As the weather turns cooler and the beauty of the foliage enchants, as the scent of pumpkin spice fills the air and Halloween candy is ever-present, remember to wear purple to raise awareness about domestic violence, and consider volunteering to help the Crime Victims Legal Network.
This October marks the 30th anniversary of national Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM). DVAM was launched back in 1987 to unite individuals and organizations working on domestic violence issues and to raise awareness of the experiences of these unique victims of crime. Wearing the color purple during this month, especially on the Thursday during the third full week of October (this year, October 19th), has helped to draw attention to this important issue. Over the past three decades, we have shined a light on this social injustice that knows no social and economic boundaries, and through grassroots and legislative efforts, have made a significant difference in the lives of intimate partner violence survivors. But our efforts are still needed in support of these victims – and for other victims of crime.
The New York Crime Victims Legal Network (CVLN) is a partnership of organizations working together to better address the civil legal needs of crime victims, including victims of domestic violence. Crime can have a huge impact on victims and their families. The emotional reactions to a crime can include a variety of behaviors such as increased concern for personal safety, withdrawal from others, difficulty sleeping and concentrating, and a range of feelings from fear and anxiety to guilt and helplessness. On top of this, victims of crime may have to face multiple legal problems that stem from their victimization. It can be overwhelming, and many people aren’t sure where to turn.
The CVLN is in the process of developing new tools that will connect victims of crime with the information and services they need. A dedicated website will have a suite of features including a triage screening tool, legal aid help directory, self-help resource library and live chat. From the Needs Assessment we conducted last year, we know many crime victims don’t seek help because they don’t know where to go, don’t think that anything can be done to help, or because they think they can deal with things on their own. The triage tool is being designed to help crime victims identify their legal needs. For the pilot stage, we are focusing on providing legal resources in the areas of housing, family, employment, immigration, and finances – the top needs identified by victims of crime and service providers. By offering know your rights and self-help resources, we hope that more crime victims become aware of the options available to them, and through the help directory that they know where they can obtain help with their legal problems. And to assist users in finding their way around the website, a live chat feature will be available.
To create a product that truly meets the needs of crime victims in New York State, we need feedback from real people. If you are a victim of a crime who resides in Erie or Genesee County, would you consider becoming part of our Community Insight Group? We’ll be turning to you at various stages of the development of the website to get your thoughts, opinions, and advice. Is the website design aesthetically pleasing? Is the site easy to maneuver? Is the content helpful? Your feedback will play an important part in guiding the direction of the website. User testers will receive a small stipend for their assistance.
Service providers – we can use your help, too! Please help us recruit user testers. Reach out to past clients you believe would likely use our site, anyone who could potentially have civil legal issues directly or indirectly stemming from their victimization. We’re inviting 10-12 people to be a part of this Community Insight Group. Or you can help by volunteering as a content expert, someone who reviews the legal content being developed for the site and makes sure the resources we offer are useful. Please email me at email@example.com if you are interested in helping or for more information.
I hope we can count on your help with the Crime Victims Legal Network. And don’t forget to wear purple!
This report was produced by the Empire Justice Center & the New York State Office of Victims Services under Grant No. 2014-XV-BX-K009, awarded by the Office for Victims of Crime, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this product are those of the contributors and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.