The Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) was signed into law in 1984 and was created to assist and compensate victims and survivors of crime which includes the victims of child abuse that our Children's Advocacy Centers (CACs) serve. One of the most underrated but important aspects of the bill is that the funding comes from federal criminal fines, forfeitures, and special assessments, but, not from tax dollars.
We need every member of the South Carolina Network of Children's Advocacy Centers (SCNCAC), multidisciplinary team (MDT) members, and supporters to help us reach out to Congress about Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) funding, which is in danger of serious and long-term cuts unless we act as a movement to stop it.
There are two issues before Congress that we all need to pay attention to and reach out to our members of Congress (Senator Scott, Senator Graham, and your representatives in the House. We need to ask them to fund VOCA as fully as possible. Our South Carolina CACs use VOCA funds to pay for victim advocates, forensic interviewers, medical services, and mental health services. Any cut in funding will result in fewer kids getting the help they need. CACs in South Carolina used VOCA funding to provide these services to 10,690 child abuse victims last year.
As noted above, VOCA funds are non-tax dollars that arise from criminal convictions. But as we all know, not every case ends in a conviction—some cases result in deferred prosecutions or non-prosecution agreements but still carry monetary penalties. However, the monetary penalties in deferred prosecutions and non-prosecution cases are not currently included in the VOCA fund. The “VOCA fix” would allow for such penalties to be included—and would go a long way toward stabilizing the fund. Ask your member of the House and your senators to support a permanent solution—so these funds are not in jeopardy every year—by fixing it so that all monetary penalties from federal prosecution settlements flow into the VOCA fund.
One of the great benefits is that our work has bipartisan support. Working to help child victims of abuse heal, recover, and thrive is not a Republican or a Democratic issue—it is a human issue. And please note for those reading this that are MDT professionals: Reaching out to Congress about VOCA is not considered lobbying. It’s educating your members of Congress (who want to hear from you as a constituent) about the impact on your CAC and community if these funds are cut.
Dear [staffer name],
My name is [your name and CAC name if you are with a CAC], and I am a constituent writing you from [your location]. The professionals at our Children's Advocacy Center (CAC), are first responders in addressing child abuse by bringing together a coordinated team of experts in medicine, law enforcement, victim advocacy, mental health, and other disciplines to both hold offenders accountable and help children and families heal in a comprehensive, seamless way so no future is out of reach. CACs, as well as other victim service providers for programs serving survivors of child abuse, domestic violence, sexual assault, trafficking, drunk driving, homicide, and other crimes, rely heavily on Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) grants. VOCA also supplements state victim compensation funds. VOCA grants are not taxpayer-funded; instead, VOCA is funded by monetary penalties from federal criminal convictions. As the Department of Justice is entering into more deferred prosecution and non-prosecution agreements, the money available for VOCA grants has dropped dramatically. As a result, grants for victim services were cut 25% last year, and victim service providers are facing further potentially catastrophic cuts in their VOCA grants in the coming year.
[If applicable and you are a CAC/MDT member, explain how cuts to victim services and victim compensation grants will impact your community. This is where you can include a proposed 40% cut to services. If you are a supporter who is not a professional with a CAC/MDT you can just state that you are concerned about the VOCA cuts having an impact on services provided to child abuse victims in your community.]
For this reason, I urge House and Senate appropriators to release as much as possible from the Crime Victims Fund in the Fiscal Year 2021 Appropriations budget. In addition, I urge including a VOCA fix that seeks to put VOCA grants on a more sustainable path. You may have already received a letter on this fix. Among other things, this fix redirects monetary penalties from deferred and non-prosecution agreements to the VOCA fund and increases the federal government’s contribution to state victim compensation funds.
As a constituent and as someone who cares deeply about victims and survivors, I urge you to take immediate action in support of the solutions included in the letter above.
So that is what we are asking all CAC supporters and CAC/MDT professionals to do, copy, paste and send emails to your members of Congress as soon as possible. It is not an exaggeration to say that the future of our CACs in South Carolina, and of our ability to help child victims and survivors in the way we are currently doing is in jeopardy. Please take the time to reach out to Congress today, before it is too late.