Thursday, August 6, 2020

CalVCB May Provide Compensation for Victims Forced to Stay at Home With Their Abusers

COVID-19 forced all Californians to stay home to save lives. However, for intimate partner violence and child abuse victims, staying at home often means staying with their abusers 24/7, with little or no access to family, friends, co-workers, teachers or others who can offer support and assistance.

The California Victim Compensation Board can provide compensation for intimate partner and child abuse survivors when a crime or threat of injury has occurred. This includes medical and mental health treatment, dental, home security, income loss and more. CalVCB may also reimburse a claimant up to $2,000 per household for expenses incurred in relocating. An applicant may request an emergency award for reimbursement of any eligible expense if the Board determines that such an award is necessary.

We also work directly with 59 Victim Witness Assistance Centers — one in each county and one more in the City of Los Angeles —to assist victims with completing and submitting an application and navigating the criminal justice system. CalVCB also provides grants to 15 Trauma Recovery Centers that provide mental health and case management services to victims of crime, their families and loved ones.

In April of 2019, CalVCB launched an online portal, allowing victims to apply for compensation digitally. The application site features a Quick Escape button, so applicants can quickly exit if needed. Since the state’s shelter in place order began in March, nearly half of all applications have been submitted through CalVCB Online. However, we have seen a drop in the number of intimate partner and child abuse claimants applying for compensation. In Fiscal Year 2018-19, CalVCB received nearly 10,000 child abuse applications and more than 12,000 domestic violence applications. In April of 2019, nearly 900 child abuse compensation applications were submitted – that number dropped to just under 500 applications in April of 2020. For domestic violence compensation applications, more than 1,200 applications were filed with CalVCB in April of 2019, compared to slightly more than 800 in April of 2020. That downward trend continued in May, June and July.

A 2015 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, found about one in four women and one in seven men experienced severe physical violence by an intimate partner at some point in their lifetime. That same survey found about 33% of California women—about 4.5 million—have experienced rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner at some point in their lifetime.

Additional help and resources can be found on California’s COVID-19 website and the Department of Public Health’s Injury and Violence Prevention Branch for those experiencing, or suspect, abuse.

 


Monday, July 13, 2020


How CalVCB Helps Human Trafficking Survivors
Human trafficking is a $150 billion-a-year industry, but the women and men, boys and girls, trafficked for both sex and labor never see that money. When they finally manage to break free, many do not have access to funds for housing, a car, food or other essentials and can end up back with their trafficker.

In California, that's no longer the case. Survivors can now apply for up to $20,000 in income loss from the California Victim Compensation Board. The law bases the compensation on minimum wage at the time the crime occurred and caps it at $10,000 a year for up to two years. Victims must apply within seven years of the date of the crime. Minors may apply up until their 28th birthday, but CalVCB will not release the income loss funds until that minor victim turns 18.

Assembly Members Christy Smith and Lorena Gonzalez authored Assembly Bill 629, which passed the Legislature with unanimous bipartisan support and was signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom. The bill closes a loophole and allows CalVCB to rely on evidence other than official employment documentation when considering and approving income loss applications for human trafficking victims.

For years, crime victims have qualified for income loss compensation through CalVCB; however, applicants need to submit formal documentation, such as a W-2 form, to prove their income. For the thousands of human trafficking victims statewide, this regulation made it impossible for them to qualify. 

That all changed on January 1, 2020, when AB 629 went into effect. Under regulations adopted by CalVCB in May, six weeks before the July 1, 2020, deadline, human trafficking victims will still need to provide CalVCB with evidence of a crime, including, but not limited to, a statement under penalty of perjury from the applicant, a caseworker, a licensed attorney or a witness, or a law enforcement report. The law applies to California residents, and those brought from other countries and trafficked in our state.

Since the beginning of the year, CalVCB has approved five human trafficking income loss applications and compensated those survivors more than $70,000.

Applicants may also qualify for medical, dental and mental health treatment, home security and relocation compensation.

