Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Be Safe, Not Sorry

By Julie Nauman, VCGCB Executive Officer

“Impaired driving” is most commonly attributed to 
alcohol and/or drugs, but also includes potentially deadly 
distracted driving habits.
December is National Impaired Driving Prevention Month. Given that impaired driving accounts for nearly one-third of all deaths from motor vehicle crashes in the United States each year, and that we typically see a spike in alcohol and drug related auto accidents during the holiday season, it is imperative to once again address this violent crime.

Last year, CalVCP received nearly 850 claims for crimes involving impaired drivers and provided $1.4 million in assistance for related medical expenses, mental health bills, and funeral/burial costs. Fatalities caused by impaired driving are 100-percent preventable, but eliminating them requires active vigilance from everyone. This, of course, means refraining from driving while under the influence of alcohol, illegal drugs, prescription medications, or over-the-counter medications. You don’t have to forgo the holiday festivities, but you should always plan ahead. Be sure to designate a driver at the beginning of the night, whether it be a sober friend or one of the many safe ride programs available throughout the state. For example, AAA’s Tipsy Tow offers members and nonmembers a free tow home on select holidays like Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve.
Last year, CalVCP received nearly 850 claims for crimes involving impaired drivers and provided $1.4 million in assistance for related medical expenses, mental health bills, and funeral/burial costs. 

While “impaired driving” is most commonly attributed to alcohol and/or drugs, the term is rapidly evolving beyond the traditional definition of driving under the influence to encompass distracted and potentially deadly habits such as texting or making phone calls without a proper Bluetooth accessory. To thwart the increasing temptation for drivers to multitask on the road, AT&T has publicly spearheaded the “It Can Wait” campaign, a nationwide anti-texting effort complete with mobile app, which allows users to set a customizable autoreply text message similar to an “out of office” alert.

With the many cost-free resources available to Californians, there is absolutely no excuse for drunk, drugged, or distracted driving. In addition to putting your life and others at grave risk, a reckless driving ticket or DUI conviction will burn your bank account, mar your DMV record, and inflate your insurance rates – it’s not worth it! Join me this month, and every day of the year, in pledging to eliminate impaired driving, and to keep our roads and our families safe this holiday season.

Julie Nauman is the Executive Officer for the Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board (VCGCB). VCGCB provides compensation for victims of violent crime and helps to resolve claims against the State.

Monday, December 9, 2013

This is No Game

By Julie Nauman, VCGCB Executive Officer

The most effective crime prevention method
is being aware of your surroundings.
There have been many recent reports about a very dangerous, and sometimes deadly, activity that teens refer to as the “knockout” game. Also called “polarbearing,” the object of this brutal pastime is to target a random victim with the intention of knocking them out in one single punch. Victims are typically assaulted, but not robbed. There is no underlying purpose or motive apart from the thrill of hitting someone to see if you can strike them down like a bowling pin.
Though reports of “knockout” first surfaced in New York, viral internet videos have triggered a troubling nationwide trend, sparking a string of attacks in New Jersey, Missouri, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and most recently, San Diego. “Knockout” attacks have resulted in major injuries, and in a few cases, death.

As a leading victim’s advocate in California, I am disturbed to learn of this senseless act of violence disguised as entertainment, and I want to remind everyone to take precautions to minimize the chance of being victimized. The most effective crime prevention method is being aware of your surroundings. And, as a parent, I’d like to urge other parents to do your part by teaching your children fantasy versus reality. Remind them that life is not a video game; you cannot play with real lives. Encourage children to pursue their talents and passions, as kids who direct their energy in a positive way are less likely to suffer from depression, to bully and/or be bullied, and to satisfy their “boredom” with destructive activities like “knockout.” Lastly, I ask Californians everywhere to report violence if you experience or see it. If you should ever become a victims of this type of senseless and cowardly crime, CalVCP is here and available to help.

Julie Nauman is the Executive Officer for the Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board (VCGCB). VCGCB provides compensation for victims of violent crime and helps to resolve claims against the State.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Domestic Violence Awareness Month Has Ended, but the Problem Has Not

By Julie Nauman, VCGCB Executive Officer

It has been a few weeks now since we closed out our Domestic Violence Awareness Month efforts throughout the state. Here in Sacramento, CalVCP wrapped up its “Suited for Successful Families” campaign with a formal handover of over 7,300 clothing donations to five of our local partners that serve victims of domestic violence. I am tremendously proud of all the California businesses, agencies, communities and citizens who came together this Domestic Violence Awareness Month to call attention to the need to stamp out this despicable crime.

Because of these efforts and similar ones around the nation, annual occurrences of domestic violence continue to decline. According to a study by the US Department of Justice, the rate of intimate partner violence against women fell 53 percent between 1993 and 2007. Increased community involvement and prevention education have yielded reduced rates of victimization, as have recent legislative efforts like President Obama’s reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which expands protections for domestic violence victims.

Despite this progress, domestic violence remains a pervasive problem that afflicts one in four women and one in seven men. In fact, nearly one-third of the 53,000 applications CalVCP receives annually are a result of domestic violence. Thus, while Domestic Violence Awareness Month has ended, I want to remind Californians to look beyond October and recognize awareness and prevention as a long term effort.

At CalVCP, we continue to work to honor victims and support survivors, educate communities, spark dialogue, and most importantly, ignite community action. Remember that if you witness violence and turn a blind eye because “it only happened once” or “it’s none of my business,” you are subconsciously facilitating the spread of domestic violence. Every one of us has the ability to help prevent and stop DV by reporting violence when we witness it or are made aware of it. No, we may not be able to eradicate the problem of domestic violence individually, but together, we can take a united stand and tell perpetrators that we will not tolerate it any longer. As we move forward, it is imperative that we break the collective silence that sustains this kind of violence in our communities.

Julie Nauman is the Executive Officer for the Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board (VCGCB). VCGCB provides compensation for victims of violent crime and helps to resolve claims against the State.

Monday, October 28, 2013

How Health Care Providers Can Fight Against Intimate Partner Violence

By Lisa James, Director of Health, and Vedalyn DeGuzman, Program Specialist, Futures Without Violence

Domestic violence, also known as intimate partner violence (IPV), is a health care problem of epidemic proportions. Nearly one in four women in the U.S. have experienced severe physical violence by an intimate partner in her lifetime.1 Furthermore, a study found that women who talked to their healthcare provider about the abuse were four times more likely to use an intervention.2

In February of 2013, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force issued new recommendations to support screening and response to IPV — recommending that health plans provide the service. Also, new guidelines in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) which ensure that select U.S. health plans will now cover annual screening and counseling for lifetime exposure to IPV, provide the opportunity to reach thousands more women and children with preventative messages and improve the health and safety of current victims of abuse.

