There’s no doubt, we live in an unpredictable world. Our lives can change at moment’s notice without warning. A drunken driver, sexual assault, workplace violence or being at the wrong place at the wrong time can permanently alter your life.
For many crime victims and their families, the California Victim Compensation Program is the last hope to cover crime-related expenses such as medical and mental health treatment, dental costs, home and vehicle modifications, and more.
Without this state program, many victims of assault, rape, stalking and other acts of violence would be left to recover on their own. Over the years, CalVCP has helped hundreds of thousands of crime victims and their families get through what is no doubt one of the most traumatic times of their lives.
Recently, CalVCP commemorated 50 years of service to victims. Established in 1965, the program was the first of its kind in the nation and continues to serve as a role model for victim service programs to this day.
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At its inception, the benefit limit was $5,000 per applicant, and the program paid out a total of $194,000. Last year, CalVCP received over 51,000 applications and provided more than $51 million in benefits and services. The program is funded by mandatory fines from those going through the court system for everything from a traffic ticket to a first-degree murder charge.
I’m proud to say California is resolved to lead the way in victim services for another 50 years. We are staying on the forefront of understanding the cycle of victimization, the long-term impacts of trauma and what victims need to recover and lead productive lives. We recently made a number of significant changes to modernize our program to make sure we are able to meet the needs of California victims. These changes recognize that victims are traumatized and often hesitant to come forward due to fear, retaliation and blame.
Most importantly, the changes allow us to help a victim of sexual assault or domestic violence even if the victim delayed filing a police report or did not file. Along with this, we can now represent victims of cyberbullying, a crime that can be unrelenting for a victim being targeted 24 hours a day, seven days a week, often when they are alone and vulnerable.
California has also conducted comprehensive research with crime victims, mental health workers, community organizations and others to determine better ways to serve the state’s culturally and geographically diverse communities. The results identified many victims with language, cultural and transportation barriers that inhibit them from accessing the help we can provide.
No one ever expects to need home and vehicle modifications because their injuries left them immobile, request relocation expenses because their life is being threatened or apply for funeral and burial reimbursement for a parent or child who was tragically murdered.
If it does happen, we want all Californians to know that compassion, treatment and resources are available for you or a family member to recover and heal.
Julie Nauman is executive officer for California’s Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board.