Editor’s note: This is an excerpt from TDCAA’s updated edition of the Victim Services Manual. A grant from the Texas Governor’s Office will allow us to send a copy to all Texas prosecutor offices in January, so keep an eye out for it.
Many times problems and issues arise after a crime occurs, and the crime victims we serve are in need of additional help. As VACs, our job is to assist as much as possible, gather information for our prosecutor, then refer the crime victim to other agencies and organizations that are geared to provide support for specific issues crime victims may face. From experience, I know it is difficult sometimes to figure out which agency or organization does what and where to refer a specific victim. This article highlights a few national and state agencies that provide assistance and support to crime victims. Many of these agencies have brochures and publications you can order or print for free to hand out to crime victims.
Local community resources also exist, so be sure and explore what is available in your community by trying one of the following methods:
• call 2-1-1 or go online to www.211texas.org;
• see the TDCJ Crime Victims Clearinghouse local resource directory at www.tdcj.state.tx.us/divisions/vs/ victim_resource_directory.html;
• see Connect Directory (a referral service) maintained by the National Center for Victims of Crime at victimconnect.org/get-help/connect-directory;
• go to the website for the Attorney General’s Office, which also maintains a list of victim assistance contacts and links: texasattorneygeneral.gov/cvs/crime-victim-assistance-contacts-links; and
• visit the Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) website, which maintains a directory of nonemergency crime victim services agencies, at ovc.ncjrs.gov/ovcdirectory/ mobile/searchdirectory.aspx.
This website, maintained by professional crime victim service providers, provides contact information to a variety of agencies and organizations that can be of assistance in the victim services field. See the website (above) for information on:
• federal government agencies,
• related national organizations,
• criminal and juvenile justice and public policy organizations,
• state agencies and organizations (alphabetical by state),
• VOCA victim assistance agencies,
• state attorneys general VS programs,
• state DV and sexual assault coalitions,
• state corrections departments (adult and juvenile),
• victims rights compliance programs, and
• legal research and resources.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD)
Victim Helpline: 877/MADD-HELP; www.madd.org
Mothers Against Drunk Driving, incorporated in 1980, is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, grassroots organization with more than 600 chapters nationwide. MADD is not a crusade against alcohol consumption. Its focus is to look for effective solutions to the drunk-driving and underage drinking problems, while supporting those who have already experienced the pain of these senseless crimes.
National Center for Victims of Crime
202/467-8700 or 800/FYI-CALL; www.victimsofcrime.org
The National Center for Victims of Crime (formerly the National Victim Center) is a nonprofit organization founded in 1985. The National Center provides resources and advocacy for victims of crime. Through collaboration with local, state, and federal partners, the National Center:
• advocates for stronger rights, protections, and services for crime victims;
• provides education, training, and evaluation; and
• serves as a source of current information on victims’ issues.
The National Center offers email updates on news, legislative events, conferences and training opportunities that affect victims and victim advocates for all members of NCVC. VictimConnect Resource Center is a place for crime victims to learn about their rights and options confidentially. VictimConnect is a program of the National Center for Victims of Crime and offers:
• a traditional telephone-based helpline: 855/4-VICTIM (855/484-2846);
• an innovative online chat at Chat.VictimCon-nect.org; and
• web-based information and service referrals at VictimConnect.org
National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV)
Hotline: 800/799-7233; www.ncadv.org
NCADV is dedicated to the empowerment of battered women and their children and is committed to the elimination of personal and societal violence in the lives of battered women and their children. NCADV’s work includes coalition-building at the local, state, regional and national levels; support for the provision of community-based, non-violent alternatives—such as safe home and shelter programs—for battered women and their children; public education and technical assistance; policy development and innovative legislation; focusing on the leadership of NCADV’s caucuses and task forces developed to represent the concerns of organizationally under-represented groups; and efforts to eradicate social conditions that contribute to violence against women and children.
The National Organization of Parents of Murdered Children, Inc.