Health care providers are in a unique position to help victims who seek routine or emergency care. However, health care providers often miss this golden opportunity to help a victim because they are not trained to screen patients for abuse. Simply by routinely screening patients for abuse and providing them with information about harm reduction strategies and referrals, we can make an enormous difference for victims and their children. In some cases, we can save lives by addressing both the acute and the immediate consequences of IPV as well as the chronic long term health conditions associated with a history of abuse.

The new health policies offer opportunities for deeper collaborations and coalition building between health providers and domestic/sexual violence advocates, and the potential for better outcomes for women. They may also likely lead to increased demands for training, coalition building and referrals over time. Millions of women, covered by employer-sponsored insurance, the new Insurance Marketplace, and Medicaid will be eligible to receive these services.

To learn more about screening in the health care setting, please view the Health Cares About IPV: Intimate Partner Violence Screening and Counseling Online Toolkit or call the National Health Resource Center on Domestic Violence at 1-415-678-5500, or e-mail:

1 Black, Michele C., Kathleen C. Basile, Matthew J. Breiding, Sharon G. Smith, Mikel L. Walters, Melissa T. Merrick, Jieru Chen, and Mark R. Stevens. (2011). The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey: 2010 Summary Report. Atlanta: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

2 McCloskey LA, Lichter E, Williams C, Gerber M, Wittenberg E, Ganz M. (2006). Assessing Intimate Partner Violence in Health Care Settings Leads to Women’s Receipt of Interventions and Improved Health. Public Health Reporter. 121(4):435-444.

Lisa James is Director of Health Care Programs at Futures Without Violence (FWV). Ms. James has collaborated with health care providers, domestic violence experts and health policy makers across the U.S. to develop statewide health care responses to domestic violence through training, health policy reform and public education. Ms. James has also worked with FWV’s international program, collaborating with leaders from non-governmental and health care organizations in Russia, Mexico, India and China to build the capacity of health systems, providers and community members to identify and help victims in reproductive health settings. Ms. James has a Master’s Degree in Women’s Studies from the University College Dublin, Ireland and a Bachelors Degree in Humanities from San Francisco State University, California.

Vedalyn DeGuzman is the Program Specialist of Health Care Programs at Futures Without Violence. Vedalyn works on several health care initiatives including the National Conference on Health and Domestic Violence which is attended by over 1,000 participants. Other initiatives involve providers from varied health settings including national educational activities with major health associations–specifically coordinating the National Health Collaborative on Violence and Abuse, a collaborative of over 25 leading national professional health associations.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Dancing with an Angel

By John Glass, Staff Trainer and Recreation Therapist, Sacramento Children's Home

This Domestic Violence Awareness Month, you will hear many statistics about domestic violence. But behind the numbers are stories of real child victims. Although domestic violence is often thought of as a private issue between two partners, this is simply not the case. The ripple effect of abuse can be felt throughout communities, especially by children who are directly or indirectly exposed to it.

Angel (not her real name) moved to the Sacramento Children’s Home when she was 13 years old. She didn’t know her father, and her mother was an alcoholic who left her alone for days at a time or brought home strange men who abused her. Angel struggled with anger management issues and developed a daily smoking habit. When she entered the Children’s Home Residential Treatment Program, she was running away fairly often.

Growing increasingly concerned for her safety, staffers associated with Angel’s placement met with her to discuss the best way to move forward. They asked the teen, “What do you like to do? What do you feel you do well?”

Angel took a few moments and replied, “I like to dance.”

Coincidentally, we were just in the process of establishing an Expressive Arts program. The Specialist provided a variety of dance styles for Angel to experiment with, and she chose Jazz. Angel soon became the queen of our talent shows, and something interesting started to occur; Angel started caring about herself. She combed her hair neatly, she smiled more, she quit smoking, and she stopped running away. Angel realized she was good at something.

As a result, she began avoiding the negative influences of some of her peers. She attended school regularly and joined the dance program on campus. She began to take professional dance lessons off grounds. In fact, she did so well that she earned a scholarship to a state conference in Southern California. Angel was recognized for her dance achievements at a City Council meeting, and we celebrated in Old Sacramento with an enjoyable dinner.

Angel found her talent, and it changed her life. It boosted her self-esteem and gave her the motivation she needed to take on life.

Angel is just one of the many success stories coming out of the Residential Treatment Program at the Sacramento Children’s Home. Serving Northern California, the Children’s Home provides care for abused, neglected, traumatized and emotionally disturbed children, ages 6-18. Our Residential Treatment Program focuses on making significant and lasting behavioral changes through a combination of strength-based treatment, structured living environment, recreation activities, community engagements, and therapy.

Angel succeeded in large part because of her own talents, but also because she received the support, care, and encouragement to help her move past her previous hardships. At the Sacramento Children’s Home, our goal is to give children like Angel the treatment and tools they need to thrive.

A few years ago, Angel came by to say hello and see her old cottage. She was 32 years old at that time, and she shared with me that she was on her way to Japan. She was going to be teaching dance to children.

John Glass has worked at the Sacramento Children’s Home for 27 years and currently serves as the Staff Trainer and Recreation Therapist. He is a Nationally Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist, Independent Facilitator of the Love & Logic Parenting Curriculum, and Certified Pro-ACT Instructor (Crisis Intervention). John owns a training and consulting business specializing in social skills groups, parenting classes, teambuilding, individual crisis intervention plans, therapeutic recreation consulting, and CPR, AED, and 1st Aid instruction. He holds a Masters in Therapeutic Recreation.

The Sacramento Children's Home is committed to helping build strong families; to opening doors to the future; to maximizing potential; and ending the cycle of child abuse. Established in 1867, the Sacramento Children's Home provides care to the most vulnerable children and families in the Sacramento community. Community-based, residential and educational programs address the issues of children, newborn to 21, and range from prevention of child abuse and parenting education, to acute trauma treatment.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

PSA: Domestic Violence Knows No Boundaries




These are the unheard voices of domestic violence victims.

