NOVA has received many requests for a response to recent discussions about reducing the Mandatory Minimum Sentencing guidelines currently in place in the Federal Court system. After significant reflection, the NOVA Board has released the following statement on the subject:
The National Organization for Victim Assistance strongly affirms its position that the length of incarceration for those convicted of a crime or crimes should be based on justice and safety for the victim and society, not on the cost of incarceration.
NOVA’s mission is championing dignity and compassion for those harmed by crime and crisis. When considering this issue, victims must remain the top priority. The cost of victimization is much too high to take lightly when looking for ways to reduce spending. Any legislation proposing changes to the current guidelines must put victims first, and not lose the hard-fought progress they have earned.
April 3, 2014
We express our sympathies and support to the families suffering at Fort Hood. As a national network of victim advocates and crisis responders, we are keenly aware that the scale of such an event multiplies the suffering in exponential ways.
Members of this community of patriots have been drafted against their wills into a context for which no one would volunteer. And they join the others who, in the area of homicide alone, are enrolled at the unacceptable rate of one every thirty-two minutes.
And we stand ready to respond to the unjust trauma that is at the core of such an deplorable choice by a perpetrator.
Coloring book resource for young children:
October 30, 2013
Central to NOVA’s commitment to victims of crime is the implicit concept of averting re-victimization as well as prevention of harm to consumers.
As one of its core services, NOVA provides a nationwide toll-free number (800-TRY-NOVA) for victims to call directly for assistance. In working with identity theft victims, patterns emerge that demonstrate the variety and complexity of such a crime, centered on the misuse of Personally Identifying Information (PII).
While there is no fail-safe prevention against identity theft, it is clear that stewardship and security of PII is singularly effective for limiting the theft of PII and commensurate fraudulent activity. Identity fraud can result in financial losses for individuals, companies and banks. It can also reflect a variety of other compromises including criminal identity theft (e.g., crimes committed in the victim’s name), medical identity theft (e.g., health care services and insurance obtained in the victim’s name) and employment identity theft (e.g., using a stolen Social Security Number to obtain work). As identity fraud is also a tool used in other violent crimes like terrorism, gangs, domestic violence, stalking and child abuse, the Drivers Privacy Protection Act (DPPA) isn’t just about privacy, it is a matter of safety.
Amy Boyer, a young New Hampshire woman, did not know her life was in danger. Her stalker, a man she barely knew from her high school, used the Internet to find electronic data about her workplace and her license plate number. With just these two pieces of information purchased from Internet companies, he was able to track her down and kill her. She never knew she was at risk. Amy Boyer never knew she needed protection.
More recently, we have also seen an explosion in identity theft and cyber stalking victimization. These criminals thrive on access to personal information through electronic data sources, using these bits of PII or personally identifying information to continually harass and re-victimize their targets. Cases like Amy’s highlight the need for protection of electronic data.
The DPPA was enacted by Congress to protect the privacy of the PII citizens are required to give to the department of motor vehicles of their state. As states are now stewards of this information, the DPPA was intended to monitor and control the use of this information for only necessary and lawful purposes.
With the increase in focus on cyber safety, more attention is being paid to how criminals access their victims’ PII. Consumers are becoming more vigilant about protecting this information to reduce their susceptibility to these crimes. If the States are selling this information to anyone who is interested in paying for it, they become complicit in the illegal actions of those purchasers. Congress intended the DPPA to limit these sales and eliminate the use of unscrupulous entities using this information to steal the identities of citizens as well as protection for victims of crimes like stalking, domestic battery and intimidating witnesses.
The DPPA protects “personal information… that identifies an individual, including an individual’s photograph, social security number, driver identification number, name, address (but not the 5-digit zip code), telephone number, and medical or disability information.” The DPPA states it is “unlawful for any person knowingly to obtain or disclose personal information, from a motor vehicle record, for any use not permitted under section 2721(b) of this title. Section 2721(c) of the DPPA limits re-sale or re-disclosure of an individual’s Personal Information to “authorized recipient[s].”
This infers that the data will only be used for legitimate government agencies or for licensing purposes without consent of the individual. This is not the case. Many states have chosen to interpret this to mean that unless an individual “opts out” of information sharing, they have consented. States are required to determine that your data is being sold to companies with a permissible use. But recent Court rulings have determined that businesses are being allowed to purchase this aggregate data then re-sell it over and over with very little oversight.
