Thousands of crime victims get help; services still available during pandemic
TUMWATER — While many workplaces in Washington are closed and in-person contact is severely limited due to the pandemic, crime continues to occur.
It’s important for victims of serious crime to know they are not alone; there’s still help available from the state, says Cletus Nnanabu, program manager for the Crime Victims Compensation Program of the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I). The program handles claims for medical bills and other expenses from crime victims.
“These are people who face shock and injuries as a result of a violent crime,” said Nnanabu. “What’s important is our being here to help ease some of the burdens.”
Last year, 6,659 claims were filed by crime victims or their families and the L&I program provided more than $14.1 million for medical care and other expenses. While the number of claims was slightly lower than 2018, the amount of money distributed represents a nearly 20 percent increase.
For 2019, women filed about two-thirds of the claims, which focused mostly on assaults. Of the total paid out, the program provided $4.5 million for 4,286 sexual assault exams.
April 19-25 is National Crime Victims’ Rights Week. The theme this year is, “Seek Justice. Ensure Victims’ Rights. Inspire Hope.”
“I am concerned that increased isolation will reduce the access to support services victims of serious crime may need,” Nnanabu said. “It’s the type of situation abusers can take advantage of.”
L&I is monitoring closely to see if there is an increase in the number of claims in connection with the pandemic, he said.
Services available to victims
To file a claim, victims of serious crime can go to www.Lni.wa.gov/crimevictims. A new law that takes effect in July extends to three years (from two years) the time to file a claim after a report to law enforcement; and adds covering of lost wages for a parent caring for a child victim.
The Office of Crime Victim Advocacy (OCVA), within the state Department of Commerce, provides grants for crime victim service providers. In 2019, the office supported 179 non-profits, tribes, and local governments. In addition, OCVA offers a guide to resources for crime victims as well as a Direct Services hotline for assistance in connecting with these resources at 1-800-822-1067.
The Victim Services Program with the state Department of Corrections also provides notification when an offender is released from prison back into a community, among other services. The program also offers other services to crime victims.
Matthew Erlich, L&I Public Affairs, 360-902-6508.