According to a report by the U.S. Department of Justice, domestic violence is one of the most chronically underreported crimes in the nation.1 Due to a variety of factors including fear, embarrassment, and financial dependency, an estimated four out of five DV instances are unaccounted for.

Furthermore, a study conducted by GfK Public Affairs & Corporate Communications and the Avon Foundation for Women found that although 60% of Americans know a victim of DV and 80% believe DV is a problem in our society, only 15% think it is a problem among their own friends and family.2

Whatever the reason, the fact of the matter is that silence sustains violence.

This October, CalVCP has produced a video PSA in hopes of increasing social awareness and educating communities about the far reaching effects of DV. Our hope is that you will view and share this video, and join us in the fight to end domestic violence.

1 U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, “Criminal Victimization,” 2003.

2 Avon Foundation for Women, “No More Study.” 2013.

Monday, October 7, 2013

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month

This October, CalVCP kicks off its annual observance of Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM) in an effort to spread awareness, help survivors, and move forward in the fight to eradicate domestic violence from our world.

Over a quarter of those applying for CalVCP assistance each year are victims of domestic violence (DV). DV isn’t strictly a personal matter or home issue, but an alarming and pervasive problem that affects 33 million of all U.S. adults, at a cost of over 5.8 billion dollars a year.

DV impacts victims, abusers, family members, friends and entire communities. Moreover, DV can happen to anyone, anywhere regardless of age, economic status, race, religion, nationality or educational background. To highlight the extensive reach of this crime, CalVCP’s 2013 DVAM efforts will center around the theme Domestic Violence Knows No Boundaries.

DVAM Resource Kit

In support of this year’s theme, CalVCP has released a variety of downloadable DVAM Theme Resources. You can help educate communities about the far reaching effects of DV by:

  • Printing and hanging DVAM posters and fliers
  • Sharing DVAM graphics on websites and social media
  • Posting DV awareness facts on Twitter and Facebook
  • Distributing CalVCP’s DV Fact Sheet

Blog: CalVCP Connection

Follow CalVCP’s DVAM blog series featuring guest authors who will share their knowledge on DV as it pertains to underserved and vulnerable populations.

Getting Involved: DVAM Events

Raise awareness of domestic violence by participating in one of more of the following DVAM events hosted throughout the state:
Regardless of where you are located, there are a variety of ways you can participate in DVAM throughout the month of October. We hope you will join CalVCP in supporting domestic violence survivors and taking a stand against this pervasive crime.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Protecting Victims’ Rights: Victims Information Notification Everyday (VINE)

By Sheriff Greg Ahern (Alameda County), President of the California State Sheriff’s Association

As our communities become more entrenched with technology, many law enforcement partners are taking on a greater role to create safer communities. The California State Sheriffs’ Association (CSSA) is assisting victims of domestic violence and other serious violent crimes through the Victims Information Notification Everyday (VINE).

The VINE Program is a 24-hour service that provides instant notification to individuals concerning the whereabouts of the person(s) who victimized them. Administered by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) in partnership with the CSSA, the VINE database tracks an offender’s information from the point of apprehension to re-entry into society, and it details transfers and relocations while he/she is incarcerated. This system allows victims to take the necessary steps and precautions for self-protection. Victims, witnesses, and next of kin can sign up to receive notifications, and all registrants’ information is confidential.

VINE has been partnered with the Alameda County community since 1996. During this time span, the system has delivered over 230,000 notification telephone calls to victims in the county. In addition, VINE was one of the first systems to utilize email technology, allowing registrants to receive notifications while away from home. To date, the Alameda County VINE Program has notified almost 4,000 individuals via email. VINE has also recently expanded its ability to contact users through social media efforts: a new iPhone and Android smart phone application informs victims of changes in the custody status of criminal offenders. This application is free to crime victims and is anonymous for users.

Although VINE caters primarily to victims of domestic violence, it also serves as an informational resource for both the public and private sectors. For example, VINE is used by employers to track the release date of disgruntled employees; journalists utilize the system to find the release date of high-profile offenders; judges refer to VINE to learn the release date of offenders who they have sentenced; and law enforcement consults this service to stay informed on the status of offenders in their own case files.

As the nation’s first automated system for victim notification, VINE seeks to preserve a victim’s right to personal safety following a crime. Just this year, there have been 961 new VINE registrants in Alameda County, and over 11,000 VINE notifications have been sent. The program’s success is even more impressive when reviewing statewide statistics. VINE is now live in 53 California counties, and there have been over one million offender searches performed throughout the state in 2013. The program has proven to be an effective tool that enables survivors to take pre-emptive action to avoid being victimized again. I urge law enforcement agencies that utilize the VINE Program to publicize their success, and others that are not members to join this valuable program.

For more information, see the California VINE website.

Gregory Ahern has served as the Sheriff of Alameda County since 2007 and is the current President of the California State Sheriff’s Association. Employed by the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office for over 30 years, Sheriff Ahern has been actively involved in the development and implementation of a number of Alameda County programs, including the Youth and Family Services Bureau, Drug Education and Enforcement programs, Cold Case DNA Unit, and D.U.I. Enforcement Unit. He also initiated the Urban Shield tactical training exercise that provides a training venue to several thousand first responders each year. Sheriff Ahern earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics and Business Administration from Saint Mary’s College in Moraga.

Friday, September 13, 2013

September is National Campus Safety Awareness Month

By Abigail J. Boyer, Assistant Executive Director of Programs, Outreach, and Communications at the Clery Center for Security On Campus

This summer, it was hard to escape the omnipresence of Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines”, a pop tune with controversial lyrics and an even more controversial music video. While admittedly catchy, the suggestive song raises questions about what consent really means, in turn providing a valuable opportunity to have critical discussions about sexual violence and community responsibility to create a culture of respect.

The issue is of particular concern on college campuses, where one in five female students is a victim of an attempted or completed sexual assault—commonly by someone known to the survivor. With September as National Campus Safety Awareness Month (NCSAM), university campuses should be a major focus of sexual violence education and prevention.

The first six weeks of the fall semester are often referred to as the “red zone”, a time when colleges and universities typically see an increase in sexual assault and other crime. With this in mind, August and September should mark the start of a year-long conversation about campus safety and the role students can play in changing the culture in their community.