888/818-7662 or 513/721-5683
www.pomc.com; email: [email protected]
Parents of Murdered Children, Inc. was founded in 1978 by the Reverend and Mrs. Robert Hullinger after their daughter Lisa, then 19 years old, was bludgeoned to death by an ex-boyfriend. Parents of Murdered Children is dedicated to the idea that grief must be shared, and its goal is to provide support and assistance to all survivors of homicide victims. POMC does not provide counseling but is a support group that publishes a survivors newsletter and holds conferences each year.
National Organization for Victims Assistance (NOVA)
The National Organization for Victim Assistance is a private, nonprofit, 501(c)(3) organization of victim and witness assistance programs and practitioners, criminal justice agencies and professionals, mental health professionals, researchers, former victims and survivors, and others committed to the recognition and implementation of victim rights and services. Founded in 1975, NOVA is the oldest national victim assistance group in the United States. Its mission is to promote rights and services for victims of crime and crisis everywhere.
National Victim Notification Network (VINE)
VINE, the National Victim Notification Network, is available to keep victims informed about the custody status and court status of their offenders. VINE is available in thousands of communities across the nation.
Office for Victims of Crime (OVC)
The Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) was established by the 1984 Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) to oversee diverse programs that benefit victims of crime. OVC provides substantial funding to state victim assistance and compensation programs. The agency also supports trainings designed to educate criminal justice and allied professionals regarding the rights and needs of crime victims. OVC is within the Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. The Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) also maintains a directory of nonemergency crime victim services agencies at ovc.ncjrs.gov/ovcdirectory/mobile/searchdirectory.aspx.
U.S. Resource Map of Crime Victim Services & Information
To locate resources for crime victims who have become victims in another state, see www.ovc.gov/map.html.
Texas Attorney General’s Office—Crime Victim Services
800/983-9933 or 512/936-1200; texasattorneygeneral.gov/cvs/crime-victim-services-assisting-victims-of-violent-crime
The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) serves victims of crime by administering the Crime Victims’ Compensation Program and victim service-related grants and contracts, in addition to offering training and outreach programs.
Crime Victims’ Compensation Program
The Crime Victims’ Compensation (CVC) program reimburses out-of-pocket expenses to victims of violent crime and their families. The Crime Victims’ Compensation fund can help eligible victims pay for medical and counseling bills incurred because of the crime and can help families cover the cost of the funeral for a loved one who has been killed.
The AG’s Office offers training for victim assistance coordinators on CVC. All-day workshops give participants an overview of the compensation program, emphasizing the eligibility components. The training is free for all qualified participants. For more information on training opportunities through the Attorney General’s office, visit its website at texasattorneygeneral.gov/cvs/crime-victim-assistance-training.
Crime Victim Compensation has adopted Presumptive Eligibility as a new component of the business process. Presumptive eligibility allows advocates who are trained by the AG’s Crime Victim Services Division to work directly with victims to gather the required documentation and submit a thorough application packet to the Crime Victims’ Compensation division. For more information on presumptive eligibility, see the Attorney General’s website at texasattorneygeneral.gov/cvs/crime-victims-compensation. A VAC must have taken the CVC training before being eligible to participate in presumptive eligibility filing of CVC applications.
For more information on the national administration of crime victim compensation programs, see the National Association of Crime Victim Compensation Boards’ website at www.nacvcb.org.
Grants and contracts
Grants and contracts administered by the Office of the Attorney General help fund a broad range of victim-related services. Domestic violence shelters, rape crisis centers, hotlines, victim advocacy, education, assistance with CVC applications, and other victim-related services are available as a result of these grants and contracts. For more information, see the website at texasattorneygeneral.gov/cvs/grants-and-contracts.
Address Confidentiality Program
The Texas Address Confidentiality Program (ACP), administered by the OAG, provides a substitute post office box address and free mail forwarding service for participants.
