Office of the Attorney General, State of Texas

CVS Update

Volume I . Number VIII

Dear Advocates:

Milestones are important markers of how far travelers have come in their journey, and the Texas crime victim advocacy movement has crossed an important milestone of its own. In August, the Texas Crime Victims’ Compensation Program exceeded $1 billion in total payments since it began in January 1980. It is encouraging to remember that this money has helped victims across Texas to receive the emergency assistance, counseling and medical treatment they have needed. This $1 billion milestone is even more meaningful in light of the fact that the Texas Compensation to Victims of Crime Fund remains solvent at a time when many other states are having difficulty with their budgets.

This issue of the Crime Victim Services Division E Newsletter commemorates that important milestone, but it also highlights developments that will help us continue to assist crime victims in the years to come. Some of those developments took place in the recently completed session of the Texas Legislature, which made some changes that will impact the Compensation to Victims of Crime Fund.

I also want to encourage you to attend our Crime Victim Services Division Conference in Austin on November 19-21, 2009. This multidisciplinary training offers foundational courses as well as cutting-edge training for seasoned advocates. Advocates from all disciplines will also have the chance to network and collaborate, ensuring that we will continue to work together to rebuild the lives of victims and their families long into the future.

Sincerely,

Abbott signature

2009 Crime Victim Services Division Conference

The Crime Victim Services Division Biennial Conference, Horizons, will be held November 19-21, 2009 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 is now open online.


Milestone $1 Billion Reached by Texas Compensation to Victims of Crime Fund

Since 1980, Texas crime victims and their families have received $1 billion to help cover medical costs and crime-related expenses

The Texas Compensation to Victims of Crime Fund, which is administered by the Office of the Attorney General, has distributed $1 billion in financial assistance to crime victims and their families since its creation in 1980.

The Fund receives its money from fees, court costs and restitution paid by those convicted of a felony or misdemeanor in a state, county or municipal court. When eligible victims and their families have exhausted all other means of financial support, the Fund helps offset the expenses that stem from violent crime.

“With $1 billion in awards distributed, the Compensation to Victims of Crime Fund has helped victims and their families get the financial assistance they need to help rebuild their lives,” Attorney General Abbott said. “For thirty years, the Office of the Attorney General has worked cooperatively with local law enforcement, medical centers and advocacy organizations to inform crime victims about the Fund and respond to their needs. Together, we will continue working to help crime victims down the path to healing and recovery.”

Since 2002, the Attorney General’s Crime Victim Services Division has provided more than $500 million from the Fund to help victims pay for medical and out-of-pocket emergency expenses and other costs associated with the crimes committed against them. In addition to the money distributed from the Compensation to Victims of Crime Fund, the OAG also distributed more than $300 million in grants to nonprofits and victim advocacy organizations since 2002. These state and local organizations provide services such as grief counseling, emergency shelter for abuse victims and other assistance.

To help victims navigate the crime victims’ compensation application process, the Office of the Attorney General provides training to victim advocates, hospitals and law enforcement officials across the state. The training, along with informational pamphlets and the agency’s Web site, www.texasattorneygeneral.gov, are intended to help victims and their advocates better understand application and payment procedures.

For more information about the Crime Victims’ Compensation Program, contact the Crime Victim Services Division at (800) 983-9933. View the Attorney General's newsconference video online.


Funding Forensic Medical Exams for Sexual Assault Victims

Healing from a sexual assault is personal and varies from survivor to survivor. Initial reactions may be shock, disbelief and fear. Everyday activities may be disrupted, including eating and sleeping. Victims may feel the need to change their address, job or lifestyle in order to gain a sense of security. Many survivors, however, discover a new sense of inner strength – finding that life is not only about how we are challenged, but how we respond to those challenges.

