Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Reflections on Exciting Changes to Victim Compensation

By Julie Nauman, VCGCB Executive Officer

As we head into the busy holiday season, I wanted to take a moment to share with you all the important activities that have recently occurred at the Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board in the fall and my hope that they lead to improved support and added benefit for victims across California.

First, we had two successful conferences – one in Southern California at UCLA, the other, in Northern California, at UC Davis – that attracted more than 450 victim service advocates, compensation staff and law enforcement officers. Our subject – collaboration and how to best reach and help the State’s underserved victims – was well-received and embraced by our audience. These engaging events also provided great networking opportunities and motivation for all of us to continue to carry on the good work we do on behalf of California’s survivors. We are gathering feedback from the attendees and hope to build on the best of those events with another series of conferences next year.

We have also made great strides effecting positive change through our Modernization Initiative. As the nation’s first, and largest, victim compensation program in America, we want to continue to lead the nation by ensuring that our laws, regulations and policies support rather than impede our efforts to get victims the help they need.

One such new law, AB 1140, was authored by Assemblymember Rob Bonta of Oakland and goes into effect on January 1, 2016. This legislation modernizes program statutes, improves access to benefits and eliminates some eligibility restrictions for victims. The bill was the culmination of months of planning and collaboration, and involved many valuable contributors from the victim services community, along with the leadership of Assemblymember Bonta. We wish to thank Assemblymember Bonta and his staff, and all of you for your support of this important piece of legislation.

And just last month, our Board directed us to pursue a wide range of benefit changes to help victims of violent crime. These measures, which will involve either regulatory or legislative processes before they can become effective, include increasing a number of benefits, such as relocation and crime-scene cleanup, and extending new benefits to aid our claimants – child care, case management and transportation, to name just a few. We have also been given authorization from the Board to raise our overall benefit cap from $63,000 to $70,000 – the previous cap prior to the rough economic downturn that hit all of us hard.

We have begun work on these changes and will share more information with you about each proposed benefit enhancement as we move into the new year.

Looking ahead, we plan to work with you and other victim service leaders more collaboratively through a multi-faceted Collaboration Plan we developed through a grant provided by the federal Office for Victims of Crime. This Plan will feature new trainings, updated publications, educational videos and outreach designed to best reach underserved populations in the State.

I will share more updates as we move forward with these exciting new plans, and how you can get involved.

Thank you for all that you do to help our survivors. We can’t do it without you. And neither can they.

Have a wonderful and safe holiday with friends and family!

Julie Nauman is the Executive Officer for the Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board (VCGCB). VCGCB provides compensation for victims of violent crime and helps to resolve claims against the State.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Domestic Violence Awareness Month

By Julie Nauman, VCGCB Executive Officer

The question we ask ourselves during Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM), and throughout the year, is how do we, as a community, turn awareness into action? How do we spark a change across the state?

“Silence Hides Violence: Be a Voice” was the California Victim Compensation Program’s (CalVCP) theme and call to action during DVAM as we step up to make a change and encourage others to do the same.

Domestic violence affects 12 million people every year in the U.S. including men, women, and children. It has many faces as it knows no gender, race or ethnicity. It is no secret that domestic violence occurs; however, it is a silent problem. We must be a voice for domestic violence survivors.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Domestic Violence: Driving Change

By Virginia Witt, Director, NO MORE

Domestic Violence affects over 12 million people in the U.S. every year. Nearly 3 in 10 women and 1 in 10 men have experienced rape, physical violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner. Sadly, domestic violence also affects our children. The U.S. Advisory Board on Child Abuse and Neglect suggests that domestic violence may be a major precursor to child abuse and neglect fatalities in this country. It can happen to anyone, regardless of race, gender, religion, sexual orientation or economic status.

Victims and perpetrators of domestic violence are people we know in our families, churches, schools and neighborhoods. Although it can be overwhelming to figure out how to help victims and stop these crimes, each of us holds the power to be an active bystander and help prevent further abuse.