Bystander intervention emphasizes this community responsibility and empowers peers to step in when they see attitudes or behaviors that could lead to sexual assault. Intervention doesn’t always mean a physical confrontation; a distraction or even the simple question, “Are you okay?” can make all the difference. Being a good bystander can also mean challenging rape culture by questioning pervasive attitudes like those heard in “Blurred Lines”.

Students should know there are on- and off-campus resources available to survivors of sexual assault, as well as federal laws that guide institutions’ responses to sexual violence. Victims have rights under both Title IX and the Jeanne Clery Act. Recent amendments to the Clery Act included within the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 (known as the Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act, or Campus SaVE) strengthened and expanded many of these rights to victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking.

As part of our Safe Campus, Strong Voices campaign (a partnership with Promoting Awareness, Victim Empowerment, with guidance from a number of other incredible organizations), the Clery Center provides a toolkit for institutions to use as they implement programming during the month of September. This year’s “Day of Action” is centered around the PACT5 project in which five universities created student-produced documentaries about sexual assault.

We are excited and honored to be part of these important efforts to help students, parents, faculty, and professionals at institutions nationwide engage in meaningful dialogue about the impact of sexual violence and other crimes on campus communities.

Whether addressing the media’s hyper-sexualization of women or a classmate’s demeaning remark, it’s our hope that these conversations empower college communities to take a step back and consider, “What can we do to change a culture of sexual violence?”

Abigail Boyer is the Assistant Executive Director of Programs, Outreach, and Communications for the Clery Center for Security On Campus. Working in the non-profit field since 2007 as an educator, trainer, and speaker, Abigail presents nationally on topics related to the Clery Act, dynamics of sexual and domestic violence, victims’ services, and non-profit outreach. Abigail earned a bachelor of arts degree in Political Science at West Chester University.

Friday, September 6, 2013

There’s a New Bully on the Block

By Julie Nauman, VCGCB Executive Officer

It has been one year since the since the death of 15 year-old Audrie Pott. The northern California sophomore committed suicide last September after she was sexually assaulted by male classmates while passed out at a party, and then subjected to public persecution when photographic evidence of the attack circulated via social media.
Photo credit: Pott family

The fate Audrie endured — a daughter driven to self-destruction by the dual distress of sexual assault followed by aggressive cyberbullying — is a parent’s worst nightmare. As mothers and fathers, we aim to raise children who are kind and respectful toward others, and we hope other parents try to do the same; but the unfortunate truth is, what happened to Audrie could have happened to any teenager. In light of back to school season, I want to shed light on what the FBI deems one of the newest and most significant issues that plague our youth today: cyberbullying.

With the growth of electronic technology and the infinite scope of the internet, peer harassment today often extends far beyond the academic setting. Abuse known as cyberbullying refers to the public persecution of someone via devices such as cell phones, computers, and tablets as well as communication tools including social media sites and text messages.

Although cyberbullies leave no physical signs of abuse, their psychological effects can be more extensive and long-lasting than bruises and broken bones. Hurtful messages and images can be posted anonymously and distributed quickly to a wide audience, and removing this content from the digital realm is extremely difficult. For bullied kids, the modern day structure of an always-connected society can breed, sustain, and amplify seemingly inescapable torment. Thus, it should come as no surprise that these victims suffer far-reaching physical, academic, and mental consequences. Cyberbullied children have a higher tendency to use alcohol and drugs, struggle in school, and battle health problems. They may also experience depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem that persist into adulthood.

Though its magnitude is evident, cyberbullying isn’t easily remedied because parents are often unaware of the problem. The 2008–2009 School Crime Supplement revealed that children only notified adults in one third of bullying cases. Negative messages surrounding snitching, gender stereotypes, fear of rejection, concerns of retaliation, and lack of confidence in adults’ actions contribute to this trend.

Tragedies like Audrie’s highlight the continued need for anti-bullying efforts on a societal level. I encourage parents to take a proactive role in piloting this cultural shift; by educating kids on the topic, maintaining open and supportive dialogues, and acting as role models, we can begin to not only change adult attitudes that too often dismiss bullying as “kids being kids” but also nurture positive youth advocates in our communities and empower children to take the lead in bullying prevention.

For resources on preventing and responding to bullying, visit

Julie Nauman is the Executive Officer for the Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board (VCGCB). VCGCB provides compensation for victims of violent crime and helps to resolve claims against the State.

Monday, August 19, 2013

State Victim Advocate Leader Reminds Public to Practice Safe Behaviors in Light of Rising Crime Rates

By Julie Nauman, VCGCB Executive Officer

Violent crimes in California increased 2.92% last year, according to the FBI’s newly released Preliminary Annual Uniform Crime Report, January-December, 2012. These surprising statistics indicate a reversal in the declining trend the state has seen in past years and compel me to remind everyone to stay alert and practice safe behaviors.

It was disturbing to learn that 60% of our communities are experiencing an increase in violence. Unfortunately, we cannot always prevent crime, but there are things each of us can do to minimize our risk of becoming a victim. I encourage everyone to practice these safe behaviors:

  • Be diligent in locking your home and car doors
  • Install surveillance and/or alarm systems
  • Stay alert of your surroundings
  • Take a self-defense course
  • Use safe and secure practices while online
  • Tell trusted family or friends where you are going and with whom
  • Practice safe boundaries
  • Get your neighbors involved through a neighborhood watch or neighborhood policing program
  • Trust your gut-level feelings; if a situation feels bad, try to find safety immediately

To manage the continued demand for victim services, CalVCP regularly communicates with law enforcement and other first responders across the state to provide current program information and materials to ensure victims are readily informed of available assistance following an incident. We have increased our outreach efforts to underserved and vulnerable populations, including those in rural locations, or those with physical or cultural barriers. We also provide relevant program and victim resource information through this blog, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and YouTube.

I would like to hear how you are practicing safe behaviors. Will you email me at or share your suggestions with us on social media? I look forward to your comments and suggestions; let’s practice safety together!

If you are a victim of a crime, we encourage you to find help. There are a number of resources available to assist victims of crime. Victims can reach out to their local victim witness assistance center to learn of available services, including CalVCP.

Julie Nauman is the Executive Officer for the Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board (VCGCB). VCGCB provides compensation for victims of violent crime and helps to resolve claims against the State.

