Friday, September 12, 2014

Reaching Victims in the Social Sphere

What do the 1.3 billion active Facebook users have in common? Or the 645 million Twitter, 300 million LinkedIn, and 200 million Instagram users? They make themselves reachable. Marketers have known this for years, and have taken advantage by aggressively targeting consumers through their social media networks. There is no doubt that social media provides great potential to reach specific audiences, and the California Victim Compensation Program (CalVCP) is demonstrating how government agencies can tap into this digital dialogue to better serve their citizens.

CalVCP processes over 50,000 applications for services to victims and survivors of crime each year, an average of almost 1,000 each week. Still, nearly half of violent crimes are never reported — that’s almost 50% of victims who are not represented in published statistics. How can we reach these hidden populations? Enter social media. While CalVCP continues to conduct traditional outreach through advertising, PSA's, event participation and the like, we recognize the importance of joining the online discussion to better assist victims of crime.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Stand With Your Neighborhood on National Night Out


Tonight, on the 31st anniversary of National Night Out (NNO), communities and neighborhoods across the nation will stand together to promote crime prevention awareness, safety, and neighborhood unity. August 5th is “America’s Night Out Against Crime,” an annual observance highlighting the importance of police-community partnerships and citizen involvement in our fight for a safer nation.

The National Night Out campaign is designed to:
  • Heighten crime and drug prevention awareness;
  • Generate support for, and participation in, local anti-crime programs;
  • Strengthen neighborhood spirit and police-community partnerships; and
  • Send a message to criminals letting them know that neighborhoods are organized and fighting back.
National Night Out 2013 brought together over 37.8 million people in 16,242 communities from all 50 states, U.S. territories, Canadian cities, and military bases worldwide. NNO activities include front porch vigils, block parties, cookouts, parades, festivals, visits from local officials and law enforcement, safety fairs, and youth events. National Night Out 2014 is expected to be the largest yet.


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Elder and Dependent Adult Abuse in California

By Heidi Richardson, Program Specialist, Sacramento County Adult Protective Services

A young woman and her 89 year-old great-grandmother, who barely weighed 90 lbs., entered the bank to withdraw cash from the older woman’s account. As they left, the teller watched the young woman treating the older woman harshly while impatiently pushing her into the car. The teller reviewed the account and found suspicious transactions. She reported her concerns to APS. When APS visited the home, they found a malnourished and isolated woman with serious untreated medical conditions and almost no food in the home. She required hospitalization.

The National Elder Mistreatment Study found that one in ten adults over age 65 reported experiencing at least one form of mistreatment — emotional, physical, sexual or potential neglect — in the past year.
The case described above is an example of a report investigated by Adult Protective Services (APS). In fiscal year 2012/13, APS programs in California received 125,653 reports of financial abuse, physical abuse, neglect, isolation, abandonment, abduction, and psychological abuse of elders and dependent adults. County APS agencies investigate these reports and arrange for services such as advocacy, counseling, money management, out-of-home placement, or conservatorship. APS can connect victims with medical providers, community services, and trusted family members in hopes of helping the older or dependent adult regain their health and independence.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Beyond the Physical Damage of Violent Crime

By Julie Nauman, VCGCB Executive Officer

It has been said that pain and suffering are natural elements of the universal human condition. Most of us will experience some degree of trauma in our lifetime, but our responses to that trauma will vary significantly based on a variety of factors including genetics, disposition, temperament, and early home life. Mental health professionals cannot pinpoint a single, universal reason that some victims display more resilience to the crippling effects of trauma; however, they do know that there is a strong link between violent crime and ensuing psychological distress. For this reason, mental health services can be a critical resource for victims.

On the heels of recent tragedies like the Isla Vista shooting and the Reynolds High attack in Troutdale, OR, it is certainly important to consider the factors that may cause criminal conduct and to address the role of our mental health system in violence prevention; yet, it is equally important to address the well-being of victims and to recognize the host of mental health challenges they face as a result of violent crime.

Over one-third of California Victim Compensation Program (CalVCP) payouts are mental health-related. Last year, the program provided over $21 million to crime victims for mental health expenses alone, proof that physical injury is far from the only major impact of violent crime.

CalVCP Staff Psychologist Dr. James Kent explains that violent crime leaves behind not just tangible scars, but also serves as a mental reminder that the world isn’t as orderly and safe as we’d like to believe. As victims attempt to cope with the aftermath of a violent crime, they may experience debilitating psychological and emotional effects that persist long after physical wounds have healed. According to Dr. Kent, symptom responses can include anxiety, depression, diminished self-esteem, self-fault, increased dependence, feelings of incompetence. Victimization can also result in shock, numbness, denial, hyper-vigilance, anger or irritability, detachment or estrangement of others, memory loss or forgetfulness, sleeping disorders, and recurring flashbacks or intrusive thoughts. Child victims have been known to suffer long-term mental health effects leading to poor academic performance, aggression, antisocial behavior, and substance abuse.

