Letter: Task force boosted victim’s rightsPublished 8:49am Wednesday, April 9, 2014
This week is National Crime Victim’s Rights Week. This annual observance, first designated by President Ronald Reagan in 1981, is meant to increase public awareness and knowledge of the wide range of rights and services available to people who have been victimized by crime.
Prior to 1981, President Reagan observed, “Victims have discovered that they are treated as appendages of a system appallingly out of balance. They have learned that somewhere along the way, the system has lost track of the simple truth that it is supposed to be fair and to protect those who obey the law while punishing those who break it. Somewhere along the way, the system began to serve lawyers and judges and defendants, treating the victim with institutionalized disinterest.”
Indeed, prior to his task force’s recommendations, crime victims had virtually no rights and no assistance.
The criminal justice system was often indifferent to the needs of crime victims — they were commonly excluded from courtrooms and denied the chance to speak at sentencing. There were no compensation funds, or services to help rebuild their lives. Victims were on their own to recover their health, security, and dignity.
However, when Congress passed the bipartisan Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) 30 years ago, a national fund was created to address these needs of crime victims. VOCA dollars are provided by fines and penalties paid by offenders, not our tax dollars This Crime Victims’ Fund supports victim services, such as the Crime Victims Resource Center right here in our own community, and victim compensation programs that pay many of victims’ out-of-pocket expenses from the crime, such as counseling, funeral expenses, and lost wages.
For additional information about 2014 National Crime Victims’ Rights Week and how to help victims in our community, please contact Crime Victims Resource Center at 507 437-6680.
Lana Hollerud, victim advocate
Crime Victims Resource Center, Austin