Last year, the Crime Victims’ Compensation (CVC) Fund provided reimbursement for more than 8,500 sexual assault exams and sexual assault examination kits. A sexual assault examination is not medical treatment, but rather a part of the criminal investigation. The exam is performed by medical personnel to collect and preserve crucial evidence that law enforcement uses to identify the perpetrators after an innocent victim has been sexually assaulted. Immediate medical needs and referrals for follow-up care also will be addressed at the time of a victim’s hospital visit.

Sexual assault victims are not charged for a forensic sexual assault exam. The kits are paid for by local law enforcement agencies, which seek reimbursement from the CVC Fund. For years the Fund has covered, and will continue to cover, the costs of sexual assault forensic examinations and kits.

Sexual assault victims decide for themselves whether to report the crime to law enforcement. Under House Bill 2626, passed last legislative session and effective June 19, 2009, the Department of Public Safety (DPS) pays for a sexual assault examination when the victim has not reported the assault to a law enforcement agency at the time of treatment. DPS then seeks reimbursement from the CVC Fund.

Consistent with the federal Violence Against Women Act, HB 2626 also prohibits conditioning payment for the forensic exam upon the victim’s participation in the investigation or prosecution of the attacker. Neither Texas law nor CVC Fund rules condition payment of sexual assault exam costs upon the victim’s role in the investigative effort. Victims are not billed for the costs of their exams. To ensure exam costs are always covered by the CVC Fund, Texas law requires that law enforcement agencies, not the victim, be billed for exams.

Victims who are unsure about reporting the attack to authorities may seek more information about the reporting process from their local sexual assault program. These programs provide survivors with support, confidential services and an advocate to accompany a victim to the emergency room and related appointments.

Sexual assault victims also may be eligible for additional financial assistance to offset other costs associated with crime. Reimbursement must first be sought from all other sources of reimbursement – such as private insurance – before filing a claim with the CVC Fund. To ensure that we fully comply with the law, anyone seeking direct compensation for their out-of-pocket expenses must complete an application.

To help victims navigate the crime victim compensation application process, the Office of the Attorney General provides training to victim advocates, hospitals and law enforcement officials across the state. The training, along with informational pamphlets and our Web site, www.texasattorneygeneral.gov, are intended to help victims and their advocates better understand application and payment procedures.

Sexual assault victims, law enforcement agencies, committed victim advocates and volunteers know the Office of the Attorney General will continue to fund sexual assault examination costs. Anyone with questions about the Compensation to Victims of Crime Fund or the Office of the Attorney General’s Crime Victim Services Division, please call (800) 983-9933.


Crime Victim Services Division Legislative Update

A summary of victim-related legislation that affects the Crime Victim Services Division and Crime Victims' Compensation Program:

HB 1372 – Relating to the definition of victim in relation to certain crime victims’ rights.

Effective Date: June 19, 2009


HB 2626 - Relating to the forensic medical examination of a sexual assault victim who has not reported the assault to a law enforcement agency.

Effective Date: June 19, 2009


HB 2916 – Relating to allowing certain claimants to file an application under the Crime Victims’ Compensation Act.

Effective Date: June 19, 2009


HB 4009 – Relating to the provision of services to certain persons involved in, and the prosecution, punishment, and prevention of offenses involving trafficking of persons or certain forced sex-based labor or services.

Effective Date: September 1, 2009


SB 808 – Relating to allowing certain claimants to file an application under the Crime Victims’ Compensation Act.

Effective Date: September 1, 2009


SB 1616 – Relating to the fees for and issuance of certain license plates.

Effective Date: September 1, 2009


SB 1377 – Relating to the administration of the compensation to victims of crime fund and the compensation to victims of crime auxiliary fund.

Effective Date: September 1, 2009


SB 1774 – Relating to the disposal of certain exhibits used in criminal proceedings in certain counties.