In 2013 the NO MORE campaign was launched in partnership with over two dozen national domestic violence and sexual assault organizations and major corporations to serve as a unified voice to bring national attention to these issues.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Going Beyond Awareness to Understanding — In October, the Golden State Turns Purple

By Jessica Merrill, Communications & Development Manager at the California Partnership to End Domestic Violence

You’ve probably heard this familiar statistic: one in four women has experienced domestic violence. But what knowledge should you know to truly understand what survivors go through? To stand with survivors, ensuring that we create a culture where they are supported, believed and protected, it’s essential that we listen to their experiences and gain a nuanced understanding of the ways they’re marginalized.

For example, did you know that teens in abusive relationships are more likely to struggle academically? If we think about the many ways this has consequences in the lives of California’s youth, one solution becomes clear—school policies should address adolescent dating abuse and offer support to those who are affected by it.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

From Victim to Survivor: The Path to Healing

By Christina Newby, Volunteer, Break the Silence Against Domestic Violence

While more and more people are beginning to understand that escaping a domestic violence relationship can be extremely difficult, it is also important to understand that the path to healing is equally challenging. Often, the survivor is in a state of crisis immediately following her escape. Her entire life has been turned on its head, and she is frantically searching for safety and stability. Even worse, she is trying to understand it all: “Why did I choose him? Why did he abuse me? What did I do wrong? What could I have done to make it work? How could he act like that if he said he loved me?” The questions seem endless.

Too often victims get caught up trying to fix the past. They try to understand the abuse, make sense of the abuser’s behavior. It’s normal and healthy to grieve the end of a relationship. But it’s impossible to change the past. And it’s impossible to change another person, especially an abuser.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Q-Spot: A Safe Place for All

By Alysia Angel, Youth Program Coordinator, Sacramento LGBT Community Center

The Sacramento LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) Community Center creates events, programs, and services that help lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people feel welcome, needed, and safe. One such program is called the Q-Spot.

The Q-Spot provides a safe place for LGBT kids to have access to meals and games, serving as a place to make friends while learning new skills. Located at 1927 L Street in Sacramento, the Q-Spot is small but affirming and inviting for youth that don't often receive affirmation for their sexual orientation or gender presentation. The staff and volunteers are trained to meet youth where they are, using harm reduction and empathy to understand what the youth need in that unique moment.

Between 200-250 youth visit the Q-Spot weekly for various services such as showers, food, much needed rest, laundry, and mental health respite. The Q-Spot is dedicated to maintaining community relationships, relying heavily on other organizations such as Wind Youth Services and The Gender Health Center to help serve Sacramento’s youth in the most loving and compassionate way possible.

Unfortunately, sexual assault and domestic violence happen in the LGBT community, too. When someone visits the Q-Spot because of sexual assault or domestic violence, the staff takes time to listen with compassion. They make sure the victim knows that they are valued and heard. Staff can also help victims find more resources in the community to aid them in their road to recovery.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Volunteers in Victim Assistance

It’s not like a job interview where you are able to prepare yourself for the future. You will never expect it to happen to you, and when it does, you probably won’t be prepared or mentally stable for the coming days, months, and years. No one expects to be a victim of violent crime, but in the unfortunate circumstance that violent crime does happen, Volunteers in Victim Assistance (VIVA) will be here for you.

“They can’t function, they can’t work, they can’t do anything,” says VIVA Executive Director Carole McDonald of crime victims. “They can be at a grocery store with a cart full of groceries and it hits, he’s never coming back again. The reality of what happened hits and that’s when they really need help.”

Located at 2020 Hurley Way in Sacramento, VIVA has been in operation under McDonald’s care for 32 years.

Crisis intervention, counseling, individual, family and group therapy, and advocacy are a few of the main services that VIVA offers. Their goal is to offer advocacy and therapy to anyone who walks through their door.

“They [victims] come in right after the crime takes place,” McDonald says. “They’re very confused, in shock, in the midst of funeral costs, and they have post-traumatic stress disorder. It takes a while to sink in.”