Caring, professional staff is available 24 hours per day, seven days per week to respond to emergency needs of crime victims and witnesses, answer questions, and provide support. The hotline serves as the gateway to all of our services. Anyone can call the hotline seeking help for themselves or others, including victims and witnesses and their families or friends, law enforcement, hospitals, social workers or mental health professionals. Staff helps the caller to identify their needs and resources including those provided by Center for Victims and other community organizations.
In the aftermath of crime, it’s important to know that crime victims have rights under the law. Center for Victims’ staff helps victims know and understand their rights and advocates on behalf of victims to ensure their rights are upheld. Staff provides support and guidance as well as help victims understand the legal system and the various steps in the process.
Navigating the legal system can be difficult for crime victims. The process is often long, slow confusing. Center for Victims’ staff explain the steps in the process and attend legal and court proceedings to support the victim and the significant people in their lives. From police or prosecution interviews and the first court hearing through the sentencing, or disposition, of the offender, staff is there to answer their questions, address their fears, protect their rights, and help victims through the experience.
Center for Victims provides a broad range of therapeutic services to victims and witnesses, their families and other significant people in their lives. When people have been victimized and exposed to trauma, their sense of safety and well-being may be affected. A traumatic experience impacts the entire person — the way they think, the way they learn, the way they remember things and how they feel about themselves and the world around them. Center for Victims strives to lessen the negative impacts by empowering victims to understand the trauma they are experiencing, find new ways of coping and move toward healing.
Through an assessment process, staff, along with the client, determine the type and level of care that will most effectively address the impacts of trauma. Crisis Counseling is provided to both individuals and families to help manage current stressors and stabilize the crisis. The licensed clinical team provides an initial evaluation, short-term treatment for individuals and groups, ongoing individual and family therapy, ongoing group treatment and art therapy.
Although no amount of money is enough to erase the harm that crime may cause, the Victims Compensation Program of the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency helps victims and their families through the crisis by easing some of their financial burden. Victims may apply for expenses directly related to the crime and claims must be filed within two years.
Center for Victims assists victims in the process of applying for Victim’s Compensation. Staff reviews the eligibility requirements and details about expenses and their limits and helps filing a claim. Compensation may be paid for medical expenses, funeral expenses, loss of earnings, loss of support, travel costs, homecare, childcare, counseling, stolen-benefit cash, relocation expenses, costs related to cleaning a crime scene and other expenses.
Crime victims may want to know whether or not the offender on their case is in jail or prison. This information may be critical to their safety and well-being. Notification is a right provided to eligible crime victims under Pennsylvania law. Center for Victims has an Offender Release Notification program for victims whose offenders are under the supervision of the Allegheny County Jail and helps crime victims register for notifications when the offender is in a state or federal facility or when a juvenile offender is placed in a juvenile facility.
Crime victims often need support from caring people dedicated to their unique needs. Advocates offer information, emotional support and help finding resources. Advocates can also intervene on the victim’s behalf with a variety of systems victims may encounter such as the criminal justice system, medical system or social service and housing systems. Upon the victim’s request, advocates may help in contacting family members and employers and let victims know steps in recovering property or asking for restitution.
Victim Offender Dialogue (VOD) is a service that seeks to make things as right as possible for everyone after a crime occurs. In a VOD, victims and offenders meet face-to-face in a safe and structured environment with trained facilitators to talk about what happened, who was harmed, and how the harm can be repaired. The victim can ask an offender questions and receive answers about what happened and why, tell the offender how the crime affected them, and help decide what needs to happen in order for everyone to move forward. The offender can agree to take steps to repair the harm created by their crime by paying restitution, completing volunteer work or making other amends.