SURVIVORS OF VIOLENCE NEED EXPANDED PATHS TO HEALING
Surviving violence can upend a person’s life.
In the aftermath of a crime, survivors and their families often turn to the Crime Victims Fund, which provides financial compensation for survivors to regain stability by covering costs like hospital bills, mental health counseling, or replacing locks. The Crime Victims Fund was created by the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) and is supported through fines and penalties that result from federal prosecutions of white-collar crime. However, countless victims of violence and abuse are precluded from applying for these funds because of New York State’s restrictive documentation requirements. We hope you will sign our petition calling on the State to offer more flexibility to survivors and help more New Yorkers heal and recover.
In New York State, the Office of Victim Services (OVS) administers VOCA funding and supplements it with state dollars. In 2019-2020, OVS approved nearly 6,300 claims filed by victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and other crimes, totaling $21.4 million.
However, survivors in New York State are legally required to report instances of violence to the police in order to apply for OVS reimbursement. While this arrangement works for some survivors, it denies essential supports to many other survivors who do not want to report the harm they experienced to the police. Survivors may not report for a number of reasons, including a belief that police could not or would not do anything to help, a decision to handle the victimization another way, or a fear that the process of reporting to the police may be re-traumatizing and/or make them less safe. Survivors who do not file police reports and are therefore ineligible for compensation are unable to secure the basic supports they need or face lifelong debilitating debt when they do.
We know OVS can be flexible when it comes to alternative documentation for reimbursement because it modified this exact policy for domestic violence survivors during the COVID-19 pandemic. Recognizing that many survivors might not be able to turn to the police during quarantine, OVS accepted documentation from "certified residential program providers" instead. We applaud OVS for making this important modification to their policy and urge them to extend this modification to a broader array of crime victims.
Please sign our petition to change the law enforcement documentation requirement to help ensure that all New Yorkers who are impacted by violence can access these critical funds.
A system of reimbursing some crime victims and not others based solely on an accompanying police report has left far too many New Yorkers without the financial support they deserve and need.
We envision a future where OVS will accept alternative forms of documentation that someone has been the victim of a crime, such as a letter from a hospital or an authorized victim assistance organization. We need to reduce barriers to healing for New Yorkers across the state, particularly those who may distrust or fear the police. This includes LGBTQ New Yorkers, immigrants, and those from Black and Brown communities, communities that have long had strained and fractured relationships with the police.
We believe that all survivors deserve access to healing, not just those that report their experience to the police. We want every survivor in New York to have access to what they need to heal and feel safe, and we know it is possible. By signing our petition, you’ll be part of a growing movement of people working to ensure survivors’ needs are always at the center of our policy responses to violence. We can make New York a state that puts healing first.
We cannot win this change alone, but we can do it with people like you.
Common Justice, Safe Horizon, New York State Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NYSCADV), Downstate Coalition for Crime Victims, Crime Victims Treatment Center