Victims of violent crimes suffer serious psychological, social, and economic injuries resulting from the crime that may continue long after their physical injuries have healed. In recognition of the financial consequences of crime victimization, the Crime Victims Compensation program is designed to reimburse crime victims for expenses incurred as a consequence of the crime.
The Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) in the U.S. Department of Justice administers the federal Crime Victims Compensation (CVC) program. CVC is funded through fines and penalties paid by federal criminal offenders. Federal regulations require each state to offer CVC to victims of “compensable crimes,” including crimes involving sexual assault, child abuse, and domestic violence.
OVC reimburses state programs for 60% of all eligible payments from the previous year. Each state may add its own funds to its program. Eligible expenses include medical bills, mental health counseling, loss of wages, funeral expenses, and relocation expenses for battered women. Other expenses that may be covered are eyeglasses, dental services, prosthetic devices, crime scene clean-up, replacement costs for clothing and bedding held as evidence, and annuities for child victims for loss of support. States are also required to pay the full out-of-pocket cost of sexual assault medical forensic examinations to receive STOP Violence Against Women Formula Grant funds even if the victim did not report the crime to law enforcement. Expenses not covered by most programs include theft and property loss.
Laws governing compensation vary from state to state, with each state responsible for establishing limits on awards, guidelines, and procedures for applying for benefits. Victims must report the crime to the police, cooperate with law enforcement and prosecutors, and apply for compensation within a stated period to be eligible for compensation, whether or not the offender is caught or convicted. Victims must also show that they did not contribute to the crime. Maximum awards generally range from $10,000 to $25,000, though compensation is paid only when other financial resources, such as private insurance and offender restitution, do not cover the total loss associated with the crime.
Victims must present evidence of their losses, which may include police reports and investigative files, medical or funeral bills, employer’s reports for lost wages, prosecutor’s reports, presentence reports, and insurance reports. Law enforcement officers and victim advocates provide information about CVC to victims. Information can also be found through the state attorney general’s office.
- Danis, F. S. (2003). Domestic violence and crime victim compensation: A research agenda. Violence Against Women, 9, 374–390.
- Office for Victims of Crime. (1999). Victims of Crime Act crime victims’ fund. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs.