This study examined the definition of "underserved" in the context of sexual assault and domestic violence victims in Illinois.
Improving victim services for underserved populations is a Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) funding priority. Although VOCA does not define who "underserved populations" are, it does provide guidelines for state administering agencies (SAAs), the entities that distribute VOCA funding. These guidelines state SAAs must base their definitions on victim characteristics (e.g., race, residence, income) and/or victimization type (e.g., sexual assault, robbery). In the current study, perspectives of domestic violence and sexual assault service providers were solicited directly through focus groups, which included a discussion on provider definitions and experiences related to underserved victims and reflections on findings of a statistical and geographic analysis of domestic violence and sexual assault service providers who receive victims in Illinois. Researchers found service provider definitions were rooted in individual barriers victims face during and after victimization. Their definitions diverged both from the framing of the VOCA guidelines and definitions suggested by researchers' analysis of service data. Researchers found the barrier-focused definition preferred by service providers and the analysis of demographic characteristics used to identify underrepresented victim populations complemented each other. These combined perspectives offered a more comprehensive understanding of underserved victims in Illinois.