Friday, August 2, 2013

30th Annual National Night Out

2013 marks the 30th anniversary of National Night Out (NNO), a major campaign aimed at crime prevention through community building at the local levels. In conjunction with this observance, 2013 is also the first year NNO has been officially recognized by the State of California. On July 9th, the State Senate unanimously approved a resolution by Senator Norma Torres (D-Pomona) establishing August 6, 2013 as National Night Out in the Golden State.

From 6:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. on August 6th, residents in California and across the nation are invited to lock their doors, turn on outside lights, and step outside to enjoy the evening with neighbors while taking a united stand against crime. Cities and towns throughout the country will celebrate the occasion by hosting a variety of social events such as block parties, BBQ cookouts, ice cream socials, parades, and youth activities, all of which are attended by fellow residents and law enforcement.

The NNO campaign is designed to:
  • Heighten crime and drug prevention awareness;
  • Generate support for, and participation in, local anticrime programs;
  • Strengthen neighborhood spirit and police-community partnerships; and
  • Send a message to criminals letting them know that neighborhoods are organized and fighting back.

CalVCP knows the immense toll that crime takes on victims and their loved ones. Over 150,000 violent crimes are reported in California each year, and many more are believed to go unreported due to fear or embarrassment. In the 2011-2012 fiscal year alone, CalVCP received over 53,000 applications for victim assistance. Given these startling statistics, the widespread reach of NNO renders it an invaluable vehicle for constructive dialogue and positive change. As a leading advocate in the fight against crime, CalVCP recognizes that a safer nation starts at the individual and community levels. A city is only as strong as the citizens that reside within it, and NNO represents a key step in making neighborhoods a safer place year round.

NNO was founded in 1984 as an effort by the National Association of Town Watch (NATW) to promote civic engagement and involvement in crime prevention activities, police-community partnerships, and neighborhood camaraderie. That year, 2.5 million Americans took part across 400 communities in 23 states. By 2012, NNO participation had expanded to 15,704 communities to unite 37.5 million people from all 50 states, U.S. territories, Canadian cities, and military bases worldwide. NNO 2013 is expected to be the largest ever.

This August, let’s join forces with our neighbors nationwide to build community relationships and neighborhood unity and give crime the ultimate going away party.

Any municipality, law enforcement agency, crime prevention organization, community group, or neighborhood interested in participating in NNO 2013 is invited to register here.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Restitution Rights for Victims

By Julie Nauman, VCGCB Executive Officer

The question was recently posed about the fairness of asking defendants to pay restitution when they have so many other hurdles to overcome. I certainly understand these are trying financial times for everyone, for defendants and victims. While difficulties for offenders post-incarceration may be more visible to the public, let me remind you that we receive requests for assistance from victims that have lost jobs, homes, means of transportation, and physical aptitude, many of whom have suffered life-altering changes and significant mental trauma as a result of crime. Victims do not ask to be victimized and each has the absolute right to be made whole.

Many crime victims suffer life-altering losses.

The Victims’ Bill of Rights Act of 2008 codified the right to restitution along with other important victim rights. Restitution plays an important role in healing for victims. It is designed to provide financial restoration and to mitigate some of the negative impacts of crime. A victim of crime should not have to suffer calls from bill collectors or loss of independence because of someone else’s choices. Restitution can financially relieve the burdens placed on victims as a result of the crimes that occurred.

Restitution can be beneficial not only for victims, but also for offenders. For many offenders, restitution acts as a tool for their rehabilitation. Studies have shown that paying restitution can reduce recidivism. It gives offenders a way to take responsibility for their actions, make reparations to victims, and address feelings of guilt in a helpful way.
"We cannot forget about the support needed for victims who are impacted by unforeseen crimes, many of whose worlds are turned upside down."

There is no mistaking that crime costs us all. However, restitution fines help to shift the financial responsibility for crime back to the offenders. The money collected through fines paid by offenders helps to keep the Restitution Fund viable so victims’ needs may be met if there is no other form of payment available; for example, when the offender’s identity is unknown, or when a defendant is unable to pay for all of the expenses immediately.

It is important to uphold the rights of California’s victims. We cannot forget about the support needed for victims who are impacted by unforeseen crimes, many of whose worlds are turned upside down. I remain committed to our fight to ensure that victims receive the restitution owed to them and that offenders pay their debts.

Julie Nauman is the Executive Officer for the Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board (VCGCB). VCGCB provides compensation for victims of violent crime and helps to resolve claims against the State.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Internet Safety for Kids

By Julie Nauman, VCGCB Executive Officer

Last week, I discussed that June is National Internet Safety Month and listed several tips on how to prevent yourself from becoming a victim of cybercrime. But, it occurs to me that the amount of time our young people spend online lends itself to a separate discussion all of its own.

When it comes to cybercrime, children of all ages can
access limitless content with only a few keystrokes.
The Internet provides us access to limitless information, which is used by billions of consumers daily. People of all ages use this tool to research, connect with others, shop, advertise, pay bills, watch movies and more. Nearly any convenience is a few keystrokes away, but there are risks involved.

When it comes to cybercrime, children are very vulnerable. A study by Pew Research Center, showed that 95 percent of teens access the Internet, making them the largest demographic of Internet users and a target for a multitude of online predators. Child abductions and sexual assault have occurred because predators were able to access personal information through chat rooms, social media sites or online gaming sites.

For example, 36-year-old Tony Mcleod, known as the “PlayStation Predator,” lured a 14-year-old California boy to Los Angeles Airport, where the two boarded a plane to Mcleod’s home in Tampa, Florida. Mcleod and the boy had been in contact for a month, when his parents discovered that the boy had been receiving explicit texts and photos from him. The boy’s parents immediately reported him missing when he did not return from school one day. Detectives discovered that McLeod and the boy were on a flight to Tampa. When they reached the Tampa airport, McLeod was confronted by FBI officials and the boy was returned to his California home.

The PlayStation Predator is just one of many online criminals waiting to lure children away from their homes. Here are some tips for keeping your children cyber safe:
  • Keep your computer visible. By placing your computer in a high-traffic area of the house, you can keep an eye on the sites your child visits and ensure that they are safe and appropriate. 
  • Set rules and a password. Monitoring your child’s Internet usage and limiting the sites they visit can help you keep track of your child’s online safety. Let him or her show you what they like to do online, so you’re aware. You can also set a password to limit your child’s Internet access to when you allow it.
  • Know who they’re messaging. Being aware of who your child is messaging, whether it’s through social media, email, online gaming or webcam usage, can enable you to make sure your child isn’t communicating with strangers. 
  • Use Internet security options. By using these options, you can limit what websites show up on your browser. This can prevent access to questionable and explicit sites. 
  • Don’t forget cellphones. TextGuard, My Mobile Watchdog and iWonder Surf, are mobile applications that can help you keep track of your child’s incoming and outgoing calls, texts, and web browsing habits. 
  • Talk to your child. Make your children aware of the dangers of online predators and help them understand that by monitoring their Internet usage, you are helping to keep them safe. Keep in mind that even teens need to be reminded of Internet precautions. Encourage them to share Internet safety advice with their friends.

