Advocates say program blames victims
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.
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 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 committee took no action on the measure.