The Indiana Criminal Justice (ICJI) is observing National Crime Victims’ Rights Week from April 23-29.
According to a report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, in 2021, there were more than 4.6 million violent victimizations and 11.7 million property crimes, the latest year for which such information is available. From 2017-2019, Indiana was among the states with higher rates of property crimes than the national average.
“As a society, we must understand that victims of crime have already been through so much, and they deserve our full support and attention,” said Devon McDonald, ICJI Executive Director. “We must listen to them, respect their rights, and ensure they have access to the resources they need to heal and move forward. It’s not just about holding offenders accountable, but also about empowering victims and giving them a voice in the criminal justice system and beyond.”
The federal Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) leads communities throughout the country in their annual observances of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week by raising awareness of victims’ rights and honoring crime victims and those who advocate on their behalf. This year’s theme is “Survivor Voices: Elevate. Engage. Effect Change.”
As commemorative vigils and events are held across the state, the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute is ramping up efforts to spread awareness about its Victim Compensation Program and other resources that exist to assist those impacted by violent crime.
“A large part of the work we do at the agency is devoted to supporting crime victims and the organizations that advocate on their behalf,” said Devon McDonald, ICJI Executive Director. “We would prefer that these resources were not necessary, but it is essential for people to know that they are available in the unfortunate event that they become a victim of a crime.”
Established in 1978, the state’s Victim Compensation Program works to make victims and their families whole by covering certain expenses incurred as a result of a violent crime. Compensation, which typically comes in the form of reimbursement to providers, can be used to help with items such as medical bills, funeral costs and counseling services, in certain circumstances.
For instance, the crime must have occurred within the past two years, resulted in physical injury and be reported to law enforcement within 72 hours. If eligible, claimants can be reimbursed up to $15,000 in cases involving bodily injury. If the criminal act resulted in loss of life, the family of the victim may be eligible for an additional $5,000 to recoup funeral and burial expenses.
In 2022, the Indiana General Assembly passed legislation, authored by State Rep. Sharon Negele (R-Attica), that expands the list of expenses eligible for compensation. The program is now able to reimburse costs associated with crime scene cleanup and the replacement of windows or door locks.
In addition to the Victim Compensation Program, ICJI also oversees the Indiana Sexual Assault Kit Tracking System. Survivors who are interested in tracking their sexual assault kits can do so by visiting on.in.gov/TrackMyKit and then entering their sexual assault kit serial number and assigned pin. The website is simple, secure and confidential, and the results are available within seconds.
Along with providing direct support to victims, ICJI also administers several state and federal grant programs to assist organizations in their efforts to provide services and support to victims and prevent violent crime.
For a list of those programs and other CJI resources, like a brochure of sexual assault victims’ rights, visit www.cji.in.gov/victim-services. For victim-centered resources on topics ranging from domestic violence to human trafficking, visit HopeAndHelpIN.org.