Maximizing the Potential of VOCA Funding for Underserved Survivors
We are at a moment of extraordinary opportunity for victims of crime. In 2015, the federal budget for Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) funds increased by $1.6 billion—from $745 million to $2.361 billion.1 These funds represent the single largest source of funding for victim services in the United States. An increase of this size is unprecedented for VOCA.
Now with an infusion of funds that—if sustained beyond 2016—will more than triple the size of the field, we have an opportunity to finally address the needs of victims of crime who have been excluded from services. The new funds can help bring services to the neighborhoods most affected by violence and least supported in its aftermath, particularly low-income communities of color. And we can do so while at the same time expanding resources to essential existing programs that serve victims of crime. We know expanded victim services can have far-reaching impact. Thirty years of advocacy for victims has brought about lasting, paradigmatic change in our culture’s response to
Thirty years of advocacy for victims has brought about lasting, paradigmatic change in our culture’s response to domestic and sexual assault, and reached millions of victims of these and other crimes. But despite the formidable work of many, the victim services field has not achieved equity in service delivery. Victims of certain crimes and from certain backgrounds are too often left out.4 Whether because of limited resources, lack of information, implicit bias, or an emphasis on partnership with law enforcement, the field has struggled to reach many survivors including immigrants; young people of color; people with disabilities; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) people; and other historically marginalized communities.
When people belong to more than one of these groups, they are even more likely to be excluded from services. Closing this gap will require, in part, correcting long-standing misperceptions about who survives crime. For instance, while rarely depicted as such in media, young men of color are among those most likely to be crime victims in the United States.