Landmark Federal Legislation
In 1994, the landmark Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was passed. This has been the most significant legislation in the victims’ rights field, other than VOCA. This act doubled the maximum federal sentences for sex offenses and domestic violence and required that temporary restraining orders (TROs) be honored by all other jurisdictions. Domestic violence perpetrators with TROs were prohibited from possessing firearms. For the first time, information shared by domestic violence and rape victims with an advocate was considered to be privileged communication. This act also established the Office of Violence Against Women and doubled the available funding for domestic violence and rape counseling programs.
In 1996, the Congress passed “Megan’s Law,” the Community Notification Act, as an amendment to the national Child Sexual Abuse Registry legislation. This law provided that local communities be notified of the residential addresses of convicted sex offenders.
In 1996, the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act included the Mandatory Victims’ Restitution Act, under which limited kinds of restitution were made mandatory in all federal misdemeanor and felony cases. Compensation and victim assistance services for victims of terrorism both at home and abroad, including victims in the military, were expanded.
The Interstate AntiStalking Punishment and Prevention Act of 1996 was enacted by Congress. This legislation created a uniform federal law to protect stalking victims when they travel across a state line or on federal property, including military bases and Indian reservations. This law made it a felony to cross a state line to stalk someone or to violate a restraining order in another state.
Rights Milestones: A Summary
1962 Battered child syndrome (Kempe)
1965 First crime victims’ compensation program in California
1972 First three victims’ programs
1972 National Crime (Victimization) Survey
1974 First battered women’s shelter in Denver, Colorado
1974 LEAA Victim Assistance Conference
1974 LEAA pilot victim/witness programs
1974 Rape trauma syndrome (Burgess)
1975 The Victims (Carrington)
1976 Victim Impact Statement (Rowland/Fresno)
1975 Founding of National Organization for Victim Assistance (NOVA)
1976 First NOVA Conference in Fresno, California
1977 National Association of Crime Victim compensation boards
1977 Mandated arrest for domestic violence in Oregon
1978 National Coalition Against Sexual Assault (NCASA)
1978 National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV)
1978 Parents of Murdered Children (POMC)
1978 Victim Offender Reconciliation Program (VORP)
1979 The Crime Victim’s Book (Bard and Sangrey)
1980 Wisconsin Bill of Rights for Victims and Witnesses of Crime
1980 Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD)
1981 National Victims’ Rights Week (President Reagan)
1982 President’s Task Force on Victims of Crime (68 recommendations)
1982 Federal Victim and Witness Protection Act
1983 Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) (Herrington)
1983 Wisconsin Bill of Rights for Children Victims/Witnesses of Crime
1984 Victims of Crime Act (VOCA)
1984 Missing Children’s Assistance Act
1984 Family Violence Prevention and Services Act
1984 Victim Services certificate at CSU, Fresno
1985 National Victim Center (National Center for Victims of Crime)
1985 NIMH and NOVA “The Aftermath of Crime: A Mental Health Crisis,” a national colloquium
1986 NOVA Constitutional Amendment Meeting
1986 First Crisis Response Team deployment
1987 Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
1988 VOCA reauthorized
1989 Victim Services Summer Institute at CSU, Fresno
1991 Victimology major at CSU, Fresno
1994 Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)
1995 National Victim Assistance Academy (NVAA)
1996 Megan’s Law
1996 Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act
1996 Interstate Anti-Stalking Punishment and Prevention Act
1996 Support of U.N. Declaration on Victims’ Rights by OVC
1997 Victims’ Rights Clarification Act
1997 Legislative Sourcebook (National Center for Victims of Crime)
1998 Grants to combat violent crimes against women on campus
1998 Child Protection and Sexual Predator Punishment Act
1998 Crime Victims with Disabilities Act
1998 New Directions from the Field
1999 State victim assistance academy grants
2000 Child Abuse Prevention and Enforcement Act/Jennifer’s Law
2001 USA Patriot Act
2001 VAWA reauthorized
2003 PROTECT Act/Amber Alert
2004 Justice for All Act (JFA)
2006 VAWA reauthorized
The Identity Theft and Deterrence Act of 1998 was signed into law in 1998. This landmark federal legislation outlawed identity theft and directed the U.S. Sentencing Commission to consider various factors in determining penalties, including the number of victims and the value of the loss to any individual victim. This act further authorized the Federal Trade Commission to log and acknowledge reports of identity theft, provide information to victims, and refer complaints to appropriate consumer reporting and law enforcement agencies.
