From the Director’s Desk, July 13, 2023
In recognition of the second anniversary of her appointment, Director Rose provided a briefing that explores OVC’s efforts to increase options, access, and information for all crime victims and survivors over the past 2 years.
DARYL FOX: Good afternoon, everyone and welcome to the July 13, 2023, installment of From the Director’s Desk. We’re glad you’re able join us today. All audio lines are muted, as this is a listen only briefing. For reference, this recording will be posted to the OVC website tomorrow. At this time, it’s my pleasure to introduce Kristina Rose, OVC Director, for today’s briefing.
KRISTINA ROSE: Thank you so much, Daryl.
When I learned that our July briefing would fall just one day after the second anniversary of my appointment as OVC Director, I thought it would be a good opportunity to reflect on OVC’s accomplishments over the past 2 years. So, I’m giving you fair warning—this update will be a bit longer than usual. And there will still be a CVF update at the end, as well as a special announcement.
Since I started this job, my priorities at OVC have revolved around options, access, and information.
We know that the experiences of every crime survivor, every community, every surviving family member that is impacted by crime and trauma is unique. So we must make sure there are enough options in place to ensure that survivors have choices.
Now we can increase options for crime survivors, but if they don’t know about the options or they can’t access those services, then it’s as if they don’t exist at all. We must remove barriers, wherever they are, so everyone is assured access to the services that they need.
And finally, we need to make sure that those affected by crime have the information they need: about their rights; the criminal justice process; victim services and compensation; and if they report, about their case. That also means that we have a duty to make sure the providers serving those victims have all the necessary information and training they require to meet their needs.
As I look back over the past 2 years, I’m proud to say that so many of OVC’s efforts tie directly into these themes. We’ve awarded grants to many organizations that are expanding options, access, and information in really creative and thoughtful ways. So let me give you a few examples:
- Most domestic violence shelters are not equipped to accommodate pets, which can potentially lead to survivors delaying seeking shelter because of concerns for their pet’s welfare. With funding from the USDA, OVC has awarded a total of 23 grants—more than $7 million dollars—under the Emergency Transitional Pet Shelter Housing and Assistance Program. We refer to it as PAWS. PAWS provides safe spaces for the companion animals of victims who need to seek emergency shelter. Nearly 2,000 new and returning victims received services under this program in Fiscal Year ‘21 and ‘22.
- Now victim services are rarely available for youth who have endured sexual trauma, either before or during their time in juvenile detention facilities. So, in Fiscal Year ‘22, OVC provided funding to support the development and the enhancement of partnerships between juvenile detention centers and community-based victim service providers. The goal of the program is to increase access to outside support services for young sexual assault survivors, who are in detention, so they can heal.
- Victims of hate-related crimes have unique service needs and often reside in communities without easy access to the assistance they require. In Fiscal Year ‘21, OVC awarded a grant to Futures Without Violence to partner with community-based organizations throughout the country, using a subgrant model, to serve and support victims of hate crime. Grantees are providing outreach services, offering healing and reconciliation options, and developing resources specifically for those who have experienced hate crime.
- And in an effort to encourage victims of hate crimes who might otherwise be reluctant to report, we’re funding the establishment of state-run hate crime reporting hotlines. In FY ‘22, we awarded funding to the Illinois Hate Crime and Bias Incident Hotline and The California vs. Hate Resource Line and Network. In FY ‘23, we hope to fund three more programs and a technical assistance provider to provide specialized training and TA to all award recipients under this program.
- Flexible options and easy access are absolute necessities for survivors with disabilities. Since FY ‘18 and throughout my tenure, OVC has invested nearly $10 million dollars to improve and expand the availability of accessible victim-centered, trauma-informed services for survivors who are disabled, Deaf, hard-of-hearing, limited English proficient, blind, or visually impaired.
- In 2022, OVC joined other OJP program offices to fund numerous community violence intervention programs. Now I was really excited to have OVC involved in this effort, because victim services are not always recognized as part of the CVI approach. In addition to the CVI project, OVC’s invested $13 million dollars in hospital-based victim services in communities hit hardest by violent crime. These programs ensure that trained victim service providers are on hand in hospital emergency rooms to connect with injured victims who may never have known services were available to them. Now we’ve been able to expand hospital-based victim services through the CVI initiative, and at the same time, raise awareness of why victim services are such an essential part of these programs.