Victims, advocates, representatives and attorneys can apply for compensation in several ways:

Monday, June 22, 2020

Customer Service Increases Productivity While Working From Home



“Hello, thank you for calling the California Victim Compensation Board. How may I help you?”

Thousands of victims, victim advocates and providers hear those words every month when they call Customer Service and that didn’t change during California’s Stay-at-Home order. In fact, CalVCB’s dedicated staff exceeded expectations since transitioning to telework in mid-March.

“Recognizing the important role we play within the Board, we take pride in delivering information to our victims in a compassionate manner and expeditiously resolving issues,” said Tisha Heard, the Customer Service Section manager.

Her team is made up of 12 dedicated, knowledgeable, empathetic and trauma-informed individuals, and serves as the primary point of contact for those in need. They handled more than 10,400 calls in May from applicants looking for answers about their applications and compensation. 

The transition to telework didn’t come without challenges but Heard said they quickly overcame the obstacles and found solutions. Since transitioning to telework, they’ve increased productivity and people calling into CalVCB have experienced decreased wait times, a trend Heard is confident will continue in the coming months

Despite the challenges of the job, CalVCB’s Customer Service Section regularly recognizes the accomplishments made by individual team members and takes pride in knowing they’re able to help victims.

“My team and I get the opportunity to offer emotional support and program assistance to victims of crime and their families throughout the State,” said Heard. “It is truly gratifying knowing that you’ve helped someone begin the healing process as they try to get back to ‘normal.’ Despite the stress and challenges that come along with my job, I wouldn’t trade places with anyone. I love my job. In my next life, I see myself continuing this type of work. It’s in my DNA.”

Some of those applicants Heard and her team help are victims of older and dependent adult abuse, which CalVCB observes and raises awareness of in June. From July 1, 2018, through June 30, 2019, CalVCB approved nearly 220 compensation applications from both direct and derivative victims. Applicants received more than $200,000 in compensation, with the majority covering medical ($88,904), dental ($32,031) and funeral/burial ($29,921) expenses. Compensation is also available for mental health treatment, income loss, relocation and residential security. Older Californians who have suffered abuse may apply for compensation at victims.ca.gov.


Monday, April 20, 2020



CalVCB Commemorates National Crime Victims’ Rights Week April 19-25, 2020
By Lynda Gledhill, Interim Executive Officer

This April is one different from any other we have experienced. With California under a stay-at-home order, everyone is learning to deal with a different reality. This makes it even more important that we take the time to raise awareness for crime victims’ rights.

Each year we join a broad array of communities to recognize significant events such as National Crime Victims’ Rights Week and Denim Day. These observances serve to remind us of the role we all play, to assist victims in their journey to becoming survivors.

The California Victim Compensation Board and its dedicated team of professionals administer programs designed to provide reimbursement for many crime-related expenses. Eligible individuals include victims who suffer physical injury or the threat of physical injury as a direct result of a violent crime. CalVCB funding comes directly from restitution paid by criminal offenders through fines, orders, penalty assessments and federal funds.

As the interim Executive Director of CalVCB, I want to assure anyone who is in need of our services, and those in the community assisting victims, that we are working just as hard, albeit remotely, to review applications, process claims and compensate victims and providers who look to us for help. Our online resources make that process even easier to access.

Last year, CalVCB launched an online portal allowing individuals to apply for reimbursement directly from our website. Since then, more than 5,000 people have used this new feature.

Applicants and advocates are encouraged to access this online option whenever possible. Providers can also use the portal to upload and submit necessary documents.

As CalVCB transitioned to telework, continuing to help victims of violent crimes was always the first priority. Our call center staff are all working from home and while call volume has remained steady, wait times have dropped.

CalVCB staff have processed 4,576 applications in the last four weeks, about 950 applications more than the month prior to the shelter from home order. Similarly, payments made were comparable to payments for to the month prior to working from home.

We know, however, that for some a stay at home order brings with it additional challenges and possible victimization. That can be because victims are forced to shelter in place with their abuser or additional challenges created by being separated from family members or friends. That is why it is important that our resources and services remain available and accessible for everyone in the state who is impacted by crime.

