In commemoration of National Crime Victims' Rights Week (NCVRW), April 7 - 13, the St. Croix County Victim Witness Assistance Program would like to raise awareness about crime victims' issues, and rights and introduce the community to the important resources and services available. According to the most recent Bureau of Justice Statistics' National Crime Victimization Survey, U.S. residents age 12 or older experienced 3.1 million violent victimizations and U.S. households experienced an estimated 13.3 million property crimes in 2017.
The Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) leads communities throughout the country in their annual observances of NCVRW by promoting victims' rights and honoring crime victims and those who advocate on their behalf. This year's them - Honoring our Past. Creating Hope for the Future - encourages commemoration, honor and respect toward the crime victim advocates, allied professionals and selfless volunteers who have courageously worked for increased rights for crime victims. The theme also invites us to look toward a future of inclusive, accessible and innovative resources and services for survivors.
"I can be changed by what happens to me, but I refuse to be reduced by it." - Maya Angelou (1928 - 2014)
Survivors face many barriers, resulting from both internal and external factors, when deciding whether to report their victimization. The National Crime Victimization Survey administered by the Bureau of Justice Statistics found that in 2017, only 45 percent of violent victimizations were reported to law enforcement. To understand this statistic, the context around barriers to reporting should be explored. Some victims may not know the benefits of reporting a crime. They may think that their story feels insignificant, or they may wish to forget the incident and focus on recovery. Every victimization is significant, as it impacts the survivor and the larger community.
Reporting to law enforcement enables a survivor to apply for crime victim compensation, which is financial assistance that covers some expenses incurred after victimization. Survivors may also report a crime to open the possibility of achieving justice from their offenders, which can be a meaningful part of recovery. However, the decision to report is not always easy to make. For some victims, the consequences of reporting may outweigh the benefits. They may be afraid that their offender will retaliate and commit another, more severe crime. In other cases, victims may be reliant on their offenders for financial support, caretaking, or other resources. Some victims may not have the necessary additional support if their offenders are jailed or if protection orders are issued. To protect their own safety and wellbeing, these victims may choose not to report their victimizations. Physical and logistical barriers may also prevent a victim from reporting a crime. Some survivors may lack transportation to a police station or lack access to a translator if they would like to report a crime in their preferred language.
Reporting a personal victimization is a decision that requires consideration of numerous factors, which differ dramatically in each case of victimization. We should support victims no matter which path they choose and encourage them to recover in a way that keeps them safe and encourages resilience. If you or someone you know has been the victim of a crime, the St. Croix County Victim Witness Assistance Program is here to connect you with resources. Please feel free to contact our office at 715-377-5828