Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Victimization of Sexual Assault Survivors

By Julie Nauman, VCGCB Executive Officer

When the news broke that a Stanford University student, Brock Turner, was convicted of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman behind a dumpster at a campus party, many thought he would be punished with a jail sentence that fit the crime.

After all, there was physical evidence, two witnesses and an admission of guilt - end of story.

Like many abusers before him, Turner refused to take responsibility for his actions. He blamed friends, teammates, society, a college campus culture and the victim for his predatory behavior.

His statement after his attack was just as appalling as his assault against his incapacitated victim. In a letter, Turner described his actions as “the product of a culture of drinking, peer pressure and sexual promiscuity.”

In court, the victim impact statement said it all, “I am not just a drunk victim at a frat party found behind a dumpster, while you are the All-American swimmer at a top university, innocent until proven guilty, with so much at stake. I am a human being who has been irreversibly hurt, who waited a year to figure out if I was worth something.”

Regardless of Turner’s sentence, his victim will pay a much steeper price. 

Survivors of violent crime face an uphill battle to recovery. They are deeply impacted physically, emotionally, financially and spiritually, often feeling vulnerable and isolated. For sexual assault victims, the psychological trauma can be life-altering. 

Nothing can change what has happened. But there are services and programs in every county in California designed to help victims cope with the aftermath of sexual assault. At the California Victim Compensation Program (CalVCP), we help pay for mental health counseling, medical and dental treatment, relocation, home security and income loss, among other expenses. Over the last five years, our program has helped over 23,000 victims of sexual assault and paid more than $16 million in benefits to help them heal. 

As the victim in this case stated, she is a “human being who has been irreversibly hurt.” She is someone who might feel guilt, shame and blame as well as low self-esteem for years. She is someone who has a long recovery road ahead of her, but with support from family, friends and medical professionals she will prevail. She is a survivor. 

Sexual assault touches more lives than many realize. It not only impacts the victim, it impacts immediate family, friends and the community. If you or a loved one needs help, there are dozens of resources to turn to in California and CalVCP is among them.

No victim should have to justify why they were at a party, in a car, sleeping with their bedroom window cracked open or drinking alcohol. An unconscious person being dragged around at 2 a.m. behind a dumpster is not a consenting or a willing partner. It doesn’t take an elite education to figure that out. 

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, January 11, 2016

Looking Ahead: Human Trafficking Awareness Month

By Julie Nauman, VCGCB Executive Officer

Greetings, and a very Happy New Year to you.

As we enter a new year together, it is a good time to reflect on our accomplishments from the past 12 months, but to also take inventory, and to take action on the work that lies ahead.

Such is the case with the subject of Human Trafficking. The month of January is set aside to increase awareness of this important topic, and to increase access to the services we provide to trafficking survivors. Today we acknowledge and honor Human Trafficking Awareness Day, which is a part of a month-long commemoration set aside to increase awareness of this important topic and to increase access to the services we provide to trafficking survivors.

More than 20 million men, women and children around the world and in our own communities are currently victims of human trafficking — a $32 billion dollar industry that transcends age, gender, race and status. 

We have come a long way in how we now handle these cases. For years, state law did not allow these victims to receive benefits if they had participated in a crime or were involved in the events leading to their victimization. 

They were treated as prostitutes and disqualified, whether or not they had been forced into sexual slavery, and subjected to rape and physical and mental abuse. Many of them did what they had to do, simply to survive. We saw the need for change, and added a regulation in 2014 to allow them to get assistance from our California Victims Compensation Program (CalVCP).  

Since that time, we have received many applications from human trafficking victims — a population we had not served before. But we want to help all of these victims, so we need to collaborate with our partners to reach out to these individuals who desperately need our help.

trauma-informed training

In light of this, we are hosting a human trafficking trauma-informed training to educate our staff and our partners who work with these human trafficking victims. This training will be presented by Chris Stambaugh from The Grace Network, a grassroots organization that has mobilized thousands of people to combat human trafficking. Chris will discuss how they use technology to reach and serve victims, and will give a presentation on their free user-friendly resource app, “GraceCity” that allows first responders to access services for those affected by human trafficking. This training will be live-streamed on January 14, 2016 at 10 a.m. This focused training will be extremely informative and helpful as we continue to explore better ways to meet the unique needs of these survivors.

The training builds upon our earlier human trafficking workshop presented by Opening Doors, which is available to view anytime. This workshop gives insight into how you can identify a victim of sex trafficking, forced labor and debt bondage and the psychological mechanisms behind the abuse.  

Additionally, we have developed a short public service announcement (PSA) featuring our Board member, and San Bernardino County District Attorney, Michael Ramos. District Attorney Ramos has been a leader in California in recognizing that women, men, and children who are trafficked are victims of crime and their trafficking must be aggressively prosecuted. We ask that you share this PSA with your own networks.

As we go forward, CalVCP will continue to engage in the discussion of human trafficking and how this critical subject is handled through law enforcement and the victim services arena.

I am honored to work in a state dedicated to education and action, striving to make a tangible difference in the lives of victims. We invite you to participate in our workshops during Human Trafficking Awareness Month and we encourage you to join us in this effort to ensure that all victims of human trafficking receive the respectful and compassionate help they deserve.

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.