CalVCP is dedicated to assisting victims with expenses related to inpatient and outpatient mental health treatment that is necessary as a direct result of a qualifying violent crime. In addition, minors who suffer emotional injuries from witnessing a violent crime may be eligible for up to $5,000 in mental health counseling. This filing status can be especially valuable in instances such as school shootings, when a minor witness is not related to the victim but was in close proximity to the crime. By providing financial assistance and resources, CalVCP strives to promote healing and allow victims the opportunity to restore their lives to their fullest potential.


To learn more about the mental health benefits available through CalVCP, watch our Victim Services Talk Series (Ep. 4, "Mental Health Services for Victims") or visit our Victim Issues webpage.


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, June 27, 2014

9 Ways You Could Be Inviting Cybercrime

By Julie Nauman, VCGCB Executive Officer

We teach our children to use the buddy system. We remind them to look both ways before crossing the street. We instruct them not to accept gifts from strangers. But one of the most dangerous threats of all lies in the place many of us consider to be the safest: our own home.

Despite all of the precautions we take to protect our families and safeguard our residences, none of us are immune to the risks of the internet. Our computers, smartphones, and tablets allow us to access boundless information and communicate with people all over the world; unfortunately, these virtual connections also expose our vulnerabilities and leave us open to online predators.

In honor of National Internet Safety Month this June, here are a few common ways that you may be inviting cybercriminals into your home, and what you can do to safeguard yourself and your family from identity theft, fraud, harassment, cyberstalking, and more.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Mending the Sacred Hoop: Native American Victims’ Services

Native Americans are 2.5 times more likely to experience sexual assault than any other race, and one in three American Indian women reports having been raped during her lifetime.1 Although they suffer some of the highest abuse rates of any group in the United States, Native Americans remain significantly underrepresented in the victim services community. Cultural and linguistic obstacles, as well as a lack of physical access to services, keep many from reporting crimes, while a deep-seated mistrust of the justice system and unclear legal jurisdiction2 prevent others from coming forward.

In an effort to reshape this status quo, passionate advocates like Mary Thompson, Domestic Violence Advocate and Cultural Coordinator at the Sacramento Native American Health Center (SNAHC), are working hard to reach out to underserved Native American communities in Northern California. The Sacramento Native American Health Center is a comprehensive clinic that provides wraparound services to improve the health and well-being of Native American Indians. As the only Native American clinic in the greater Sacramento region with a cultural component, the SNAHC works with women, men, and families to promote a holistic approach to victim healing and recovery.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Innovation in Victims’ Services: Courthouse Dogs

In many ways, Aloha is just like any other playful pup. She loves to roll in the grass, chase her handler’s young daughters, and chew on her favorite red toy. But Aloha is not your average dog. She is a courthouse dog; an extraordinary canine who provides paws-itive support to victims of violent crime. The one and a half-year-old Australian multigenerational labradoodle, with her captivating green eyes and a bright pink nose, is one of two companion dogs that serve the Yolo County District Attorney’s office.
From right: Yolo County District Attorney Jeff Reisig, Government Operations Agency Secretary Marybel Batjer, and County Victim Services Program Manager Laura Valdes, with Aloha

District Attorney Jeff Reisig introduced the working dog program to Yolo County in 2008. The concept developed out of the notion that dogs — as man’s best friends — might provide a comforting and reassuring presence to crime survivors during victim/witness interviews and courtroom interrogations.

Aloha was bred and trained at Gabby Jack Ranch, a nonprofit organization out of Penn Valley, California that provides service, therapy and comfort dogs for people with physical and/or emotional challenges. She began her service training when she was just ten weeks old with Training Coordinator Terry Sandhoff, and is now part of an elite team formally known as High Performance Therapy (HPT) Dogs focused specifically on aiding the victim services community. In order to most effectively support survivors, who often suffer enduring psychological disabilities such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Aloha has undergone extensive, specialized training focused on the needs of victim services.
“Therapy dogs help people victimized by others to open up, tell someone and turn their traumatic events into personal triumph.”
—Gabby Jack Ranch founder and CEO Jacque Reynolds

Canine companions like Aloha are trained to assist crime victims and witnesses as they prepare for court and while testifying in trials, as well as to build courage and confidence in their ability to open up about the crimes they have been too afraid or too ashamed to face. In addition, the temperament, intelligence and friendly dispositions of HPT dogs make them very successful in comforting both adults and children alike. For kids, pups like Aloha serve as “a friend to whom they can share all of the horrors, tell all of their fears and receive non-judgmental and unconditional acceptance,” shares Gabby Jack Ranch founder and CEO Jacque Reynolds.