- After a long hiatus, we brought back OVC’s field-generated solicitation to harness the creativity and unmet needs of the victim services field by giving applicants wide flexibility to propose new and innovative programs of their choice. One of these programs turned out to be the Youth Advocacy Corps. The Corps is a pilot program led by the National Organization for Victim Assistance and it aims to provide student fellows at minority-based institutions with training, mentorship, and a paid field-placement in a local victim service organization. These young people represent the future of victim services and I am excited to see how they inspire and shape the field of practice.
- And last year, OVC released the beautifully designed Child Victims and Witnesses Support Materials, which offer creative, interactive books to help children and youth, and the caregivers and professionals who help them, navigate the judicial system. The books are focused on criminal court and child welfare systems; young survivors of human trafficking; and child victims from Tribal communities. Selected materials were translated into multiple languages, and selected ones were released on audiobooks, as well. Since the launch of these materials, they have been viewed more than 80,000 times.
- And lastly, OVC played a supporting role in the preparation of the White House National Plan to End Gender-Based Violence—the first one ever. It was the culmination of nearly 2 years of effort and collaboration between representatives from more than a dozen federal agencies, as well as survivors, advocates, researchers, experts, and policymakers from throughout the Nation. OVC will continue to provide support through its implementation and beyond.
But even after making these investments and even more, we know that there are many communities and organizations across the country that are not aware of OVC’s grant funding or any of our resources. And we want to change this.
As a start, in 2021, we funded the National Center for Culturally Responsive Victim Services to facilitate technical assistance to increase access to services for underserved and marginalized communities.
The Center worked with OVC’s Communities of Color Working Group to hold a listening session on improving access for underserved communities and they gave us some terrific ideas. They suggested using “trusted intermediaries” to administer subgrants to community-based organizations to give access where it didn’t exist before; they recommended using an intentional “equity framework” in the development of our funding solicitations; and they encouraged us to recruit peer reviewers with culturally and racially diverse backgrounds to ensure that our expert reviewers reflect the communities we serve.
And I am happy to report that we have implemented and enhanced all three of these suggestions, which we believe will be instrumental in our efforts to increase equity in victim services.
Now, speaking of access and equity, as I mentioned last month, we have been updating the VOCA Victim Compensation Guidelines to ensure that all victims of crime have access to crime victim compensation. And we know that many communities are unaware that these benefits exist or they are denied the benefits for various reasons.
We have undertaken an extensive process for conducting the outreach, the research, and the stakeholder engagement necessary to put forward good recommendations for the changes that are needed. We have listened to survivors, direct service providers, state administrators, national advocacy organizations, and federal and Tribal leaders.
Our next step is to publish the recommended updates in the Federal Register through a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. Once the Notice is published, there’ll be an open comment period to gather additional input. So if you believe that you have not had your opportunity to provide input, you will get that chance again. And our goal is to have all of this done by the end of 2024.
Crime victim compensation is extremely important to victims and survivors of mass violence incidents. Since I’ve been OVC Director, our office has provided support for nearly a dozen communities impacted by mass violence. I personally visited several of these communities. And as a result of those trips, I learned that the response to mass violence must not only be trauma-informed, but it must also be culturally appropriate.
We cannot use a cookie cutter approach and we cannot dictate to a community what we think they need. Our responses need to demonstrate and reflect an understanding of the community’s people, their traditions, how they seek help, and who they trust in the community for information and support. This year, we issued a competitive solicitation to continue funding the Mass Violence Victimization Resource Center, an essential resource for responders, service providers, and survivors.
One of the wonderful things about the past 2 years is that we began to hold in-person meetings and events again. I’m going to just tell you about a few.
- In 2022, we held the first in-person NCVRW Candlelight Vigil in 10 years and it took place on the National Mall on a beautiful spring evening. We replicated that again, in 2023. And we look forward to another vigil next year in 2024.
- In October 2022, we hosted an in-person roundtable at the IACP conference—IACP is the International Association of Chiefs of Police—with police chiefs and victim service directors to hear about the benefits of co-locating victim services in police departments. And that led to a successful proposal to the IACP to present a workshop at this year’s conference and bring these discussions to a larger audience.
- In December of ‘22, we hosted the long-awaited, in-person, 17th National Indian Nations Conference in Palm Springs, California. It was the first time that we’d had this conference in 4 years and nearly 2,000 people joined us.
