Victims' Rights Caucus

Speeches

Victims of Crime Act

Apr 14 2005

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak for a group that live in the silent storm of stressful sadness. They live with the vicious wounds of being a victim of crime in America. To be a victim, to be chosen to be the prey by a predator, to have a life stolen or broken by criminal conduct, Mr. Speaker, it is a terrible and tragic travesty. But to have your own government desert you, abandon you, too, is an injustice. It is an injustice to the injured, to the innocent, to the victims.

Mr. Speaker, the Victims of Crime Act, VOCA, the VOCA fund was created in 1984 by President Ronald Reagan to provide the most consistent stable source of funding for services to crime victims. It included counseling, victim advocacy programs, safety planning, State victim compensation funds that would help crime victims recover the costs associated with being a victim. Yet the current budget proposes to rescind the over $1.2 billion presently in this fund and redirect its resources to the Department of the Treasury, where it will be treated in the general revenue. It would go to the greater business of the general fund.

Mr. Speaker, VOCA funds, these funds that we are talking about, are not derived from taxpayers paying dollars to the Treasury of the United States. But these funds come from fines and forfeitures and fees paid by convicted Federal offenders. This is an offender's accountability for the harm they have caused when they committed the crimes against citizens. It is a wonderful, successful idea. It makes outlaws pay for the damage they have caused; makes them pay for the system that they have created. It makes them financially pay the victims for these crimes.

In fact, there are over 4,400 programs that provide vital victim assistance services to nearly 4 million victims a year because of these funds that are contributed by criminals.

Half of these victims receiving these services are victims of domestic violence. Other victims are victims of sexual assaults, child abuse, drunk driving, elder abuse, robbery, assault, and old-fashioned stealing. They receive this type of assistance through shelters and rape crisis centers, child abuse treatment programs. Prosecutors' offices received help, law enforcement agencies and victim advocates. All of these agencies received funds paid into this fund by criminals.

State crime victims compensation funds with VOCA funds help crime victims to pay for out-of-pocket expenses that they incurred while the criminal committed a crime against them. These expenses include medical care, counseling, lost wages, funeral costs, and many, many more.

You see, when a crime occurs, the victim has no recourse financially against a criminal, even though the criminal may be convicted and sent to our Federal penitentiaries. Criminals just do not have any money. So victims are compensated through this fund through fees paid by other criminals.

Many victims, when they suffer criminal conduct against them, have no insurance. This is what they look to to save their livelihood and their lives. Without victims' compensation funds in the United States, funded by VOCA programs, paid by the defendants, victims have two choices, live without this aid or ask taxpayers to pay in some form of taxation what defendants are now paying for and what defendants should pay for in the future.

Mr. Speaker, as the founder of the Victims Rights Caucus along with the gentlewoman from Florida (Ms. Harris) and on the other side of the aisle the gentleman from California (Mr. Costa), all of us are united in this decision that reducing VOCA funding is an injustice to the people of the United States, the good people, the people who never asked to be victims of crime but yet they were chosen by some criminal to be a victim.

It is ironic, Mr. Speaker, this is Victims Rights Week, the week that we proclaim in the United States the worth and value of victims, and yet it is the week that