To learn more about Internet safety for children, visit

Julie Nauman is the Executive Officer for the Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board (VCGCB). VCGCB provides compensation for victims of violent crime and helps to resolve claims against the State.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Combating Cybercrime

By Julie Nauman, VCGCB Executive Officer

June is National Internet Safety Month. This month, the National Cyber Security Alliance and many other organizations are raising awareness about Internet safety.

The Internet provides us access to limitless information, which is used by billions of consumers daily. People of all ages use this tool to research, connect with others, shop, advertise, pay bills, watch movies and more. Nearly any convenience is a few keystrokes away, but there are risks involved.

We hear daily stories of online crime, from identity theft and fraud to harassment and cyberstalking. Violent crimes, such as human trafficking and sexual assault have occurred as a result of information revealed on the Internet. Yet, many people do not realize how susceptible they are to being a victim.

Here are several ways you can protect yourself from cybercrime:

  • Keep your security software updated. Having current security software can protect you from viruses, malware and other security threats. Make sure to scan any external device you plug into your computer, such as USB drives.
  • Create long passwords. Keeping your passwords long, varied and unique to each account creates a stronger fortress against online criminals. Feel free to write passwords down, but remember to store them in a safe location.
  • Be conscious of untrusted sites. Visiting security-enabled websites when shopping or banking and adjusting your browser settings to limit who you share information with, can help to keep your personal information secure.
  • Avoid anything suspicious. Cybercriminals often use emails, posts and online advertising to access your personal information or corrupt your system. Do not forward or click on suspicious links. Delete or mark them as junk.
  • Privatize social media accounts. Taking advantage of the privacy settings on your social media accounts, can prevent criminals from using your information against you. Make sure your profile is visible only to your contacts.
  • Spread the word. Talk to your friends and family about Internet safety. By helping others understand how to protect themselves, you can decrease the number of cybercrimes that occur.

Following these tips can help keep you safe from online predators. To learn more about Internet safety, visit And remember that you can help prevent cybercrime.

Julie Nauman is the Executive Officer for the Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board (VCGCB). VCGCB provides compensation for victims of violent crime and helps to resolve claims against the State.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Raising Awareness About Elder Abuse

By Julie Nauman, VCGCB Executive Officer

After the death of her husband, eighty-six-year-old Mrs. Jones was befriended by Nancy, a local nurse. Since Mrs. Jones’s only family was out of state, Nancy began helping Mrs. Jones run small errands, such as grocery shopping and trips to the bank. Before long, Nancy had convinced Mrs. Jones to let her move in to help take care of her. Nancy began recommending expensive home improvements, ensuring Mrs. Jones that they were best for her. She even suggested that Mrs. Jones buy an expensive new sports car, an item Mrs. Jones had no interest in. Sometimes Nancy would lose her temper with Mrs. Jones and hit her or tell her she was useless.

A study by the National Research Council estimates that only 1 in 14 cases of elder abuse ever comes to the attention of authorities - The National Center on Elder Abuse
Mrs. Jones’s case is a prime example of elder abuse. There are several different types of elder abuse, including physical, emotional, sexual, financial, neglect and abandonment. Unfortunately, these cases often go unreported by the victim because he or she is fearful, incapable or ashamed to ask for help. Like Mrs. Jones, a victim may not even be aware that abuse is taking place.

In an effort to bring attention to this growing problem, World Elder Abuse Awareness Day was established on June 15, 2006. It encourages communities to promote awareness about elder abuse, neglect and exploitation. The National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) lists several ways to get involved in the prevention of elder abuse and instructions on how to report it. Learn more about how you can help at

Signs of elder abuse may be missed by professionals working with older Americans because of lack of training on detecting abuse. The elderly may be reluctant to report abuse themselves because of fear of retaliation, lack of physical and/or cognitive ability to report, or because they don’t want to get the abuser (90% of whom are family members) in trouble.
- The National Center on Elder Abuse

Elderly victims who are physically or emotionally abused can also seek financial assistance from the California Victim Compensation Program (CalVCP), which provides compensation to victims of violent crime. CalVCP provides assistance with medical and dental treatment, mental health services, income loss, funeral and burial expenses, home security, crime-scene cleanup and other crime-related expenses. If you are victim of elder abuse or would like more information about CalVCP, you can visit

In 2050, it is estimated that 20% of the United States’ population will be over 65 years old, a 17% increase from 2010. This means 17% more people will be vulnerable to elder abuse. Please help to keep our elderly community safe by spreading the word and reporting abuse.

Julie Nauman is the Executive Officer for the Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board (VCGCB). VCGCB provides compensation for victims of violent crime and helps to resolve claims against the State.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Avenues for Healing

Mental Health Services are a Vital Resource for Victims of Crime

By Robin Foemmel Bie, Licensed Clinical Social Worker and CalVCP Manager

While broken bones can be set and lacerations can be stitched up, other serious consequences of violent crime are often invisible. That is why the California Victim Compensation Program (CalVCP) seeks to actively address the mental health needs of crime victims.

CalVCP provided $23.5 million in assistance for the mental health treatment of victims of violent crime during fiscal year 2011-12, one-third of the total compensation provided by the program’s Restitution Fund. (Medical treatments, the fund’s only larger payment category, provided $25.2 million in assistance that year.)
"There is no one-size-fits-all approach for achieving successful mental health outcomes. Individual treatment plans tailored to each victim’s specific needs are most effective."

Eligible CalVCP claimants are able to choose any qualified mental health service provider for treatment. Crime victims are frequently connected with mental health services via victim advocates located at the Victim Witness Assistance Centers that exist across California. Additionally, county departments responsible for services such as child welfare also refer crime victims to mental health professionals, while other victims locate treatment providers through word-of-mouth.

