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Victim advocates, service providers across New York State enhance skills

November 10, 2017 - 1:15pm

Professional development conference features workshops and presentations designed to help providers better assist crime victims who have been traditionally underserved

More than 400 victim advocates and service providers from across New York State are attending a professional development conference in Albany this week so they can reach more crime victims during their time of need. Sponsored by the state Office of Victim Services, the three-day training is geared toward helping these professionals better connect with crime victims from traditionally underserved populations, including the elderly, members of the LGBQT community, immigrants and male victims of sexual abuse.

“Victim service providers provide lifelines for individuals whose lives have been affected, sometimes devastatingly, by crime,” Office of Victim Services Director Elizabeth Cronin said. “At the same time, they know that there are cultural, societal and even physical barriers to reaching everyone who needs their help. Our goal is to help advocates better understand the challenges they face in reaching certain populations and provide them with information and resources so they can better help those individuals rebuild their lives.”

The conference began today with a presentation by Broadway actor Antuan Raimone, a sexual abuse survivor. As an adult, he recognized negative impact that childhood trauma was having on his life and sought assistance from the Crime Victims Treatment Center in Manhattan, one of the 223 victim assistance programs that the Office of Victim Services funds statewide. 

The conference, which concludes on Thursday, features 35 workshops and presentations on topics including helping underserved communities avoid fraud; the intersection of domestic violence and disability; helping immigrant survivors through the layers of crisis; the challenges posed by elder abuse within the Latino community; representing Arab survivors of domestic violence; responding to survivors of labor trafficking; elder abuse in healthcare settings; and assisting survivors of female genital mutilation and child marriage. In addition, the conference includes presentations designed to help advocates and service providers handle the stresses that come with their jobs and build resiliency.

Photographer Katherine Cambareri also will discuss her photography exhibit on display at the conference. “Well, What Were You Wearing?” features photographs documenting the ordinary clothing worn by victims of sexual assault to explore the issue of victim blaming and the fallacy that their clothing somehow contributed to the assault.

The Office of Victim Services (www.ovs.ny.gov) has a three-tiered mission to provide compensation to innocent victims of crime, fund direct services to crime victims through a network of community-based programs and to advocate for the rights of all innocent victims of crime. 

This year’s conference was made possible in part by federal funding the Office of Victim Services received last year through the federal Victims of Crime Act. The $1.4 million training grant has allowed the agency to significantly expand the training and technical assistance it provides to state-funded victim assistance programs so they can better serve victims of crime and their families.

In addition to administering more than $45.5 million in state and federal funding that supports the 223 victim assistance programs, the Office of Victim Services provides a safety net for individuals and/or their family members who have been victimized through no fault of their own and have no other means of assistance. It is a payer of last resort: all other sources of assistance, such as medical insurance and workers’ compensation, must be exhausted before the agency can assist.

The Office of Victim Services compensates eligible individuals and family members for medical and counseling expenses, funeral and burial expenses, and lost wages and support, among other assistance. New York is the only state in the nation that has no cap on counseling or medical expenses, which means crime victims and family members can receive help as along as it is necessary. Last year, the agency provided $22 million to assist crime victims and their families, representing claims paid for the first time in 2016 and those from prior years.

Funding for crime victims’ compensation and the cost of the agency’s day-to-day operations comes entirely from the fines, mandatory surcharges and crime victim assistance fees that certain offenders must pay following conviction in New York State or federal courts. Those fines and fees also fund nearly all the grants provided to victim assistance programs, which serve approximately 325,000 men, women and children annually.

For more information about services offered by the agency, including eligibility guidelines and a list of victim assistance programs that provide direct help, such as counseling and crisis intervention, advocacy and legal assistance, to crime victims across all 62 counties in New York, visit www.ovs.ny.gov or call 1-800-247-8035.

Photo caption: OVS Director Elizabeth Cronin joins Antuane Raimone and Christopher Bromson, executive director of the Crime Victims Treatment Center in New York City, after Raimone’s presentation at this week’s conference.