won't accept ACP is the federal government's DTV coupon program. So we'll pay 80 dollars to watch our old TV after February. May that be my biggest problem in life." Address Confidentiality Program participantWith increased public access to personal information, there is a rising need for address confidentiality for victims of family
violence, sexual assault and stalking. Fearing for their safety, many victims do not obtain a driver's license or register to vote. As directed by the Texas Legislature, the Office of the Attorney General implemented the Address Confidentiality Program (ACP) on June 1, 2008, to provide these victims with a confidential address. The program, which provides a substitute post office box address and free mail forwarding service, has enrolled 199 participants and processed 907 pieces of mail in the last 10 months.
ACP is a safety tool and intended as one step in an overall safety plan. It is neither a witness protection program nor a guarantee of safety. Laws governing the program are found in Chapter 56, Subchapter C, of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure. Key among these measures is the mandate for participants to meet with an advocate in order to enroll in the program. ACP does not accept applications directly from victims.
The program along with the Texas Council on Family Violence and the Texas District and County Attorneys Association has provided training across the state to shelter staff, prosecutor offices and other advocates. The program is currently offering training in the Austin area and by telephone to advocates across Texas. For more information on ACP, please access the ACP Web page at www.oag.state.tx.us/victims/acp.shtml. For additional information or to request training, please call the ACP hotline at (888) 832-2322 Monday through Friday, 8am-5pm.
Crime Victim Compensation (CVC) Remote User Access allows victim advocates and service providers to access the CVC mainframe via the web and view basic claim information 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Victim advocates, law enforcement agencies, prosecutor offices and service providers are encouraged to utilize this service. For more information and to register for the CVC remote user access service please contact CVCRemoteUsers@texasattorneygeneral.gov.
CVS is launching online information for service providers on the OAG Web site at www.oag.state.tx.us/victims/providers.shtml. Service providers are important partners in assisting victims rebuild their lives. To expedite the Crime victims' compensation reimbursement process for victims and their families, the Web site will detail the CVC benefit and documentation process. The first two sections on the site provide information for mental health and funeral service providers. The site will be expanded in the future to include other categories of service providers.
Service providers with questions may also call and ask for the "Provider Support Line" at (800) 983-9933 during standard business hours. Providers may register for remote user access service to determine bill status electronically.
The Sexual Assault Advisory Council has posted its report and recommendations to the 81st Legislature. The report provides an overview of the state of sexual assault in Texas and calls for funding to address the issue.
Legislation passed in 2007 established the Advisory Council to examine five key areas as they relate to sexual assault: prevalence in Texas, reduction of recidivism of convicted sexual offenders, increased prosecution and conviction rates, resources for addressing the needs of victims and identifying the cost of sexual violence in Texas.
The Advisory Council was also established to serve as an information clearinghouse and informal coordinator of existing and future sexual assault programming efforts at state and local levels. The legislation identified the following agencies as members:
Other participants included the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault (TAASA), Council on Sex Offender Treatment, Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, Texas District and County Attorneys Association, Texas House of Representatives, Office of the Honorable Ellen Cohen and Texas Municipal Police Association.
Each group identified specific needs, gaps in services and challenges in the report. The need for funding, education/training and improved data collection and communication were consistently mentioned by each participant.
“This report confirmed what people in the field have known for years,” said Annette Burrhus Clay, executive director of TAASA. “Sexual assault is a prevalent problem and we are under resourced in dealing with it.”
The report is available at www.taasa.org.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has released the legislatively mandated Office of the Attorney General's (OAG) Human Trafficking Report detailing the impact of human trafficking on the State of Texas. It examines how legislative changes could reduce human trafficking and provide better services for victims. Human trafficking is the recruitment, harboring, transporting or obtaining of a person for labor or services for the purpose of subjecting victims to involuntary servitude, slavery or forced commercial sex acts.
“Human trafficking is a horrific crime that deprives its victims of basic human rights,” Attorney General Abbott said. “Sadly, human trafficking victims are coerced into modern day slave labor and forced prostitution rings. The State of Texas must continue to focus on preventing human trafficking and protecting its victims.”
The U.S. Department of State estimates that between 14,500 and 17,500 people are trafficked into the U.S. from Asia, Central and South America, and Eastern Europe, and many more are trafficked domestically within the United States each year. Additionally, about one in five people trafficked have been in Texas. Houston and El Paso are included among the U.S. Department of Justice's “most intense trafficking jurisdictions in the country.”