ACP is a safety tool and intended as one step in an overall safety plan. It is neither a witness protection program nor a guarantee of safety. For more information, see the OAG website at texasattorneygeneral.gov/cvs/the-address-confidentiality-program-acp.
Texas Advocacy Project
email: [email protected]
Texas Advocacy Project provides free legal services to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault throughout the state of Texas. Texas Advocacy Project also offers support to victim services personnel and maintains hotlines for victims of various crimes:
• Family Violence Legal Line: 800/374-HOPE (statewide) and 512/476-5770 (Austin);
• Family Law Hotline: 800/777-FAIR (statewide) and 512/476-1866 (Austin); and
• Sexual Assault Hotline: 888/296-SAFE (statewide) and 512/225-9290 (Austin).
Texas Association Against Sexual Assault (TAASA)
The Texas Association Against Sexual Assault (TAASA) is committed to ending sexual violence in Texas through education, prevention, and advocacy. TAASA supports sexual assault survivors on their paths to hope, healing and justice. TAASA provides a variety of training opportunities. For more information, see its website at taasa .org/about/training-technical-assistance.
Texas Department of Criminal Justice—Victim Services
512/406-5900; 800/848-4284; www.tdcj.state.tx.us/divisions/vs/
The mission of Victim Services Division is to provide a central mechanism for victims and the public to participate in the Criminal Justice System. The Victim Services Division strives to reduce victimization through education within an environment of integrity, fairness, compassion, dignity, and respect.
TDCJ Victim Services also has a number of resources, including:
• VIS forms;
• in-person training for VACs;
• webinars on victim services issues;
• Texas Victim Assistance Training (TVAT) online;
• victim services publications, including the Victim Services Information Manual; and
• a confidential database—Victim Notification System (VNS)—for victim registration for notification regarding offender’s incarceration and parole review.
The department provides assistance in the following areas:
• determining inmate status;
• referral for restitution inquiries;
• automated toll-free telephone system for victims to obtain status information 24 hours a day (if requested, the automated phone system can call a victim to notify her when an inmate is being processed for release);
• processing victim impact statements, protest letters, and other information submitted by victims;
• assistance in scheduling meetings with parole board members during parole review;
• explanation of parole and mandatory supervision laws;
• training criminal justice professionals and offenders on victim awareness and sensitivity issues;
• prison tours for victims, concerned citizens, and criminal justice professionals;
• victim-witness screening and preparation prior to viewing an execution; and
• meetings with offenders through Victim-Offender Mediation/Dialogue if requested by the victim and upon approval and preparation by TDCJ. See below for more on Victim-Offender Mediation/Dialogue.
Victim-Offender Mediation/Dialogue (VOM/D)
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s Victim Services Division offers victim-offender mediation/dialogue services for victims of violent crime. The VOM/D program sets up face-to-face meetings with offenders if requested by the victim and upon approval and preparation by TDCJ. Contact TDCJ at 800/848-4284 or by email at [email protected] for more information. To see a description of the VOM/D program, go to www .tdcj.state.tx.us/divisions/vs/victim_vomd.html. Below are the portions of the Code of Criminal Procedure that address victim-offender mediation:
CCP Art. 56.13. Victim-Offender Mediation
The victim services division of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice shall:
(1) train volunteers to act as mediators between victims, guardians of victims, and close relatives of deceased victims and offenders whose criminal conduct caused bodily injury or death to victims; and
(2) provide mediation services through referral of a trained volunteer, if requested by a victim, guardian of a victim, or close relative of a deceased victim.
CCP Art. 5.08. Mediation in Family Violence Cases
Notwithstanding Article 26.13(g) or 42A.301(15), in a criminal prosecution arising from family violence, as that term is defined by §71.004, Family Code, a court shall not refer or order the victim or the defendant involved to mediation, dispute resolution, arbitration, or other similar procedures.