When searching for anyone online, with simply a name and zip code you can find for sale all the information necessary to stalk, threaten, harass or steal their identity. Obtaining a driver’s license and vehicle registration are essential components for victims in re-building and regaining control of their lives. This simple act should not compromise their anonymity by allowing their abusers easy access to the very information they so desperately try to shield.
by Kristy Dyroff
Reading the news and commentary of the trial of Fort Hood shooter Major Nidal Hasan, you will see words like “exceptional” and “unprecedented” when describing court proceedings. By and large, I beg to differ. Like my first car, that as it turned out, had all of the possible mechanical flaws of that model, the Ft. Hood trial demonstrates many of the challenges that victims routinely experience in civilian criminal trials around our nation.
The concept of “justice” in the US justice system today is really not about outcomes for those involved, those accused and those harmed by crime. A “just” result is not measured by whether the accused is found guilty or acquitted. Justice in the justice system is determined by whether the system’s processes and procedures were followed. There are times when this becomes so apparent that even the casual American observer who reads an account like what is happening at Ft. Hood, uses a word like “outrageous” to describe it.
Most officers of the court, those involved in formal judicial situations, already know this but are cautious to admit it. So when a trial is concluded, and the citizenry asks, “Was justice served?” opposite answers can result. To those in the system that means, “Did we follow the right procedures?” To the average person it means, “Did we convict/acquit the right person?” That can be why public officials often hedge on their comments after high-profile verdicts decide against overwhelming public opinion.
What frustrates victims on a regular basis is when people end up serving the law rather than the law serving people. The US justice system is an attempt to define infinite losses with finite penalties. From there procedural elements are intended to ensure the accused gets a ‘fair’ trial.
There are upwards of twenty-three Constitutional protections for the accused, and rightly so. The state has virtually unlimited resources, compared to the typical citizen, to engage in a prosecution that could result in the loss of that person’s liberty or even life. The Bill of Rights was brilliant in seeking protections against abuse and bias for those accused of a crime.
Yet, the victims of those criminal actions have no US Constitutional rights. Not one. They have no standing under the law and so no rights to assert when it comes to receiving information, timeliness of legal procedures and even safety. That is acutely true for victims of crime in the military context.
Today’s legal criminal endeavors resemble the tail, not just wagging the dog, but throwing it around like a chew toy. Hasan’s trial has glaringly shed light upon some of the realities that plague his victims but also show up in civilian trials. He has many rights, while they have none.
Major Hasan has already confessed to the crimes of murder and attempted murder in a court of law. Acting as an officer of the court representing himself, the presumption of innocence is a legal technicality, not a practical consideration. The trial isn’t about his guilt or innocence and everyone knows it, especially Hasan himself.
Yet victims have endured months of delays because of such things as a First Amendment argument revolving around his ‘right’ to wear a beard. The victims and even witnesses in these proceedings have virtually no rights by comparison. There is no legal discussion about what they must endure or what protections can be offered by the state, in this case the military justice system. That is because, believe it or not, they have no rights under the Uniform Code of Military Justice nor the US Constitution.
Ironically, even with all his Constitutional rights as an American criminally accused, Major Hasan, apparently against his will, has no right to plead guilty and go directly to the sentencing phase. His court-appointed co-counsel has claimed that “He’s intent on death.” This protracted trial forces his victims to endure more re-traumatization and re-victimization with no recourse, because they have no standing under the US Constitution.
It is time to amend the United States Constitution to protect victims from a crushing justice system. It is time to give them standing under the law, including the victims in the military court martial system. With a Crime Victims’ Rights Amendment to the Constitution, we could right the scales of justice to pursue justice for all, including the victims.
At Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Arizona, UVA SSgt Aaron McCatty organized a High Intensity Tactical training for Sexual Assault Awareness Month. MAG-13 Marines and friends met at 5:45 a.m., then covered themselves in teal dust and worked a very challenging circuit. During the cool-down, SSgt McCatty reviewed some sexual assault awareness facts. The event was a lot of fun and well attended, included Installation CO Col Kukuck and MAG-13 CO Col Gough, who also went through the circuit. Installation SARC Mary Chipman was there to cheer them on. It was a creative, fun, and inspiring event!
This gallery contains 9 photos.
Lots of exciting things are happening across all branches of the US Services.
Check out the great work being done to raise awareness to the problem of sexual assault. Please send us your pics of Sexual Assault Awareness Month celebrations on your Installation!