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By Sue Russell
April 27 to May 2 is National Crime Victims' Rights Week. Seventeen years ago, I became a victim of violent crime when a man who lived in this Valley kidnapped, raped and physically assaulted me. Fortunately for all of us, he is serving time for this crime, although he will be released in approximately five years.
My family and I were fortunate to receive victim services originally established through the Victims of Crime Act. One such service we received was through the Victims Compensation Program. The Victims Compensation Program provides limited financial assistance to victims of violent crime who have experienced a financial loss as the direct result of the crime. We were also able to have the assistance of a victim advocate who helped us navigate the maze and challenges of the criminal justice system.
Twenty-five years ago, most of the services that helped us were in
short supply. However, in 1984, in response to a report from President
Ronald Reagan's Task Force on Victims of Crime, Congress passed the
landmark Victims of Crime Act (VOCA). VOCA established the Crime
Victims Fund -- supported by fines from offenders rather than taxpayers
-- to fund victim compensation and victim services throughout the
nation as well as training for service providers.
In the past 25 years, the fund has grown from $68 million to more than $2 billion, disbursed in amounts determined by Congress every year. In 2006, VOCA grants helped fund more than 4,400 public and nonprofit agencies serving almost four million victims throughout the country.
This year, National Crime Victims' Rights Week (April 26 to May 2) celebrates the 25th anniversary of the Victims of Crime Act. The theme, "25 Years of Rebuilding Lives: Celebrating the Victims of Crime Act," highlights the network of lifelines VOCA has extended through our nation.
In honor of Crime Victims' Rights Week the Vermont Center for Crime Victim Services will host the 16th Annual VT Victims Rights Awards Ceremony on Wednesday, April 29, at 1 p.m. at the Pavilion Building Auditorium, located at 109 State Street, Montpelier.
JoAnn Winterbottom, who founded the Laura Kate Winterbottom Fund in memory of her daughter, will be the keynote speaker. The LKW Fund is dedicated to carrying on the legacy of Laura's love for art, nature and teaching children as well as her compassion for the less fortunate, and to eliminating the sexual violence that took her life. The fund supports programs which help victims of sexual assault and domestic abuse, including affected children, get the services and assistance they need so that their suffering is alleviated and the cycle of violence is not perpetuated.
Russell lives in Warren.