CHICAGO — Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today announced Illinois will receive $18.8 million in federal funding that will provide crisis intervention, counseling, and emergency shelter to victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, and other crimes, and support victim advocacy initiatives throughout the state.
“Domestic violence and sexual assault are two of the worst crimes, and sadly they still affect thousands of women and children each year. It’s critical that we invest in programs that help prevent violence against women. These federal grants will help us provide better services for crime victims, and continue striving to be a safe state for women,” said Governor Blagojevich.
Illinois will receive $15 million in Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) funding, and $3.8 million in Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) monies. Administered by the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority (ICJIA), both federal programs assist victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, and other violent crimes, and provide funding for child advocacy and prosecutor-based victim assistance services. Hearing-impaired, non-English-speaking, and senior victims also benefit from programs supported with this funding.
“These grants help the most vulnerable of our citizens, victims of sexual assault and domestic violence, many of whom lack access to and are unfamiliar with services that can enable them to break free of abusive situations,” said ICJIA Executive Director Lori G. Levin. “This funding allows us to provide temporary housing, substance abuse counseling, job placement, and other types of support individuals need to achieve independence and end the cycle violence in their lives.”
Last year in Illinois VOCA funding supported 107 service programs serving an estimated 63,549 victims. VAWA funding supported 71 victim service programs and aided 13,832 victims.
Enacted in 1984, VOCA funds are derived from fines paid by offenders convicted of violating federal laws. Service agencies receiving VOCA funds provide victims with crisis intervention, counseling, emergency shelter and transportation, and with court, medical, and personal advocacy. Besides helping victims of sexual assault and domestic violence, the Act ensures funding availability to aid victims of child abuse and underserved victims of crime.
Funds also support victim advocacy programs provided by member agencies of the Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault, and services to survivors of homicide victims, victims of drunken driving accidents, and elderly and disabled victims of violent crime.
VAWA funds improvements in the criminal justice system’s response to women and child victims of sexual assault and domestic violence, and to implement measures that document and assess that response. The Act also calls for extending services to those who have little or no access to victim services, and funding is targeted to rural populations. Transitional housing programs and programs providing job training and referrals, literacy, and public assistance, including crisis center counseling for domestic violence victims also are supported with VAWA funding.
In recent years, VAWA funding has supported establishment and adoption of protocols for domestic violence and sexual assault response teams. Teams include police, prosecutors, circuit clerks, probation officers, and service providers working together to improve the quality of evidence collection, initial response to the crime, victim interviews, and victim referrals. Kankakee, McLean, Peoria, and St. Clair counties received VAWA funding in 2006 to support multidisciplinary response team efforts.
“These teams link key players in the criminal justice system so that victims receive coordinated services in a timely manner,” said Director Levin. “VAWA grant funding allows us to continue supporting these innovative collaborations.”
VAWA specifies that 25 percent of its funding allocation go to law enforcement, 25 percent to prosecution, 30 percent to service providers, and 5 percent to courts, with 15 percent to be distributed at the state’s discretion. ICJIA utilizes statistical data, surveys of the criminal justice and victim service agencies, and an Ad Hoc Committee on Violence Against Women to determine VAWA funding priorities.
New research on the criminal justice system’s response to domestic violence has led to a multi-agency review of the Illinois Model Domestic Violence Protocol, coordinated by ICJIA. First drafted in 1996, the new version will feature best practices for law enforcement, prosecutors and judges in dealing with domestic violence. The updated protocol will be distributed to all law enforcement agencies, county prosecutors, and the judiciary this fall.