Victim compensation refers to all money legally set aside for crime victims who’ve suffered significant financial issues as a result of trauma. An increasing number of these victims, however, aren’t receiving this funding because of program rules.
These guidelines, specifically in Ohio, immediately exclude all individuals with any drug or criminal history. By doing so, it does not address that this history could have been a mere accusation or at the fault of the perpetrator.
The U.S. established victim compensation funds on the belief that the government had a responsibility to establish security and protection for the vulnerable in society. This contradicts the finding by Dayton Daily News that in the last decade the number of reported claims has increased, yet the amount of money distributed has simultaneously decreased.
In 2007, $14.4 million in payments were made. This number has steadily dropped since then with $7.4 million distributed in 2015 and $6.8 million in 2016. The study also determined claims rose by 20 percent in 2016. Claims receiving payout, however, dropped from 2,948 to 2,893.
An I-Team investigation of the Crime Victim Compensation Program in Ohio further backed these findings. In 2016, more people were denied than approved financial assistance. And the program spent $5.9 million in 2016 on staff salaries and overhead, which was nearly as much as it distributed in aid compensation.
The program is funded by driver’s license reinstatement and court fees. At the end of 2016, the office had a balance of $17.3 million.
Money from the fund can cover victim’s medical bills, counseling and out-of-pocket costs. The average reimbursement in 2016 was $2,369, according to the Dayton Daily News.
It does not cover stolen property or insurance charges. Montgomery County crime victims were awarded $337,698 from the fund in 2016.
Supporters of the funding argue the restrictions and limitations go too far in only helping victims the state deems worthy and fail to meet the intended goals of the program.
In April 2016, a girl, whose name has been kept private, was abducted by two older men, given alcohol, methamphetamine and cocaine. She was then driven to a motel in Moraine, OH and raped by a third man before being found. Despite being 17, she had the mental capacity of a 10-year-old. Her family said they believe the men were trying to force her into sex trafficking.
She was denied victim compensation because there were drugs found in her system. However, these drugs were forced upon her by the perpetrators, according to her family. While the Ohio Attorney General office says there’s an exception for victims who involuntarily take drugs, it also claimed the unnamed girl voluntarily used drugs.
The money expected to be received was in no way intended to reverse the effects of the injury or suffering endured, but it is the only official recognition of the crime victims like these receive.
Police only identified and found one of the men; a grand jury decided not to indict him.
Columbus attorney Michael Falleur told the Dayton Daily News Ohio’s victim compensation program is one of the best in the nation. He also said those denied aid can appeal to the Ohio Court of Claims.
However, he acknowledged faults in the system prevent individuals, such as drug users, from receiving aid.
Crime victim advocates and even a state congressman have called for the system to be reformed. Nonetheless, there has been little to no action from state leaders.
Photo courtesy of worldatlas.com.