Being a victim of crime is frightening and unsettling for the millions of Americans who experience it each year. There is an extensive range of services and resources is available to help victims heal and obtain justice. The Office for Victims of Crime (OVC), a federal agency within the Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice, wants you to know that if you or someone you love is a victim of crime:
- You have rights.
- You can get help.
- You can work for positive change.
You have rights
Most states have amended their constitutions to guarantee certain fundamental rights for crime victims. Typically, these include the following:
- The right to be notified of all court proceedings related to the offense.
- The right to be reasonably protected from the accused offender.
- The right to have input at sentencing (e.g., in the form of a victim impact statement).
- The right to information about the conviction, sentencing, imprisonment, and release of the offender.
- The right to an order of restitution from the convicted offender.
- The right to be notified of these rights.
If you are a victim of a crime, these rights apply to you. You may obtain information about your rights through a local victim/witness assistance program (usually located in the prosecutor’s office), the state Attorney General’s Office, or the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
You can get help
Thousands of programs provide services and sanctuary to crime victims throughout the United States. They are part of state government agencies, and private nonprofit, faith-based, and charitable organizations. The programs provide two general types of services—compensation and assistance—for victims of crimes such as homicide, rape, drunk driving, domestic violence, human trafficking, and child abuse and neglect.
Compensation programs reimburse victims, including victims of federal crimes, for expenses. Expenses covered are medical costs, mental health counseling, funeral and burial costs, and lost wages or loss of support.
Crime victim assistance programs provide a range of services, including crisis intervention, counseling, emergency shelter, criminal justice advocacy, and emergency transportation. Although compensation and assistance are provided most often to individuals, in certain instances, entire communities may be eligible for assistance in cases of multiple victimizations. You can obtain information about compensation and assistance through your local prosecutor’s office. You also may receive it from your local law enforcement agency when you report an offense.
Source: U.S. Department of Justice: www.ovc.gov