Money available for victims of violent crime

Victims of violent crime in California can apply for up to $70,000 in compensation.
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Violent crime seems to be grabbing headlines across the country, but what you might not know is that the trauma for victims can also be financial.

An underutilized program offers crime victims tens of thousands of dollars, according to Julie Nauman, Executive Officer of the California Victim Compensation Board, or CalVCB.

"No one ever expects to be a victim of crime, but when it happens, we want them to know that we're here to help," she said. "Our primary mission is to provide assistance to victims of violent crime."

Nauman oversees a government program that helps victims recover financially. CalVCB is a joint state and federal program, funded - on the state level - out of the pockets of violent offenders in the form of court fines.

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Up to $70,000 is available per victim, per incident, for expenses like medical bills, mental health counseling and some less obvious costs.

"Things like crime scene clean-up or the modification of an automobile," Nauman explained. "Very important to some crime victims is the loss of income as a result of injuries preventing them from working or just the mental trauma that they're experiencing that's keeping them from working."

Of the 52,000 applications CalVCB receives annually, a quarter are from victims of domestic violence.

Beth Hassett is CEO of WEAVE, Sacramento County's primary provider of services to victims of domestic violence.

"Many people don't get help or don't get out of an abusive relationship because they don't have resources or they think that there's nothing out there for them," she said.

CalVCB offers up to $2,000 in moving expenses to victims of domestic violence.

"I think people fail to really appreciate how many barriers a victim of domestic violence might be experiencing," Hassett said.

"This is a serious problem across the country, across the state, throughout our community," Nauman agreed.

Last year, CalVCB paid $8 million dollars to domestic violence victims, $181,000 of which went to victims in Sacramento County.

The program gives victims much needed support, but during this month of domestic violence awareness, Hassett said the support of friends, colleague, neighbors and bystanders is just as critical.

"Our big message for this particular year is, take action, do something, pay attention to what's going on," Hassett said. "I think there are a lot of good open-ended lead-in sort of questions and observations that people can use, such as, 'You know, you don't seem like yourself right now. Is there something going on?' 'I've noticed you don't go out with us anymore after work and, you know, is somebody preventing you from participating with us?'"

They're questions that could help free a friend from a violent relationship.

Victims of any violent crime living in this state have three years after the incident to apply to CalVCB for funds and free mental health counseling. Those victims, for example, include survivors of the Las Vegas shooting from earlier this month.

Nauman said she'd like to see more people taking advantage of this free resource, especially in terms of the mental health counseling. It's a matter of applying online - even if a victim doesn't feel she or he needs services immediately.

"Really just get into our system, so that in the event that maybe later down the road they start experiencing some unexpected reactions, that they're already approved in the program and they can go seek that mental health counseling that they need," she said.

Victims of violent crimes - and Nauman said those mean "where someone's life or safety is threatened, so either physically threatened or emotional threatened" - can apply for financial compensation through CalVCB HERE.

Learn more about the application process and CalVCB HERE.