Terrorism and criminal mass violence leave victims with serious physical and emotional wounds and challenge government officials and communities to respond immediately with appropriate efforts. Victim assistance and compensation providers face the daunting task of coordinating effective and timely responses, providing information and assistance to victims, and working closely with other agencies and victim service organizations.
OVC Can Help
Through the Antiterrorism and Emergency Assistance Program (AEAP), OVC supports victims and jurisdictions that have experienced incidents of terrorism or mass violence. AEAP is designed to supplement the available resources and services of entities responding to acts of terrorism or mass violence in order to ensure that a program’s resources are sufficient and/or not diverted to these victims to the detriment of other crime victims.
Following the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma, Congress amended the 1984 Victims of Crime Act, authorizing OVC to establish an Antiterrorism Emergency Reserve (Emergency Reserve) using resources from the Crime Victims Fund (the Fund). Every year, OVC can access up to $50 million from the Emergency Reserve that is available beyond the appropriation level for the Fund that Congress establishes annually. The OVC Director can use these Emergency Reserve funds for AEAP.
Qualified applicants include state victim assistance and compensation programs; public agencies, including federal, state, and local governments; federally recognized Indian tribal governments, as determined by the Secretary of the Interior and published in the Federal Register; U.S. Attorneys’ Offices; public institutions of higher education; and nongovernmental and victim service organizations.
OVC also created the Helping Victims of Mass Violence and Terrorism: Planning, Response, Recovery, and Resources Toolkit to help communities prepare for and respond to victims of mass violence and terrorism in the most timely, effective, and compassionate manner possible.
NARRATOR: As incidents in Newtown, Boston, Charleston, Roseburg, San Bernardino, and other locations have shown, terrorism or mass violence tragedies can strike anywhere, at any time. Though every incident of mass violence or terrorism is unique, the United States Department of Justice, Office for Victims of Crime—or OVC—and other Department of Justice agencies can provide resources to help victims.
KRISTA FLANNIGAN, ADJUNCT PROFESSOR, COLLEGE OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE, FLORIDA STATE UNIVERSITY: Probably one of the most essential components to a response is being able to plan and prepare.
NARRATOR: One resource, OVC's online toolkit, Helping Victims of Mass Violence and Terrorism, enables communities to plan for these events or help support traumatized victims in the aftermath.
HERMAN MILLHOLLAND, FORMER DIRECTOR, CRIME VICTIM SERVICES DIVISION, TEXAS OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL: The toolkit, as we call it, is structured in a way that really helps communities, should an event happen. But before an event happens, we're providing you with some guidelines on how to prepare.
NARRATOR: One of the primary tools OVC has at its disposal is the Antiterrorism and Emergency Assistance Program—or AEAP. Each year, OVC has access to up to $50 million from the Emergency Reserve that is available beyond the appropriation from the Crime Victims Fund that Congress establishes annually. The OVC Director can use the Emergency Reserve for AEAP to support victims of terrorism and mass violence. OVC provides funding from the Emergency Reserve to federal agencies, including the FBI, to provide an array of services to these victims. Grants are also available to states, tribes, public agencies, and victim and nongovernmental organizations.
KENT BURBANK, FORMER DIRECTOR, VICTIM SERVICES DIVISION, PIMA COUNTY ATTORNEY’S OFFICE: And our goal is to work with the victims and survivors so that they're able to begin to address and think about what their most pressing needs and concerns are.
NARRATOR: OVC can fund a wide range of mass violence- and terrorism-related victim services such as crisis response, longer-term victim assistance, and victim support during investigations or prosecutions.
KATHRYN TURMAN, ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, OFFICE FOR VICTIM ASSISTANCE, FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION: We look at the responses and the experiences of victims after these events on kind of a continuum, from the really acute, immediate phase to long-term issues.
NARRATOR: In events where the FBI is leading a federal terrorism investigation or is supporting state or local law enforcement in the response and investigation of a nonfederal mass violence act, the FBI Office for Victim Assistance, funded largely by OVC, can also be a valuable victim resource.
KATHRYN TURMAN: Emergency victim assistance, which is administered through our program at the FBI, provides for those immediate needs that can't be met by other resources in a timely manner.
NARRATOR: FBI Victim Specialists can help with activities such as crisis response, death notifications, family assistance centers, victim and family briefings, personal effects management, and select short-term emergency expenses such as travel for out-of-area next of kin who need to support victims or their families. Through AEAP, OVC also has the ability to activate a toll free number on behalf of states, communities, and public agencies to perform a number of victim services. The 1-800 number was activated in 2009 when a gunman fatally shot 13 individuals, wounded 4, and unlawfully imprisoned 40 others at the American Civic Association in Binghamton, New York.
Most of the victims were from foreign countries, and this service allowed them or their families to get information in many languages. A domestic toll free line provided referrals for crime victim services such as crisis counseling or referrals for compensation assistance, including medical expenses, lost wages, or mental health counseling. An international line assisted family members from other countries to make travel arrangements to Binghamton. Interpreters were also available to assist victims' families from other countries. Additionally, the toll free number provided information for people who wished to donate money to support services to victims of this tragedy.
AEAP grants to state victim compensation programs can supplement their funding to compensate victims for out-of-pocket expenses related to their terrorism or mass violence victimization. This funding, provided to state programs, public agencies, or other organizations, may cover expenses not traditionally covered, whether in amount or type, by state crime victim compensation programs. Mass violence and terrorism events not only cause immediate damage but can leave serious and sometimes lifelong physical and emotional wounds, as well as devastating financial costs, as a result of these enduring injuries.
LIAM LOWNEY, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, MASSACHUSETTS OFFICE FOR VICTIM ASSISTANCE: Survivors in all contexts heal from being with other survivors. So we asked for funding to create a Resiliency Center—a one-stop multidisciplinary program to access navigation assistance, behavioral health assistance, but also community.
NARRATOR: Through OVC's Training and Technical Assistance Center—or TTAC—OVC can deploy consultants and trainers to assist communities before, during, or after an event. Consultants may offer support with pre-crisis planning and identifying victim resources. They can also help coordinate victim services, facilitate collaboration among stakeholders, administer victim needs assessments, and help draft an AEAP grant application.
LIAM LOWNEY: The consultants were exceptional at validating our understanding of what we needed to do, giving us some guidance about what we needed to do, connecting us with others who have responded to mass violence before, and addressing many issues that we don't deal with on a regular basis.
NARRATOR: AEAP also allows the OVC Director to fund assistance services to victims of international terrorism. OVC's International Terrorism Victim Expense Reimbursement Program—or ITVERP—provides support to United States citizens, or those working on behalf of the United States Government, who are victims of international terrorism. Support for international victims can extend to funding emergency medevac and other essential victim services, including participation in foreign trials in coordination with Department of Justice components and other federal agencies.
Research suggests that exposure to mass violence can have significant short- and long-term psychological impacts on survivors and may affect the wider community as well. However, through AEAP, victims can receive the services they need to begin to heal, transition into a new phase of their lives, and learn to cope with a changed reality. More details about AEAP, including application information, can be found on the Office for Victims of Crime website, www.ovc.gov/AEAP.
AEAP grants are by invitation only and potential grantees may be invited to submit an application only after consultation with OVC.
This toolkit provides tools and resources for developing a comprehensive victim assistance plan that can be incorporated into your community’s existing emergency response plan.