WASHINGTON, D.C.—Last week, Congressional Victims’ Rights Caucus Co-Chairmen and Co-Founders Congressman Ted Poe (R-TX) and Congressman Jim Costa (D-CA) wrote the following bipartisan letter to the editor responding to the Washington Post editorial titled Congress finds a slush fund in money marked for crime victims. Poe and Costa submitted the letter to the editor defending the Crime Victims’ Fund but Washington Post unfortunately decided not to print it.
In his editorial Congress Finds a Slush Fund in Money Marked for Crime Victims, Charles Lane praises Congress’ shameful decision to raid the Crime Victims Fund in order to offset more government spending. He also goes a step further and questions the size, purpose and need for the Crime Victims Fund. But he fails to mention the obvious: the fund does not contain one cent of taxpayer money. It is completely paid for by criminals. It is not “public resources” or the government’s money to take. This would be like a high school’s PTA raiding the money that the football team raised in their bake sale. Except it is worse. It is the federal government stealing the money from victims of domestic violence, rape and other crimes--when it is not Washington’s money to take.
Mr. Lane dismisses the victims’ rights movement as if it was a trend leftover from the 80s. This is not some fad of that decade that died with shoulder pads and spandex. Crime has not gone away. In 2014, 186,000 pleas for help from adult domestic violence victims went unanswered due to lack of resources. How many of those victims are dead today or still live in abusive and dangerous homes because their pleas for help were not met? Imagine the number of victims who are unserved or underserved for every single type of violent crime, many of which are not even calculated in the Department of Justice National Crime Victimization Survey cited by Mr. Lane. Then there are those who never come forward because they fear being turned away. This mission for the fund is not accomplished. The need is constant. And it will always be there.
The victims’ rights movement 30 years ago gave birth to federal victim legislation such as the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) which gave victims an opportunity to have their voices heard in court. VOCA created the Crime Victims Fund, which brings comfort and aid to millions of victims every single year. In Congress, we as a Texas Republican and California Democrat teamed up to create the Victims’ Rights Caucus ten years ago and we are proud advocate for those without a voice every day. There is not much Congress can agree on these days, but we are proud to lead a bipartisan caucus committed to making sure the needs of all victims are met.
It is very obvious that Mr. Lane is opposed to the policy of having criminals pay restitution for their crimes. So call it like it is. Don’t question the need for the fund. The Crime Victims Fund model is common sense. Criminals should have to pay for the damage they cause and through the Crime Victims Fund, they have. We have advocated for years for more money to be released from the fund because victims need it. We hear every day from survivors and programs throughout the Nation about unmet needs. With this latest budget Congress has instead stolen some of those funds, and that is wrong.
Mr. Lane believes that crime victims do not need more resources. He should tell that to the teenage rape victim, who musters up the courage to go to her local rape crisis center but is turned away because they are not able to keep enough counselors on staff. Tell that to the woman who is fleeing from her husband who is threatening to kill her and her children, who cannot stay at the local domestic violence shelter because they do not have enough beds. Tell that to the 12 year old victim of sex trafficking, who is raped by multiple men every day and needs specialized services. As a former Judge and pioneer in the California victims’ rights movement, these are the kinds of people we saw every day. Crime victims are not statistics, they are not numbers on Congress’ ledger, they are people.