Effective Date: September 1, 2009


SB 1844 – Relating to revenue received from the provision of pay telephone service to inmates confined in facilities operated by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

Effective Date: June 19, 2009


Children’s Exposure to Violence

The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention's Safe Start Center has published "Healing the Invisible Wounds: Children's Exposure to Violence." The guide, which is available in English and Spanish, offers informative tips on how to recognize the signs of children's exposure to violence and helpful advice on helping those children. Exposure to violence is a pervasive problem that crosses all ages, and the guide provides specific information pertaining to children of various ages, as well as a list of useful resources. You can access the Guide at: www.safestartcenter.org.


The National Resource Center on Domestic Violence

The National Resource Center on Domestic Violence has published its online Resource Guide to help commemorate 2009 National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, scheduled for October. It includes excellent resources in both English and Spanish. You can download the guide at www.nrcdv.org/dvam/materials/index.php.


Law Enforcement Response to People with Mental Illnesses

The Council of State Governments has released “The Law Enforcement Response to People with Mental Illnesses: A Guide to Research-informed Policy and Practice.” It offers evidence-based practices for safe and effective interventions with people who are mentally ill (including victims and offenders). You can download the Guide at: www.consensusproject.org/downloads/le-research.pdf.


Ethics in Victim Services

The Office for Victims of Crime has released Ethics in Victim Services, a new online curriculum that explores common ethical conflicts and how to apply ethical standards and decision making to resolve them. The training is designed for those working in the field of victim services with at least 2 years of experience. Training materials include Instructor and Participant Manuals, PowerPoint slides and vignettes, and a customizable agenda. The curriculum may be accessed at www.ovcttac.gov/ethics/.


Strengthening Sexual Assault Victims' Right to Privacy

The Office for Victims of Crime has published "Strengthening Sexual Assault Victims' Right to Privacy." This excellent e-publication provides practical assistance to statewide sexual assault coalitions and rape crisis centers to help them maintain victim confidentiality. It addresses common challenges, provides core concepts and offers practical tips for improving confidential services provided to victims of sexual violence. The guide can be downloaded at: www.ovc.gov/publications/infores/VictimsRightToPrivacy/welcome.html.


Emergency Service Training for Volunteers

The Department of Justice/ Office for Victims of Crime is distributing the new "Good Samaritans: Volunteers Helping Victims Program Handbook and Training Guide" designed to train volunteers to provide emergency services to victims. These services include securing victims' homes after a break-in, offering emotional support, and linking victims with community services. This is a useful resource for volunteer recruitment and training and can be accessed at: www.ovc.gov/publications/infores/Good_Samaritans/welcome.html.


School Safety Data

"Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2008" is now available from the United States Department of Justice. It features data on crime and safety in schools that affect students, teachers and administrators. The abstract and/or full publication may be downloaded at: www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/abstract/iscs08.htm.

The Office of the Attorney General also offers school safety information, including a school safety video and handbook, on the OAG Web site at www.oag.state.tx.us/criminal/schoolsafety.shtml


Send CVS Your Most Meaningful Remembrance

Next year marks the 30th Anniversary of the Texas Victims of Crime Compensation Fund. We are asking you to send us your most meaningful story of how crime victims' compensation has helped a victim or their family. Advocates are integral in assisting victims with compensation when most vulnerable. As an advocate, you also have continued contact with victims.

Please consider the difference that compensation has made in the lives of the victims that you assist. We all know that one real example makes more of an impression than pages of statistics. Your examples will help us get the word out to those who most need to hear it.

Please join us in celebrating this milestone by sending your story by January 1, 2010, to crimevictims@texasattorneygeneral.gov. If you have any questions or need clarification, please contact Suzanne McDaniel at (800)-983-9933.


National Crime Victim Rights Week 2010

National Crime Victims' Rights Week is scheduled for April 18 - 24, 2010. The theme is "Crime Victims' Rights: Fairness. Dignity. Respect." For more information to plan your community observance, please access the Department of Justice Office of Victims of Crime Web site at ojp.usdoj.gov/ovc/ncvrw/welcome.html.