- And then, this past January, we commemorated OVC’s 20-year anniversary of anti-trafficking efforts with a special in-person event in DOJ’s Great Hall of Justice. A true highlight of the event featured homemade video clips from human trafficking grantees and advocates across the country talking about what they’ve been able to do with human trafficking funding.
And as a matter of fact, today, in partnership with the Office on Violence Against Women, we’re holding an in-person roundtable with prosecutors from across the country to discuss the greatest challenges to the implementation of victim-centered, trauma-informed prosecution practices. I’m grateful to our OVW partners, to Aequitas, and to the wonderful prosecutors who joined us today.
Even though we moved back to in-person events, we’re still hosting all kinds of webinars. In fact, we hosted one webinar on navigating OVC’s resources—a sort of OVC 101 for programs and organizations that might not be familiar with OVC. We covered the OVC website, funding resources, training and technical assistance, and more. But the best part: for the first time ever, we offered the webinar in both English and Spanish. And we hope to do more of that in the future.
In the 2 years I’ve been Director, we’ve tried very hard to increase YOUR access to US. For example:
- In September of ‘22, we launched From the Director’s Desk as an information sharing tool—as a way for me to speak directly to you, transparently about the Crime Victims Fund, new resources and initiatives, and about the challenges that I know that you all face.
- In addition, we began publishing Crime Victims Fund deposits, trends, charts, and other information on our website.
- We designed and released a new OVC logo and tagline to better convey our priorities to the field. The logo’s open doors illustrate the importance of offering a diversity of options, and access, and services, and information for crime victims and survivors and ensuring that they are survivor- and trauma-informed and culturally representative.
So, I’m going to stop here. Believe me, I could go on all day! These are just a sample of OVC’s accomplishments from the past 2 years. All of these activities and many more will be highlighted in the forthcoming, Report to the Nation, which will be available on our website in the coming weeks.
It’s important that I give a shoutout to OVC. I’m talking about all of these wonderful accomplishments, and there is no possible way that we could’ve done all of these things, if I didn’t have the most talented and dedicated staff here at OVC, whose commitment to improving criminal justice and community responses to crime victims is second to none. Their enthusiasm and their strong work ethic are what keeps OVC moving forward. Thank you, thank you OVC!
And now, onto the CVF.
- The amount of money deposited into the CVF in May was $18.8 million dollars. And as of May 31, the Crime Victims Fund balance was $2.4 billion dollars. As you know, this does not take into consideration the programs we still have left to fund this year in Fiscal Year ‘23. When you remove those commitments, the balance of the Fund is about $668 million.
- Deposits are hard to predict, as they are so inconsistent from month-to-month, but we’re estimating that the balance of the CVF at the start of Fiscal Year ‘24 will be approximately $1.3 billion. As always, we will keep you updated on the status of the CVF each month on our website and in this briefing.
- And lastly, a very important announcement. After taking a year off from making our annual National Crime Victim Service Awards, we are pleased to announce that, as of right now, the 2024 National Crime Victims’ Rights Week nomination period is officially open!
- Now, we have made some changes to the process and to the categories, ones that we hope will make it more exciting than ever. We are accepting nominations in five categories—yes, FIVE—and they are due August 10. The categories are:
- the National Crime Victim Service Award,
- the Allied Professional Award,
- the Survivor Voices Award,
- the Building Knowledge Through Research Award, and
- the Tomorrow’s Leader Award.
- Check out our website for descriptions of each category. And please think about nominating a deserving person to recognize their contributions to the victim services field. So in addition to the vigil, we will be having an award’s ceremony in 2024 too.
So, next week, I will be speaking at the Parents Of Murdered Children Conference in Atlanta, and then gearing up for our annual VOCA State Administrator’s Conference in Chicago, Illinois.
And with that, I’ll conclude this special edition of From the Director’s Desk. Thank you for indulging me. Being appointed to lead OVC has been one of the greatest privileges and experiences of my professional life.
I’ve enjoyed meeting so many of you, learning from you, and being inspired by you. I look forward to keeping these conversations going over the next 18 months.
And as always, thank you for your service to crime survivors and for doing your part to help them find their justice.
Opinions or points of view expressed in these recordings represent those of the speakers and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice. Any commercial products and manufacturers discussed in these recordings are presented for informational purposes only and do not constitute product approval or endorsement by the U.S. Department of Justice.