Advocates say program blames victims for the crime
Advocates said on Monday that current laws allow the state to deny benefits to domestic violence and sexual assault victims by blaming them for the crime.
The Victims of Crime Program, funded primarily by court assessments, provides up to $35,000 in damages for medical or other costs to a victim of violent crime.
The statute, however, requires consideration of “contributory conduct” by the victim in deciding whether to grant benefits, language designed to prevent participants in a fight or other case of mutual violence from getting funding through the program.
“Its application to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault is inappropriate,” said Nancy Hart, an advocate for victims of domestic violence.
Lori Fralick, the victims services officer for Reno Police Department, said the state program run by Bryan Nix has denied benefits in a number of cases she strongly objects to, including a 13-year-old girl raped by several young men while unconscious. Fralick said the letter denying benefits said that ruling was because she “contributed to your victimization” by drinking alcohol. She said the ruling was reversed after she protested.
She said in another case, a woman victim of domestic violence received a protective order but several months later reconciled with the man whom she believed was changing his ways. She said after he again abused her more than a year later, she was denied victims of crime benefits because “your behavior directly contributed to your victimization.”
They, along with AB116 sponsor Assemblyman John Carpenter, R-Elko, said the law should be changed to prevent the Victims of Crime Program from considering “contributory conduct” in domestic violence or sexual assault cases.
Nix, who runs the state-funded program, said legislative action isn’t necessary because the program is putting regulations in place that will prevent “contributory conduct” from being considered in determining whether the victim gets a cash award. He said he supports the change for sexual assault victims but opposes it for domestic violence victims. He said domestic violence statutes include incidents between family members such as cousins, uncles and siblings.
“It’s such a broad range of relationships,” he said. “It could cause havoc on the Victims of Crime Program.”He also denied there are a large number of denials to domestic violence and sexual assault victims.
“This is really not an area where the Legislature needs to act,” Nix said.
The other part of the legislation was supported by both sides. It would mandate that law enforcement agencies provide a copy of the police report in a case where a crime victim is seeking compensation directly to Nix’s office.
Under existing statute, the victim must get the report and file it with Nix.
The committee took no action on the measure.
Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at email@example.com or 687-8750.