The OAG's 57-page report, “The Texas Response to Human Trafficking,” offers 21 recommendations that are intended to reduce human trafficking and improve services to victims. These recommendations include possible statutory changes and improved outreach efforts that would better educate law enforcement personnel about identifying human trafficking. The report is available online at www.oag.state.tx.us/AG_Publications/pdfs/human_trafficking.pdf.
The Bureau of Justice Statistics has released findings on nonfatal stalking victimization in the U.S., based on the largest data collection of such behavior to date. Data were collected in a supplement to the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) and sponsored by the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW). Topics covered in the report are stalking and harassment prevalence rates by demographic characteristics, offender characteristics, victim-offender relationship, duration of stalking, cyberstalking, protection measures and emotional impact. The report also includes data on whether the victim sought help from others, the involvement of a weapon, injuries, other crimes perpetrated by the stalker and the response by the criminal justice system.
Highlights include the following:
For more information on the report, please access the BJS Web site at http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/abstract/svus.htm. For more information about stalking prevalence and prevention, please access www.ncvc.org/.
The National Criminal Justice Research Service has developed a Web page with special information on teen dating violence at www.ncjrs.gov/teendatingviolence/index.html. The online NCJRS resource contains links to publications and Web sites that focus on the prevalence and prevention of dating violence among teens.
Among the available resources:
National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline (NTDAH)
Supported by the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW), the National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline (NTDAH) launched to promote awareness of healthy dating relationships by making vital resources accessible to help teens experiencing dating violence and offering tips on preventing abusive relationships.
Choose Respect: Preventing Dating Violence
Choose Respect, which is sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is an initiative to help adolescents form healthy relationships to prevent dating abuse before it starts. This national effort is designed to motivate adolescents to challenge harmful beliefs about dating abuse and take steps to form respectful relationships.
This online resource from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) offers information for parents regarding dating violence among teens. Information includes warning signs of dating violence as well as ways to discuss the issue of dating violence.
Dating Violence Among Teens
This online resource from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) offers information for both teens and parents regarding the warning signs of teen dating violence and how to address it.
This Web site offers information for individuals who have friends or family members that may be in abusive relationships. Included are tip-sheets, hotlines and related organizations that deal with teen dating violence.
HELP for Victim Service Providers
View the transcripts of Web Forum Guest Host Series sessions from the Office of Victims of Crime (OVC) on Responding to Teen Victims of Dating Violence and Safety Planning for Teen Victims of Dating Violence.
Intimate Partner Violence Prevention
This section of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Web site offers information and a compilation of resources pertaining to intimate partner violence.
The National Center for Victims of Crime has launched VictimLaw, a free, online database of federal, state, and tribal victims' rights laws. This valuable and unique resource can help support victims, victim service providers, criminal justice professionals and policymakers in their work to ultimately improve the rights and services that victims receive. Help promote awareness about the exercise, implementation and enforcement of victims' rights by visiting www.victimlaw.info/victimlaw/.
The National Center for Victims of Crime is offering a new resource in order to maximize the effectiveness of DNA technology for crime victims. The new resource will provide a staffed telephone resource line to answer callers questions on DNA-related issues, an email listserv where participants can share information on the use of DNA technology to help crime victims and a national network of experts on forensic DNA.
DNA Answers may be accessed:
Anyone with questions related to forensic DNA and crime victims can call the National Crime Victim Helpline at (800) FYI-CALL (1-800-394-2255) between 8:30 a.m. and 8:30 p.m., ET, Monday through Friday. Trained victim advocates will answer common questions and forward more complex queries to a DNA resource person linked to a national network of experts. Callers will receive timely and accurate responses to their questions.
Sign up for the DNA listserv by sending an email to DNAhelp@ncvc.org with "listserv" in the subject line, and you will receive emailed instructions for joining the list. Once enrolled, you can post your questions and receive emails on DNA facts, best practices, current protocols, legislative issues, and other DNA-related updates. National experts participating in the listserv will directly answer questions from the field, and participants who are investigating crimes and serving victims every day will also share their practical insights with each other.
For more information about DNA Answers, email Ilse Knecht at DNAhelp@ncvc.org or call her at (202) 467-8723. For DNA-related educational materials and training announcements, visit www.ncvc.org/dna.