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Poverty, isolation, high crime rates, and a chronic lack of services for victims of crime in many American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) communities—compounded by complex jurisdictional issues and the cultural diversity of tribes—all contribute to making this underserved population a high priority for enhanced programs and services. The Office for Victims of Crime (OVC), acknowledging the urgent need for victim-centered assistance throughout Indian Country, commits a significant amount of its discretionary funding to support community-based services for victims and training and technical assistance for their service providers.
As OVC forges innovative partnerships to develop and expand exemplary tribal programs and services, it maintains established programs that focus on culturally specific training, technical assistance, and case management, among other services. Altogether, these activities support the Attorney General’s Tribal Justice and Safety Initiative—characterized as part of the Nation’s "legal duty and moral obligation"1 to help tribes address violent crime and create safer communities.
As administrator of the Crime Victims Fund, OVC channels both formula and discretionary grant funding to programs that support the rights of tribal victims; build capacity through training, technical assistance, and model programs; and fill gaps in much-needed services.
The Children’s Justice Act (CJA) provides up to $20 million to be allocated annually to improve the investigation and prosecution of child abuse and neglect cases at the state, tribal, and local levels. The Department of Health and Human Services receives 85 percent of these funds for its child abuse programs and services; OVC allocates 15 percent to support the CJA Partnerships for Indian Communities Grant Program, which helps AI/AN communities improve the investigation, prosecution, and management of child abuse cases in a manner designed to lessen additional trauma. The program further supports the development and implementation of comprehensive programs for abused children as well as child-sensitive policies and procedures for handling child abuse cases in tribal courts and child protection services systems. In FY 2012, OVC set aside $2.7 million to support six tribal participants in the program.
The Comprehensive Tribal Victim Assistance Discretionary Grant (CTVA) program provides funding to help federally recognized tribes or their designees develop, establish, and operate multidisciplinary, trauma-informed services for tribal victims of crime, including culturally appropriate training and technical assistance. In FY 2012, the program provided $3.5 million to eight tribes and tribal-affiliated organizations and, based on feedback from tribal stakeholders at consultations, lengthened projects from 1 to 3 years.
Domestic violence in Indian Country is now at epidemic proportions, and enhancing the legal knowledge and skills of prosecutors, law enforcement, and related professionals is critical to prosecuting offenders successfully. In FY 2012, OVC supported the Executive Office for United States Attorneys in the production of Using Federal Law To Prosecute Domestic Violence Crimes in Indian Country, a DVD and companion guide that demonstrates successful prosecutions on tribal land, including common situations such as prosecution of habitual offenders, recanting victims, and ensuring the safety of victims in close-knit communities.
OVC supports a restorative justice program intended to identify, examine, and document effective victim-centered restorative justice practices that are culturally responsive, such as traditional peacemaking and peacekeeping strategies with an emphasis on practices implemented on reservations and in inner-city areas. The ultimate goal of the program is to provide recommendations for a demonstration site that will present identified strategies, evaluate victim outcomes, and disseminate findings to the victim services field.
The AI/AN Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner–Sexual Assault Response Team (SANE–SART) initiative addresses the comprehensive needs of tribal victims of sexual violence, which research has shown to be epidemic in many AI/AN communities. From the outset of the project in 2010, OVC and its federal and tribal partners have focused on the challenge of building the capacity of tribal communities to provide coordinated, community-based, victim-centered responses to sexual violence. The 5-year project encompasses three demonstration sites, coordinators at the Indian Health Service and the FBI, training and technical assistance, and support from a federal advisory committee and multidisciplinary working groups—all committed to institutionalizing sustainable, culturally relevant, evidence-based practices to meet the needs of tribal victims of sexual assault.
The Administration’s FY 2014 budget for the Office for Victims of Crime requested $45 million to support Vision 21-related activities. Of that amount, $25 million is slated for victim services and initiatives, of which $20 million is dedicated to assisting victims of crime in tribal communities. The funding is intended to provide urgently needed data, research, and program evaluation to guide the development of sustainable, evidence-based, culturally responsive victim assistance programs, and to support enhanced direct victim services. The increased focus on the urgent needs of tribal crime victims, and the proposed increase in financial resources to effect real change, was applauded by supporters of justice for victims of crime throughout the Nation.
"OVC and the crime victims field, particularly tribal advocacy organizations, should work with Congress to ensure that victims in Indian Country are no longer a footnote to this country’s response to crime victims."
—OVC Principal Deputy Director Joye E. Frost
OVC is providing $1.5 million to support a 5-year demonstration project at the Flandreau Indian School in South Dakota, with the goal of establishing a culturally appropriate, trauma-informed system of care for students boarding at the school who have experienced long-term exposure to violence, trauma, and victimization. The collaboration is intended to provide students with essential support and tools for learning healthy coping mechanisms, building resiliency, and ultimately, reaching their full potential in life.
OVC is developing a series of videos that will demonstrate the impact of drugs and alcohol on AI/AN children and provide examples of culturally based programs that are working to restore health and wellness to their communities. The videos will also help to educate non-Native service providers about the unique issues that exist in Indian Country and the need for culturally sensitive programming to effectively respond to these issues.
OVC, through an interagency agreement with the Indian Health Service, supports a full-time employee located in Anchorage, Alaska, to work on the Tribal Victims Assistance in Alaska Project. The project's goal is to develop and implement a strategy for improving the accessibility and coordination of federal, tribal, and state efforts to support tribal crime victims in Alaska Native villages, while striving to honor, preserve, and protect the government-to-government relationship and traditional governance and culture.
Crime Victims Fund annual allocations include support for tribal-focused victim-witness specialists in United States Attorneys’ Offices, 42 victim specialist positions at the FBI that are dedicated to Indian Country, and 12 victim specialist positions at the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Department of the Interior, who provide services to more than 30 tribes in the West and Southwest. OVC also funds an Oklahoma District Attorneys Council State-Tribal Liaison, who works with 38 tribes to improve communication between crime victims and the State of Oklahoma to enhance compensation and assistance services.
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