Each year, the Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) provides help for millions of crime victims as they begin the process of healing from their victimization and rebuilding their lives. The foundation of this support is the Crime Victims Fund (the Fund), which is financed by fines, bond forfeitures, and penalties stemming from federal crimes—not from tax dollars. In fiscal years (FY) 2015 and 2016, Congress made available the largest amount of Fund deposits it has allowed since placing an annual cap on available funding in 2000. The Fund’s appropriation cap increased substantially, from $745 million in FY 2014 to $2.361 billion in FY 2015. In FY 2016, Congress again increased the appropriation cap, this time to $3.042 billion.
The increase in the Fund’s appropriation cap enabled OVC to quadruple the funding it made available to states in FYs 2015 and 2016. In FY 2014, OVC awarded $456 million in state victim assistance grants. In FY 2015, OVC greatly increased this amount to $1.9 billion, followed by $2.2 billion in FY 2016. OVC has encouraged states to use these significant gains not only to continue funding local subgrantees—who provide critical direct assistance to victims—but also to conduct capacity-building endeavors, such as developing statewide assessments, gap analyses, and strategic plans.
OVC appreciates that Congress made these large funding increases to help victims throughout the Nation. In FYs 2015 and 2016, nearly 500,000 victims received compensation payments, and more than 11.5 million victims received VOCA-funded assistance. Allocations from the Fund provide significant support for victim services and reimbursement.
OVC also used the increase in Fund allocations to support the findings and recommendations of Vision 21, OVC’s strategic planning initiative. Launched by OVC in fall 2010, Vision 21 constituted a partnership between five organizations over 18 months to examine the status of the victim assistance field and explore both emerging and enduring challenges. The discussions and research centered on four topics: (1) defining the role of the victim assistance field in the overall response to crime and delinquency in the United States, (2) building the field’s capacity to better serve victims, (3) addressing enduring issues in the field, and (4) identifying emerging issues in the field. In 2013, OVC produced the Vision 21: Transforming Victim Services Final Report as a strategic planning document created by the field, for the field.
During FYs 2015 and 2016, support from Congress enabled OVC to increase its Vision 21 programming. With a $12.5 million Vision 21 appropriation from Congress in FY 2015, and authorization to reprogram $50 million of OVC discretionary funds in FY 2016, OVC was able to bolster its Vision 21 programs. With this funding, OVC has supported programs that further Vision 21 recommendations for building capacity, conducting research and evaluation, spurring innovation, and reaching underserved and unserved victims.
In addition to supporting Vision 21 initiatives directly, the substantial increase in Fund allocations in FYs 2015 and 2016 enabled OVC to expand its programming in other important ways to increase and enhance services for victims. OVC is building a body of evidence-based knowledge for the crime victims field through, for example, the establishment of two national resource centers, which should serve as hubs for research and training and technical assistance for the field. Through the National Resource Center on Research and Evaluation OVC aims to bridge the gap between research and practice.
The final rule for the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) Formula Victim Assistance Grant Program became effective on August 8, 2016. This rule provides greater clarity and more flexibility to state VOCA victim assistance administering agencies to support a continuum of services for crime victims, including comprehensive legal assistance, transitional housing, expanded coverage of relocation expenses, and the use of funds for forensic interviews and medical examinations. The rule clarifies the requirements regarding services for underserved victims, and continues to assert that victims of elder abuse, human trafficking, and other crimes are eligible for VOCA-funded assistance. Further, the rule removes language that restricted the use of VOCA funding to support services for victims in detention and correctional facilities. The new avenues of support made available by the rule, coupled with the increased funding Congress made available in FYs 2015 and 2016, are contributing to innovative programming to bring more services to more victims.
After nearly 20 years with no changes to the formula performance measures, in November 2013, OVC launched a major initiative to revise the performance measures used by state formula victim compensation and victim assistance grantees, to report a more meaningful and informative set of indicators describing how funding is used to serve crime victims. Over 2 years, OVC sought input from grantees and stakeholders and incorporated the resulting feedback to draft new performance measures. OVC’s new performance measures for victim assistance programs capture data on new types of services, demographics of victims, and assistance to certain victims of crime that were formerly not reported. Similarly, the new performance measure indicators for victim compensation programs provide data on the number of victims compensated and an expansive list of services provided and the types of crimes for which states compensate victims and their families. These new measures—which state victim assistance and victim compensation grantees report through an electronic database—establish baseline data that enable OVC to analyze and assess progress and report on grantees’ implementation of victim services.
Accompanying his signing of Executive Order 12360, Establishing the President's Task Force on Victims of Crime, President Ronald Reagan stated—
Our concern for crime victims rests on far more than simple recognition that it could happen to any of us. It’s also rooted in the realization that regardless of who is victimized or the extent to which any one of us may personally be threatened, all of us have an interest in seeing that justice is done not only to the criminal but also for those who suffer the consequences of his crime.
It is in this noble spirit that OVC pursues the motto, “Justice for Victims, Justice for All.”
Every day, victim service providers throughout the Nation dedicate themselves to helping those who need support and advocacy. This report provides numerous descriptions and vignettes of important victim service programs—their successes, their challenges, and their comprehensive efforts to help victims of crime rebuild their lives and begin to heal.