Whatever the initial route of referral, there is no one-size-fits-all approach for achieving successful mental health outcomes. Individual treatment plans tailored to each victim’s specific needs are most effective.

Typically, treatment begins with an intake session, where the therapist documents the claimant’s personal, medical, and mental health history. During the next few sessions the therapist and claimant develop the treatment plan and goals based on the symptoms being experienced by the claimant. Sessions may be individual, family and/or group depending on the course of treatment agreed upon by the claimant and therapist. Treatment plans may be altered as therapy unfolds, and having the right fit between claimant and therapist is optimal.

In January 2013, the deadline for filing a claim with CalVCP was extended from one year after the occurrence of a violent crime to three years. The goal is to enable more victims to obtain assistance for their various post-crime needs. Compared to some physical injuries, mental health problems can manifest more slowly and last longer. The new filing deadline may be especially helpful for claimants suffering from a delayed emotional response to the crime.

CalVCP places high priority on mental health treatment, ensuring that this major — often less obvious — impact of violent crime is not forgotten.

Robin Foemmel Bie is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and works as a manager for the California Victim Compensation Program (CalVCP). She has over 5 years of experience at CalVCP as the Provider Ombudsman and Manager, working with mental health and medical providers to serve victims. Prior to her work at CalVCP, Robin provided expertise on policy, networking, regulation and training for the Department of Mental Health. Robin has a Master’s Degree in Social Work with an emphasis in Health and Mental Health.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Every Child Deserves to Be Safe

By Julie Nauman, VCGCB Executive Officer

On May 25th 1979, six-year-old Etan Patz went missing from the streets of New York, while on his way to school. His disappearance sparked national media coverage and though his body was never found, Patz was declared dead in 2001. President Ronald Reagan proclaimed the anniversary of Patz’s disappearance as National Missing Children’s Day in 1983. This observance aims to highlight the problem of child abduction, promote ways to keep children safe and provide support for families of victims.

The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children®
 has assisted law enforcement in the recovery of more
 than 183,000 missing children since it was founded in 1984.
In the past 23 years, there has been a 35 percent increase in the number of missing children who are found. Unfortunately, 2,200 children are still reported missing daily. We can help raise awareness about child abduction and promote safety in several ways:

Stay informed. Keep yourself updated on missing children in your community. Report any sighting of a missing child to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). Their hotline (1-800-843-5678) is available 24-hours a day, 7 days a week.

If you have children, take the time to learn about and exercise child safety and abduction prevention and communicate safety information to your child. For example, make sure your child knows what to do if a stranger approaches. In addition, keep track of how much personal information your child reveals online. You can find more child safety tips at

Spread the word. Share information about missing children and exploited children with others in your community.

Join the effort. NCMEC offers three campaigns that help promote awareness about missing and exploited children. Their Take 25 Campaign, encourages families to spend 25 minutes talking to children about safety and abduction prevention. NCMEC also has a campaign that educates communities on child sexual exploitation and how to recognize it and a campaign that encourages the use of photos to help find missing children.

Learn more about the missing children in your community by visiting Let’s work together to keep our children safe.

Julie Nauman is the Executive Officer for the Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board (VCGCB). VCGCB provides compensation for victims of violent crime and helps to resolve claims against the State.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Official Observance Ends, Services Continue

By Julie Nauman, VCGCB Executive Officer

As the state with the first and largest victim compensation program and national leader of victims’ rights and services, California once again honored victims, provided resources, and united communities in its commemoration of Crime Victims’ Rights Month.

Around the state, advocates and government agencies held events and distributed information and services available to victims of crime. I am proud of all our statewide partners, as well as our staff here at CalVCP on the incredible job they have done in bringing attention to this very important issue.

Here are just a few examples of the outstanding statewide efforts last month:
CalVCP Executive Officer Julie Nauman greets California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris at the Victims' Rights Rally

I believe this year’s message, Facing New Challenges, Finding New Hope, was heard throughout California, and I’d like to share a few highlights with you. During the week of April 7, CalVCP Connection posted a series of guest blogs from crime victim experts and service providers (scroll down to read more). Later in the month we hosted our annual Victims’ Rights Rally and March in Sacramento with keynote speaker California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris. Lastly, we wrapped up the month with our first ever Victims’ Rights Digital Town Hall where Sacramento County District Attorney Jan Scully and El Dorado County District Attorney Vern Pierson moderated discussions on human trafficking, sexual assault, domestic violence, and victim resources.

Julie Nauman is the Executive Officer for the Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board (VCGCB). VCGCB provides compensation for victims of violent crime and helps to resolve claims against the State.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Restitution: A Fundamental Right for Victims

By National Crime Victim Law Institute

Victims of crime often suffer immeasurable harm as a result of the criminal conduct inflicted on them. The economic impact of such harm is rightly borne by the perpetrator, not the victim. Restitution is one mechanism by which the justice system can ensure that the perpetrator, not the victim, bears the burden. Restitution is ordered in criminal sentences and is money paid from the offender to the victim for losses that the victim suffered as a result of the offender’s crime. Ordering and securing collection of restitution is an important part of ensuring that victims are treated fairly and with dignity. Fortunately, every jurisdiction has a statutory provision providing a right to restitution, and at least eighteen states have enshrined the right in their constitutions. (Read more in NCVLI’s publication, A Summary of 12 Common Victims’ Rights). These restitution provisions have evolved out of a historical framework embodying both compensatory and penological (e.g., deterrence, rehabilitation, and accountability) aims.
Victims are fighting every day to secure full restitution orders.

Despite these laws affording victims statutory and constitutional rights to restitution, victims are fighting every day to secure full restitution orders and to recover even pennies on the dollar of those orders. NCVLI is a part of this fight. We are working to ensure that the right to restitution is meaningful so that victims are not asked to finance their own victimization.

As part of this fight we are working on four restitution cases pending in appellate courts right now! One of these is in front of the Oregon Supreme Court in a case in which defendant pled guilty to DUII and Assault IV and everyone in the case agreed on the economic losses of the victims. Despite this the trial court awarded the victims only 10% of their losses because the trial court thought the victims were “at fault” also. This insertion of what is known in civil law as “comparative fault” is a dangerous turn that could result in victims being put on trial and increased victim-blaming. NCVLI secured pro bono counsel for these victims and has submitted an amicus brief in the case!

