Opinion Columns & Blogs

Strength, resilience, justice – and money – for California crime victims

Watercolor art by Susan Levy was part of a show of art by crime victims, survivors and their relatives.
Watercolor art by Susan Levy was part of a show of art by crime victims, survivors and their relatives. MCT

Imagine installing a wheelchair ramp into your home because injuries from a violent crime left you permanently disabled.

Imagine requiring years of expensive mental health treatment because you relive a violent crime in your mind on a daily basis.

Imagine relocating because your partner has threatened to harm you for leaving him.

Imagine burying a child lost to a violent crime.

These are realities for many victims in the aftermath of a crime.

Every April, communities across the nation come together to observe National Crime Victims’ Rights Week. It’s a time to offer support, demonstrate unity and honor those who have been victimized by violence.

“Strength, resilience, justice” are three words that resonate deeply for many survivors of violent crime. .

Strength represents the unity of first responders, community-based organizations, medical staff and government agencies coming together to support victims in their time of need.

Resilience epitomizes a victim’s resolve to cope, heal and recover with their trauma.

Justice represents court-ordered restitution and fines that sentenced offenders are ordered to pay to victims.

While the Pew Research Center reports that violent crime has fallen sharply over the last few decades, there is still work to be done for crime victims. The California Coalition Against Sexual Assault reports there are more than 2 million female rape survivors in the state.

The U.S. Department of Justice cites that less than 50 percent of the public report violent crimes and the federal Office for Victims of Crime conveys that people with physical disabilities are three times more likely to be crime victims.

It’s no secret that crime victims face an uphill struggle to recovery. Many experience victim blaming or shaming, or financial devastation. The physical wounds can heal, but the mental anguish can last a lifetime. Untreated trauma contributes to chronic pain, depression and sleep problems that impede a person's ability to work and interact with others.

In 2016, more than 50,000 applicants applied to the California Victim Compensation Board (CalVCB) for financial help to obtain treatment and services to heal.

For many, CalVCB is the last hope to cover crime-related expenses such as medical and mental health treatment, funeral and burial costs, relocation and income loss. The program is funded through monies collected by those who commit crimes, not taxpayer dollars, and has been helping victims for more than 50 years.

No one expects to become a victim of crime, but when it happens, we want all Californians to know that help and resources are available.

Julie Nauman of Sacramento is executive officer of the California Victim Compensation Board. Connect with her at (916)491-6400.