We acknowledge that money cannot alleviate the trauma of being a victim of crime. We proudly work with trauma recovery centers, district attorneys’ offices and law enforcement statewide.

This month concludes with the observance of Denim Day on April 29, a day in which individuals wear denim to support survivors and educate themselves and others about all forms of sexual violence. We here at CalVCB will join the millions of supporters throughout the world and wear denim as a sign of our solidarity.

As our lives continue to shift in this time of uncertainty, be assured that CalVCB will be here to help. 

For more information: victims.ca.gov.





Friday, March 27, 2020

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month



Every April, the California Victim Compensation Board joins survivors, advocates, law enforcement and others to recognize Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and Denim Day, which is on April 29th this year.

In Fiscal Year 2018-2019, CalVCB received more than 4,500 applications from sexual assault victims and paid almost $62 million to claimants.

Sexual assault survivors are every gender, race, age, income and sexuality.

One outspoken survivor now works with other girls and women, while continuing to break barriers. We are honored Preet Didbal, the former mayor of Yuba City, shared her survival story with CalVCB.

I spent the next few hours drifting in and out of consciousness while the doctors examined me. I felt very confused and groggy. It was during the next several hours I learned what happened to me- I had been raped. As the effects of Rohypnol started to wear off, I began seeing flashbacks of red and blue police lights, shadows of bushes or trees, the reflection of glass shields of some sort, with a mix of conversations and noises happening around me. Although I was not completely coherent, I recognized these images and sounds, but then I would drift off again into unconsciousness. Unbeknownst to me at the time, this began a journey that would challenge me to my very core. 

I wish I could write my story is unique, an anomaly, or a deviation from what has become all too prevalent in many women's experiences, but it is not. Sadly it is more commonplace than we may ever know or comprehend. Often survivors of sexual assault trauma like mine do not report it to the authorities because women are too afraid or ashamed to come forward. Consequently, their stories are only shared after they die, whether as a result of trauma inflicted by their abuser or because they find continuing life unbearable and resort to taking their own lives. I know how many times I contemplated taking my own life, and how close I came to doing just that. I know how it feels to hold the knife in your hand and rationalize that cutting your wrist is not just the only way to stop the pain, but also the best way. When I work with women's shelters today, I hear from far too many other women whose experiences mirror my own. If the physical violation is not traumatizing enough, the victim shaming, cultural prejudice, and gender bias inflicted by others only exacerbate the pain to the point of demoralization and even dehumanization. Ostracization becomes the pathetic new normal. For so long, I carried the physical and emotional scars inside of me and felt alone in battle. As difficult and scary as it was to talk about, my personal healing began with the support of strangers. People I never met before I was assaulted extended a hand of support, or words of kindness, when no one else did. It was with this benevolence and the repetitive words of my dad, ”one foot in front of the other; one step at a time” that I began my healing. 

My journey has not been an easy one, but I found the courage, despite the fear, to start asking for help. Asking for and receiving support were key steps in finding myself. None of the steps in recapturing one’s self-worth are easy, but it is important to note that it is possible! I, a Sikh American female, the first female in my family to go to college, who heard “no” and “you can’t” for 40+ years and navigated countless twists and turns in my path, was finally able to get traction in reclaiming my life and its value. Through the love and support of others and my own hard work, I was able to break through the stigma that a woman- sexually assaulted, brutally scrutinized, then re-victimized by society- had little to contribute. I am a contributor. In 2017 I became the first Sikh American woman in United States history elected the mayor of a city. 
Although I recognize the gravity of this accomplishment, I also realize the real triumph is sharing my story with other women in hopes it will give them aspiration, confidence, and
empowerment in their response to sexually inflicted trauma. I continue to work with women and young girls through Redefine and Empower, as well as serving as a Board Member of Casa de Esperanza, to instill courage, confidence, and self-esteem. We must continue to educate and provide resources to support, guide in healing, and restore women to ensure we do not lose any more precious lives as a result of this horrific act of violence. Every step, big or small, is a step toward finding the light in oneself. 

