Victim Support and Victim Rights One can become a victim in an unwarranted situation and may come to feel helpless and passive in the face of misfortune or ill-treatment. This could range from molestation or ill-treatment suffered by a child, elderly abuse, domestic violence, sexual assault, and many to counts. This to very extent does not only harm your physical health but deters your mental health. The legal system helps victims in any situation to get access to financial compensation and any other damages that may incur.
Understanding Victim Support and Victim Rights :
- “Victim compensation is a direct financial reimbursement to a victim for an expense that resulted from a crime, such as medical costs or lost wages.”
The concept of victim rights is a recent one. In addition to this, victim assistance programs were non-existent as well. However, over the years, the legal system has built a guaranteed pathway providing victims a voice to be heard. Countless victims are either uninformed or ignorant of their rights. Which makes it a crucial to understand the rights that victims are entitled to in their jurisdiction.
These rights are recognized by either statutes or the Constitution of United States of America. “A failure to accord victims their rights can derail the investigation or prosecution of a case and deny victims the voice that legislatures have mandated they have.” “Victims’ rights statutes have significantly influenced the manner in which victims are treated within the federal, state, and local criminal justice systems.
The core rights for victims of crime include:
- The right to be treated with fairness, dignity, sensitivity, and respect,
- The right to attend and be present at criminal justice proceedings,
- The right to be heard in the criminal justice process, including the right to confer with the prosecutor and submit a victim impact statement at sentencing, parole, and other similar proceedings,
- The right to be informed of proceedings and events in the criminal justice process, including the release or escape of the offender, legal rights and remedies, and available benefits and services, and access to records, referrals, and other information,
- The right to protection from intimidation and harassment,
- The right to restitution from the offender,
- The right to privacy,
- The right to apply for crime victim compensation,
- The right to restitution from the offender,
- The right to the expeditious return of personal property seized as evidence whenever possible,
- The right to a speedy trial and other proceedings free from unreasonable delay,
- The right to enforcement of these rights and access to other available remedies.”
We shall be discussing few of them below. More information is provided on Civil Litigation at Civil Litigation Archives – Layman Litigation. “The District of Columbia, and most U.S. states have statutory or constitutional provisions that specify rights and protections for victims of crime. Two key federal laws also address victims’ rights. The Crime Victims’ Rights Act (18 U.S.C § 3771), enacted in 2004, specifies a broad set of rights for victims of federal crimes and authorizes federal funding for programs to assist victims in asserting, accessing and enforcing those rights. The Victims of Crimes Act (42 U.S. Code Chapter 112), enacted in 1984, authorizes crime victim compensation and assistance to victims of federal and state crimes. These federal and state provisions generally articulate the following rights for victims throughout the criminal justice process: to be informed of proceedings and events; to attend proceedings and be heard; to proceedings free from unreasonable delay; to privacy and protection from intimidation and harassment; to restitution from the offender and to apply for crime victim compensation; and to enforcement of these rights and access to other available remedies.”
Rights of Child Victims: 18 U.S. Code § 3509
- “In some cases, a court may permit the child to testify outside the court, using a two-way closed-circuit television, or in a deposition before the trial.
- A child victim’s identity must remain confidential.
- When possible, a child abuse team, including police, prosecutors, doctors, and therapists, should be assembled to support the victimized child and prevent further trauma.
- In some cases, the judge may order the courtroom closed to anyone who does not have a direct interest in the case.
- In some cases, the judge may appoint guardian ad litem to advocate throughout the court proceedings for the best interests of the child.
- When testifying, the child has the right to be accompanied and supported by an adult.”
Federal Crime Victims’ Rights: 18 U.S. Code § 3771
- “The right to be reasonably protected from the accused.
- The right to reasonable, accurate, and timely notice of any public court proceeding, or any parole proceeding, involving the crime or of any release or escape of the accused.
- The right not to be excluded from any such public court proceeding, unless the court, after receiving clear and convincing evidence, determines that testimony by the victim would be materially altered if the victim heard other testimony at that proceeding.
- The right to be reasonably heard at any public proceeding in the district court involving release, plea, sentencing, or any parole proceeding.
- The reasonable right to confer with the attorney for the Government in the case.
- The right to full and timely restitution as provided in law.
- The right to proceedings free from unreasonable delay.
- The right to be treated with fairness and with respect for the victim’s dignity and privacy.
- The right to be informed in a timely manner of any plea bargain or deferred prosecution agreement.
- The right to be informed of these rights under this section and the services described in section 503(c) of the Victims’ Rights and Restitution Act of 1990 (42 U.S.C. § 10607(c)) and provided contact information for the Office of the Victims’ Rights Ombudsman of the Department of Justice.”
Sexual Assault Survivors Rights:
- “The right not to be prevented from, or charged for, receiving a medical forensic examination.
- The right to have a sexual assault evidence collection kit or its probative contents preserved, without charge, for the duration of the maximum applicable statute of limitations or 20 years, whichever is shorter.
- The right to be informed of any result of a sexual assault evidence collection kit, including a DNA profile match, toxicology report, or other information collected as part of a medical forensic examination, if such disclosure would not impede or compromise an ongoing investigation.
- The right to be informed in writing of policies governing the collection and preservation of a sexual assault evidence collection kit.
- The right to, upon written request, receive written notification from the appropriate official with custody of the evidence collection kit not later than 60 days before the date of the intended destruction or disposal of the kit.
- The right to be granted, upon written request, further preservation of the kit or its probative contents.
- The right to be informed of these rights.”
Conclusion: Victims tend to always be the ones to take on the enormous financial, and emotional burden. In addition to this, at times the justice system itself tends to often criticize and even re-victimize the victim. Not many receive the required aid, support, and protection. The help so eventually provided is either often insufficient or comes too late.
It is a dire need to have an efficient and effective system as such that tries to resolve problems at its root. Understanding victim psychology, or even spreading awareness on root causes of the same. This in itself is one step ahead in shaping the system that focuses on respecting fundamental rights of victims. It is vital to understand that small factors tend to play a bigger role in these aspects. This would usually include:
- Improving situations that victimizes the victim,
- Making sure to treat people with kindness goes a long way,
- Understanding from the survivor’s point of view,
- Providing counselling and guidance
- Maintaining confidentiality as in when required.
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