The Blood Alcohol Concentration Bill of 2000 required states to adopt a 0.08 blood alcohol content (BAC) as the legal limit for drunk driving by 2004; failure to do this would lead to an annual reduction in federal highway appropriations.
The Trafficking Victims Protection Act was passed in 2000 to combat the trafficking of persons, especially into the sex trade, slavery, and slavery-like conditions, through prevention, prosecution, and enforcement against traffickers and by increasing the protection, assistance, and mandatory restitution for victims. This act established programs by the U.S. State Department in foreign countries to assist in the safe reintegration or resettlement of trafficking victims.
The VAWA of 2000 provided for direct compensation from the federal government to victims of international terrorism. This act improved and expanded the legal tools and programs addressing domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking. It authorized new grant programs expanding both programs and research for sexual assault and domestic violence. It defined dating violence and placed it under the VAWA programs. It widened the definition of underserved populations and established four new purposes for VAWA funds: coordinated community response, forensic medical examiners training, training to recognize disabled and older victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, and assistance with immigration matters.
The USA Patriot Act of 2001 addressed the needs and concerns of victims of terrorists’ acts. The act allowed the OVC director to respond to acts of terrorism both inside and outside the United States. It established an antiterrorism emergency reserve in the Crime Victims Fund and increased federal grants for state crime victim compensation benefits.
In 2001, the VAWA of 1994 was reauthorized with a $3 billion budget through 2005. Congress reauthorized the original programs and expanded them, including grants for legal services, funding for transitional housing, computerized tracking of protection orders, grants for safe visitation, and grants for programs that address dating violence.
In 2004, Congress passed legislation defining aggravated identity theft and establishing penalty enhancements for 2 additional years. Title I of the Justice for All Act (JFA), called the ‘‘Scott Campbell, Stephanie Roper, Wendy Preston, Louarna Gillis, and Nila Lynn Crime Victims’ Rights Act” (CVRA), enhanced substantive rights for crime victims in the federal criminal justice system, including the right to be protected from the accused, heard at all proceedings, treated with fairness and respect and to receive timely notice of public proceedings, confer with the government attorney, and receive full and timely restitution. The CVRA’s enforcement provisions are more rigorous than other federal victims’ rights laws and include the appointment of a victims’ rights ombudsman in the U.S. Department of Justice. The act also authorized additional, non-VOCA funding for federal victim/witness coordinators, state and federal automated victim notification systems, and victim assistance legal clinics. Other provisions in the JFA seek to eliminate the substantial backlog of collection of DNA samples in cases of sexual assault and from crime scenes, criminals, and convicted offenders.
VAWA is reauthorized by Congress and signed into law. The reauthorization increased funding to support rape crisis centers and combat violent crimes on campuses and provided funding to place victim assistants in local law enforcement agencies and to create a national educational curriculum to ensure that all courts have access to relevant laws and best practices. Congress has reauthorized VAWA in 2005 and 2013.
Federal Crime Victims Fund
In 1995, deposits in the federal Crime Victims Fund reached a then-high of more than $583 million, available for state crime victim compensation, local victim assistance programs, national training and technical assistance, and federal victim assistance. As a result of this increase in fund collections, state assistance grants received more than three times as much in federal funds in 1997 as they had the previous year.
In 1999, the fund deposits reached an all-time high of $985 million. As a result of significant fluctuations in annual fund deposits, Congress began capping the amount that could be obligated each year with annual revenues above the cap stored in the fund balance, from which the program could draw as a rainy day fund when revenues did not meet the cap. Congress also began using the fund to support federal victim services, including victim/witness coordinators in U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, victim specialists in FBI field offices, and a federal Victim Notification System.