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and I encourage everyone to share resources and come together to help those in need. 
With much gratitude, Preet Didbal https://redefineandempower.com 


The California Victim Compensation Board assists victims of sexual assault. Victims can apply for reimbursement for several services, including medical and mental health treatment, home security and relocation assistance.

Victims, victim advocates, victim representatives and attorneys can apply for compensation in several ways:
  • Create an application using CalVCB Online — a secure and private portal that can be easily accessed from a smartphone, tablet or computer.
  • Contact a local county Victim Witness Assistance Center.
  • Call the CalVCB Help Line at (800) 777-9229.
  • Download an application from CalVCB's How to Apply page.
  • E-mail CalVCB at info@victims.ca.gov.
Victims can apply within seven years of the date of the crime. Minor victims can apply by their 28th birthday.


Thursday, January 30, 2020


CALIFORNIA LEADS COUNTRY IN NUMBER OF REPORTED SEX AND LABOR TRAFFICKING CASES


By Lynda Gledhill, Interim Executive Officer

Sex trafficking. Forced labor. Domestic servitude. All are considered human trafficking. Every January, the California Victim Compensation Board strives to raise awareness and let millions of victims know there is help, and a way out of this modern-day slavery.

Sex and labor trafficking are a $150 billion-a-year industry and the epidemic isn’t just occurring in foreign countries with lax laws. In the United States, the National Human Trafficking Hotline reports it handled nearly 11,000 human trafficking cases in 2018. California has the highest number of reported cases, with 1,656 reported cases, followed by Texas (1,000) and Florida (767).



Human trafficking affects people of all genders and races; however, women and girls are disproportionately trafficked. The International Labour Organization reports women and girls account for 99% of the victims in the commercial sex industry.


The cycle of human trafficking takes a heavy toll on victims. Human traffickers often prey on those considered vulnerable, including runaways, homeless youth and those in the child welfare system. According to the Polaris Project, some victims stay with their trafficker because they’re afraid to leave, lack transportation or a safe place to stay, are being held against their will, or have been manipulated to the point they do not even recognize they are under the control of another person.



Beyond recognizing the potential red flags, the Polaris Project points out there may not be anything visible to alert you a stranger is a victim of human trafficking. However, if you do suspect someone is a victim of human trafficking, call 911 or your local law enforcement agency, the National Human Trafficking Hotline, or any of our partner organizations.

We need people to stop stigmatizing the drug addict or prostitute on the corner as a lost cause, and begin to ask ourselves how they got there,” survivor Marjorie Saylor told the San Diego Union-Tribune in December. The founder and CEO of The Well Path went on to say, “We need more compassion for others. Recognize that not everyone who is being trafficked is aware that they are being exploited. Understand that our resilience is so much stronger than our trauma and that recovery can happen. Understand that recovery sometimes looks like going back out, again and again, until it finally sinks in.”

The California Victim Compensation Board assists victims of sex and labor trafficking. Human trafficking victims can apply for reimbursement of medical and mental health services and relocation assistance. In addition, under Assembly Bill 629, which became law on January 1, 2020, human trafficking victims may be eligible for up to $10,000 of income loss per year they were trafficked, for up to two years ($20,000 limit). For minor victims of human trafficking, the funds will be released after their 18th birthday.

Victims, victim advocates, victim representatives, and attorneys can apply for compensation in several ways:
Victims must apply within seven years of the date of the crime. Minor victims must apply by their 28th birthday.


CalVCB encourages everyone to take some time this month to learn more about how to help human trafficking victims.


Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Challenging the Normalization of Violence during Domestic Violence Awareness Month



Written by Alejandra Aguilar, California Partnership to End Domestic Violence
Gender pronouns: She, Her, Hers
Over the past few years, there has been so much energy across our country on raising awareness about the prevalence of gender-based violence. Survivor-led movements like #WhyIStayed, #MeToo, and Time’s Up have done so much to bring attention to the critical topics we have seen all over our screens—abuse in relationships, sexual violence, and the social inequities that fuel them. During Domestic Violence Awareness Month and year-round, survivors want people to not only listen to their experiences, but also take action in our everyday lives to prevent further violence. Talking about it is not enough. We have so much more work to do!
As many people have experienced, and as many of us have seen throughout our spaces at work, and in our friendships and families, there are very real reasons why a large number of individuals choose to not disclose intimate partner violence or sexual assault: fear of being re-traumatized and ridiculed, having their experiences minimized, being blamed and humiliated… The list goes on. We know the reasons. We talk about them every day. And yet, we cannot stop talking! Now more than ever as more folks are looking for opportunities to engage!

In our Domestic Violence Awareness Month Campaign, Growing the Seeds of Healing and Justice, survivors across California are expressing how they could feel more supported, what changes need to be made in communities to make healing & justice more accessible, and their hopes for the future. Here are some of their powerful responses to our survey questions—which invite us to take action:
Q: How can schools, workplaces religious institutions, etc., create welcoming environments for lesbian, gay, bisexual, pansexual, and asexual survivors, and how would this work to prevent abusive tactics?
A: "Say out loud you are here for us. Say out loud that you welcome us. Say out loud that you need to do more training. Say out loud that you do not tolerate discrimination. Maybe others will be inspired by your bravery."
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Q: What would you need from your friends, family, and community to feel safer and cared for?
A: “A nonjudgmental response to decision making about how to heal. Take action when I say I am not well. Offer to go for a walk, drive, or just sit in silence so I am reminded that I am not alone.”—Tina Rodriguez
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Q: How do we move toward a California free from domestic violence?
A: “Begin at the pre-school level and teach healthy relationships, respect for individual sovereignty, and accountability for behaviors; and keep teaching through high school.”
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Q: Answered by Native and immigrant survivors, as well as survivors of color: How do support systems need to be improved to meet your needs?
A: "Strengthen the support system. Legislate that DV victims be waived from deportation if an abuser reports to ICE or the court. Expedite the Violence Against Women Act processing time for victims to be able to find a job to support their family."
To determine how we engage others in the prevention of violence, we must deeply reflect upon guidance from survivors in our actions. But how can we get started? Answering these questions for yourself—on a regular basis—can help.
  • How can I hold myself accountable?
  • How can I share ideas with others about ways in which they can stand up against violence?
  • How do I challenge the norms that perpetuate the violence?  
This is going to take all of us—and each of us can become self-aware of the spaces in which we hold privilege and use it to stand up, speak out, and do something. Use the Oppression and Privilege Self-Assessment Tool that was shared in our blog post Intersectionality of Privilege, Oppression, and Tactics of Abuse, and consider the following questions:
·         As a parent or teacher, do you have access to spaces in which you can engage youth and adults in discussions around respect, equality, consent and what they look like?
·         Do you have spaces around you where you can add media and images that encourage healthy relationship behaviors and bystander intervention skills?
·         Have you emailed or called your elected official, encouraging them to promote laws that foster equality and liberation for marginalized groups?
·         Using language and examples that support survivors and challenge these norms: “They didn’t deserve it. No one does.” “The person who chose to rape caused the rape. Nothing else.” “Only a Yes is a Yes. Anything else is a No.”
How will YOU hold yourself accountable?
How can you INVITE OTHERS to engage in challenging the normalization of violence?
We encourage you to read and share the Piktochart that was created by the Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Violence. It’s a great way to start the conversation with others. Let me know how it goes by getting in touch with me at alejandra@cpedv.org. I’d love to hear back from you.
If you’re a survivor reading this, this is your movement—and we welcome you to get involved. We would be honored to have you join our coalition as a member. Please also explore the resources below:
·         Trans Lifeline
·         The GLBT Talkline
Disclaimer:
The information contained in this blog is for general information purposes only, and CalVCB makes no representations of any kind regarding completeness or accuracy or security of the links within the blog. All opinions expressed in the blogs are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of CalVCB.