In another case we are fighting in the Utah Supreme Court in a case in which defendant - convicted of unlawful sexual conduct with a minor not involving intercourse - has objected to the victims recovering the costs of travel and lost wages related to their attendance at court proceedings. NCVLI is submitting an amicus brief on the law. In this and all of our restitution cases we pose the question - how can we ask victims to report crimes and participate in our justice system if we turn around and hand them a bill?

We passed laws nationwide to ensure that victims of crime do not have to finance their own victimization. We must now fight to ensure that those rights are meaningful!

The National Crime Victim Law Institute (NCVLI) is a nonprofit educational and advocacy organization located at Lewis and Clark Law School in Portland, Oregon. NCVLI’s mission is to actively promote balance and fairness in the justice system through crime victim-centered legal advocacy, education, and resource sharing. NCVLI achieves its mission through education and training; promoting the National Alliance of Victims’ Rights Attorneys; researching and analyzing developments in crime victim law; and participating as amicus curiae in court cases nationwide, and assisting crime victim attorneys, advocates, and victims by providing information on crime victim law. NCVLI’s website contains a library on victim law.

Reprinted and/or reproduced with permission of the National Crime Victim Law Institute (NCVLI), all rights reserved. NCVLI actively promotes balance and fairness in the justice system through crime victim centered legal advocacy, education, and resource sharing. To view NCVLI’s library of crime victims’ rights publications, please visit

Friday, April 12, 2013

Protecting Our Future: Child Abuse Prevention Awareness Month

By Sheila Boxley, President & CEO, Child Abuse Prevention Center

An estimated 3.4 million referrals alleging child maltreatment were received by all 52 States’ Child Protective Services (CPS) according to the Child Maltreatment 2011 report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration Children’s Bureau. Three million different children received a CPS response that determined nearly 700,000 children were victims of child abuse and neglect. The rate is 9.1 victims for every 1,000 children. Victims in the age group of birth to one year had the highest victimization rate at 21.2 per 1,000. These are troubling statistics that demand a focus on child maltreatment prevention.

On behalf of the Child Abuse Prevention Center (CAP Center) we invite you to join us in recognizing April 2013 as Child Abuse Prevention Awareness Month. In this annual opportunity to bring awareness to this critical issue, the CAP Center’s focus is on the importance of protective factors that, when present, increase the health and well-being of children and families.

Research tells us that what children learn throughout their early interactions with parents and caregivers becomes the foundation for all future development. While safe, nurturing relationships and stimulating, stable environments improve brain development and child well-being, neglectful or abusive experiences or unstable, stressful environments increase the odds of poor outcomes.

Parents and caregivers who have social connections and concrete supports in times of need are better able to provide safe environments and nurturing experiences for their children. By recognizing and building on existing strengths within communities and families, we can support all families in providing these positive and healthy environments for their children.

Investing in children today is an investment in tomorrow.
Child abuse prevention resources are available from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Children’s Bureau and the Child Welfare Information Gateway. The materials emphasize ways we all can contribute to the healthy development of children and families by incorporating protective factors into our everyday work and interactions with families. We encourage you to share these resources with your agency staff, community partners, and most importantly with the families you serve.

Please accept our sincere appreciation for the work you do each day to build promising futures for our nation’s children. Our children are tomorrow’s leaders, parents, and workforce. Investing in children today is an investment in tomorrow.

Sheila Boxley is President & CEO of the Child Abuse Prevention Center, an umbrella organization that houses Prevent Child Abuse California, the Child Abuse Prevention Council of Sacramento, Safe Kids California, California Family Resource Association, and Lift the Children. She has led the organization for 14 years, during which time it has expanded from a single county to programs in 34 California counties, five states, and two other countries. Sheila was recognized with a national award for her efforts at collaboration by the Child Welfare League of America and jointly by the League of California Cities, County Supervisors Association of California and California School Boards Association.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Join in Denim Day in LA & USA

By Patti Giggans, Executive Director of Peace Over Violence

On Wednesday, April 24th, individuals, businesses, organizations and schools across the country and around the world will participate in the 14th Annual Denim Day in LA & USA. The Denim Day campaign started locally in Los Angeles in 1999 in response to an Italian Supreme Court ruling that suggested a woman could not be raped if she was wearing tight jeans.

In 1992, in a small town outside of Naples, Italy, a young woman accused her forty-five year old driving instructor of brutally raping her during a driving lesson. She told police that he drove her to an isolated area, forced her out of the car, wrestled her out of one leg of her jeans and raped her. He was convicted on lesser charges and then convicted on all charges by an appeals court in 1998. He was sentenced to 34 months in prison before the case made its way to the Italian high court. There, the sentence was overturned based on the justices’ belief that, because the victim wore tight jeans, they could not be removed easily, and therefore, she must have helped her rapist remove them. This implied consensual sex, not rape. Naturally, the decision outraged lawmakers and organizations throughout Italy, and all over the world. Women in the Italian Parliament protested by wearing jeans to work and immediately, the California Senate and Assembly followed suit by wearing jeans on the steps of the Capitol in Sacramento.

I was then and am now the Executive Director of Peace Over Violence, a nonprofit dedicated to ending sexual and domestic violence. I saw the power behind the protests and created the first Denim Day in Los Angeles in 1999. The campaign engaged individuals, politicians, organizations and businesses by encouraging everyone to wear jeans as a visible sign of protest against the misconceptions surrounding sexual violence. “Dollars for Denim” drives raised money for local rape crisis centers, and with each new year, the campaign spread even further. Today, what started out as a citywide protest has become a national day of education that is now spreading globally.

In 2012, over 5 million people participated in Denim Day in LA & USA. The impact of social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook has not only expanded awareness about the campaign, but has also allowed participants as far away as Afghanistan and South Korea to show their support for sexual assault victims. Yet, as large as the campaign grows, it is supremely evident that misconceptions about rape and sexual assault still exist. In a year that has been dominated with headlines touting outdated, misguided and often absurd claims regarding sexual assault, it is imperative that this year’s campaign be our largest Denim Day to date. To get involved, visit the Denim Day in LA & USA website to register and find ways that you can participate in your area.

Patricia Giggans has been the Executive Director of Peace Over Violence since 1985. As Peace Over Violence’s Executive Director, she is responsible for overall management, fundraising. policy and volunteer activities for this non-profit organization. She has been active in violence against women and violence prevention issues for more than 35 years and is considered a national expert on sexual, domestic violence, teen dating violence and prevention.