Victim Notification System (VNS)
The Victim Notification System (VNS) utilizes a confidential database to provide registrants with notifications regarding offenders. Notifications are available via email, letter, or both. The system provides over 80 points of possible notification regarding several phases of an offender’s incarceration and the parole review process. Once an individual is added to the VNS, she will receive a confirmation letter with two brochures that further explain the services.
Victims of a crime, surviving family members, witnesses, or concerned citizens who would like to register for notification on an offender who is in TDCJ custody or on parole/mandatory supervision should contact TDCJ at 800/848-4284 or by email at [email protected] .texas.gov. Victims can also register for notifications by text or by telephone, but this must be done separately. See the section on “Notification” at www.tdcj.state.tx.us/ divisions/vs/index.html for the links to register for text or automated telephone notification.
TDCJ—Texas Crime Victim Clearinghouse
The goal of the Clearinghouse is to provide the focus, leadership, and coordination necessary to continue and improve services so that victims are afforded a full measure of justice and every possible assistance. The Clearinghouse serves as a central source of information about services and issues involving crime victims in Texas and connects victims with community and state resources. The Clearinghouse produces a Victim Assistance Resource Directory of state agencies that provide services to victims at www.tdcj.state.tx.us/divisions/vs/victim _resource_directory.html
The Clearinghouse is responsible for updating the Victim Impact Statement every two years and collects the semi-annual VIS activity reports from prosecutor offices around the state. The Clearinghouse also sponsors conferences that brings hundreds of victims, criminal justice professionals, law enforcement, and victim services providers together so they can participate in an array of victim-related workshops.
Texas District & County Attorneys Association (TDCAA)
TDCAA has three primary functions:
• producing comprehensive continuing legal education courses for employees in prosecutor offices;
• providing technical assistance to the prosecution community and related criminal justice agencies; and
• serving as liaison between prosecutors and other organizations involved in the day-to-day administration of criminal justice.
Through its Director of Victim Services, Jalayne Robinson, TDCAA provides the information necessary to create a victim services department within a district attorney’s or county attorney’s office. TDCAA also includes forms and helpful documents on its website specifically geared toward victim services personnel in prosecutor offices. See www.tdcaa.com/victim-services.
Texas Juvenile Justice Department (TJJD)
The Texas Juvenile Justice Department (TJJD) is committed to providing victims of juvenile crime their rights under the law, ensuring that they are informed, involved, and treated with dignity, fairness, and respect. Among the programs assisting victims, TJJD provides victim notification. Upon request, the victim may be notified of:
• the offender’s commitment to the Texas Juvenile Justice Department;
• the minimum length of stay or length of the sentence;
• movements between placements within TJJD;
• when the offender is to be considered for placement on parole or transfer to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice;
• when the offender is transferred to parole status or to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice; and
• the name, address, and telephone number of an appropriate TJJD employee to contact for additional information.
Texas Legal Services Center
Texas Legal Services Center (TLSC) is a non-profit legal office which provides assistance and training to poverty law advocates and their clients in the areas of litigation support, education and communication. TLSC sponsors projects that assist individuals in Texas and, in some cases, nationwide. TLSC manages Texas Law Help and Texas Lawyers Help, which are statewide web initiatives to increase access to justice.
TLSC also has a statewide project—Advocates for Victims of Crime (AVOICE)—which provides free direct legal representation and referrals to victims of violent crime, and providing education about crime victim’s rights. AVOICE lawyers offer legal advice, safety planning, pro se assistance, and legal representation. It also assists victims with applying for crime victim compensation claims.
AVOICE helps victims with the following legal matters:
• protective orders;
• family law (custody, child support, and divorce);
• elder exploitation and abuse;
• financial crimes and identity theft;
• housing (helping clients terminate a lease when the crime occurred on the property);
• Title IX issues if the crime occurred at school;
• immigration (helping undocumented victims apply for a U-Visa, or T-Visa); and
• Crime Victims Compensation.
Disaster Distress Helpline