What is VOCA?
In 1984, the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) authorized the Crime Victims Fund (the Fund), to help victims receive the services they need.
The Fund is entirely financed by fines and penalties collected from convicted criminals. It doesn’t receive any taxpayer dollars, so the vital services that it funds come at no extra price to U.S. citizens.
Funds at risk
When the Fund was created, federal law required that the money paid to the Fund (by criminals, let’s not forget) can only be used to help victims of crime.
But under the recent budget deal, Congress took $1.5 billion from the Fund for other spending.
Victims of crime desperately need this money. Their needs range from immediate to long-term, from food and shelter to legal services. Without this money, victims will not be able to receive necessary services that will help them recover from trauma and rebuild their lives.
What is at stake?
States and service providers depend on this money to support vital services that are absolutely crucial for victims. Each state determines the types of services that can be funded under VOCA.
Here are some examples of how these funds are applied in different states:
- legal services
- emergency and long-term housing
- immediate health and safety needs, including clothing, food, and shelter
- more staff to serve more victims and to better serve victims
- access to trauma-informed and trauma-trained mental health practitioners
- interpreters so that victims can gain access to language interpretation after experiencing a crime
- services to underserved communities, including rural victims, victims with disabilities, LGBTQ victims, and tribal victims
- tools to attain or retain economic stability, such as job training, workshops, and counseling
- emergency medical costs
The Fund was created so that the very criminals who perpetrated the crimes are the ones who pay for the damage they caused. The $1.5 billion dollars that Congress is trying to take should go to support the victims who suffered from those crimes, not be used as a substitute for taxpayer dollars.
How you can help
On Thursday, November 19, at 12:00 p.m. EST, join countless advocates and concerned citizens calling for justice by tweeting @ your Senators and Representative to tell them to protect funding for victims – #DontCutVOCA.
Here are some ideas for sample tweets if you need some inspiration:
Victims need justice #DontCutVOCA
Hundreds of victims are turned away from shelter each day #DontCutVOCA
Help victims get the services they need #DontCutVOCA
Trafficking victims need VOCA to stay safe. Too many suffer without the services they need #DontCutVOCA
Trafficking victims need legal services so they don’t face the court alone #DontCutVOCA
Photo credit: Flickr / KP Tripathi