Compensation for the Rape Survivor
In addition to its heavy emotional impact, crimes of sexual violence can impose tangible financial costs on the victims. You may have to miss work to attend court hearings. You may not even be able to continue in your current job because you are coping with depression or anxiety as a result of the crime. You also may incur counseling or medical expenses in the aftermath of a rape or sexual assault.
Did you know that, as a survivor of sexual violence, you may be entitled to compensation for some of the expenses (such as lost wages and medical and counseling costs) you incurred due to the crime? You may qualify to receive financial help with these expenses from your state’s Crime Victim Compensation Program.
Each state has such a program, which allocates funds to rape victims and other victims of violent crime for medical, counseling, and related expenses. (In a large majority of states, the court fees imposed against convicted offenders are a source of revenue for the state victims’ compensation program, rather than tax dollars. All state programs also receive support through the federal Victims of Crime Act (VOCA), enacted in 1984, and some also obtain court-ordered restitution collected from criminals.) Below is a database summarizing major features of each state’s program. You also can access a directory of state Crime Victim Compensation Programs on the website of the National Association of Crime Victim Compensation Boards, at this link: http://www.nacvcb.org/progdir.html1
VOCA requires that all state compensation programs cover the following crime-related costs:
- Medical expenses;
- Lost wages for victims unable to work because of crime-related injury (note that some state programs will reimburse for lost wages for non-physical injury, such as an inability to concentrate, but documentation from a medical professional is typically required);
- Funeral expenses.
Additionally, some (but not all) state compensation programs cover these crime-related costs (you can access information on your state below):
- Sexual assault forensic exams (federal law entitles victims to free forensic exams);
- Moving or relocation expenses. (Many states won’t cover these expenses unless the victim is in imminent physical danger or the move is medically necessary. Documentation from the police or a physician is typically required to demonstrate that the victim is unsafe in their current living situation.);
- Temporary lodging;
- Travel and transport for survivors of homicide victims to secure bodies of deceased victims from another country or state;
- Transportation to medical providers;
- Replacement services for work the victim is unable to perform because of crime-related injury (primarily childcare and housekeeping);
- Crime-scene cleanup;
- Rehabilitation, may include physical therapy and/or job therapy;
- Modifications to homes or vehicles for paralyzed victims;
- Replacement costs for clothing and bedding held as evidence;
- Replacement or repair of windows and locks or repair or installation of home-security services; and
- Fees for attorneys who help victims apply for compensation;
In addition, a very small number of states may pay for the following:
- Lawyer’s fees to establish guardianship, assist in settling estates, and perform other activities related to the crime (one state only);
- Dependent care to allow victims to participate in criminal justice activities or secure medical treatment and rehabilitation services;
- Financial counseling services;
- Pain and suffering (two states only, in very limited amounts); and
- Annuities for loss of support for children of homicide victims.
General Eligibility Requirements
As a general rule, you must meet the following requirements in order to qualify for compensation in any given state:
- Complete the state’s application form in its entirety and be prepared to provide documents (such as a police report, if requested, and bills for your medical or counseling expenses) supporting your claim of injury resulting from the rape or sexual assault.
- Report the rape or sexual assault to the police in a timely manner. Most states require victims to report the crime to the police before starting the compensation claim process. Many states require victims to report the crime within 72 hours. Some states require victims to report the crime sooner (e.g., in Missouri, within 48 hours). Other states, however, allow for longer time frames -- ranging from in 90 days in New Jersey to up to one year in Washington. California, Texas, Utah, Vermont, and Wyoming do not specify a deadline for reporting the crime to police, but reporting must occur within a reasonable time frame.
- It’s important to note that children are not held to these deadlines. Most programs will accept claims on behalf of child victims whenever the sexual abuse is reported.
- File a timely claim for compensation. Most states impose deadlines for filing a compensation claim ranging from 180 days (e.g., Illinois) to one or two years after the crime. (Utah and Vermont have no deadline for filing a claim.) However, most programs can waive the filing deadline for a good cause. You do not need to wait until the suspect is arrested or convicted to file a claim. It is often not necessary to submit medical bills or police reports at the time you file your application; you may be asked to furnish these documents later.
- Exceptions are almost always made for child victims. Some states have statutory exceptions allowing claims to be filed within a year or two of turning the age of majority; other states simply waive reporting and filing requirements for children.
- A number of programs may accept claims from adult survivors of childhood incest, even though the crime may be far in the past. Generally speaking, however, these programs do require the victim to report to police, if no report was made at or near the time of the incest; and some may require a finding of substantiation by law enforcement.
- Confirmation from a mental-health practitioner alone is generally not sufficient to document that a crime took place. Since these situations may be determined on a case-by-case basis by the compensation program, it's important to check with your state to see what requirements apply.
- Cooperate with law enforcement. All states require cooperation with the criminal justice system (police and prosecutors) as a condition of receiving compensation, even if no arrest is made. However, many programs allow waivers for victims who decline to cooperate because of legitimate fears for their health or safety.
- Use the state compensation program as a last source. Many state programs are a payer of last source [i.e., if compensation is available from another source, such as private insurance, Medicaid, or Medicare, then victim’s compensation will not be awarded for any expense covered by that source; if restitution is actually being paid, then compensation programs will take into account payments received in calculating how much to pay]. Compensation is paid only when collateral sources do not offer financial resources to cover the loss.
- Not be implicated in the crime. All states assess whether the victim was implicated in the crime. Some states deny compensation for any contributory misconduct, while others also have the option to simply reduce the compensation by a certain percentage based on the victim’s culpability.
Specific State Eligibility Requirements
Each state sets its own eligibility requirements for victims’ compensation. For example, in a few states, victims with a criminal record are not eligible for compensation at all. If the program issues an initial decision with which you disagree, you are afforded opportunities to appeal the decision, but these procedures vary from state to state. In many states, you may be able to ask for a special hearing, at which you can explain why you should get the help you are seeking.
Below is more information about each state’s requirements, as well as a link to the website for each state’s crime victims compensation program. For additional information about state compensation programs, contact RAINN at 202-544-3064. You also may want to visit the National Association of Crime Victim Compensation Boards' website at www.nacvcb.org.
For additional information, contact RAINN at 202.544.1034.