Crime Victim Compensation
Sexual assault can affect your life in a number of ways. While some effects of sexual assault may relate to your physical or mental health, others may come in the form of tangible financial costs. If you decide to report the crime and cooperate with law enforcement, you may be able to access financial compensation from a state agency to help cover these costs.
What is victim compensation?
Victim compensation is a direct financial reimbursement to a victim for an expense that resulted from a crime, such as medical costs or lost wages. Each state has a crime victim compensation program that allocates funds to survivors of sexual assault and other violent crimes.
What types of expenses are covered?
Federal law requires that all state compensation programs cover the following crime-related costs:
- Lost wages or loss of support
- Medical costs
- Mental health counseling
States also cover other costs that relate directly to crimes of sexual violence, though the specifics of each program vary from state-to-state. Learn more about what costs may be covered in your state.
Where does the money come from?
In most states, convicted perpetrators are required to pay court fees that serve as a source of revenue for the state’s victim compensation program, rather than tax dollars. All state programs also receive support through the federal Victims of Crime Act (VOCA), enacted in 1984. Each state has a cap on the total amount of money that can be paid out for any one case, and there may be limits on how much money can be paid per category of expense. According to the National Association of Crime Victim Compensation Boards (NACVBC), maximum benefits from states average about $25,000, with some states able to offer more, and some states having lower limits.
How can I apply for compensation?
To apply for compensation you will have to fill out a form and submit claims to the agency that runs the victim compensation program in your state. You can ask someone from your local law enforcement agency how to apply, and in some states they may be able to refer you to a crime victim liaison who can help walk you through the process.
You can find the website and contact information for your state’s victim compensation office through the NACVBC state program directory.
What are the criteria to apply?
Each state has its own requirements to be eligible for compensation, but there are a few general rules that tend to apply for eligibility.
- Reporting the crime to law enforcement. Most programs require victims to report the crime within a predetermined amount of time, usually about 72 hours. This timeframe varies from state-to-state. Most programs will accept claims on behalf of child victims whenever sexual abuse is reported.
- Cooperation with law enforcement. All states require cooperation with the criminal justice system, both law enforcement officers and prosecutors, even if no arrest is made. However, many programs allow waivers for victims who decline to cooperate because of legitimate fears for their health or safety.
- Submitting a timely application. The deadline for submitting a financial claim can vary between 180 days up through 2 years following the crime, depending on the state. The person seeking compensation should be prepared to provide relevant documents, such as a police report or medical bills, to support the claim.
- Victim compensation as a final resource. Compensation only kicks in once other insurance options, such as Medicaid or Medicare, have been applied to cover costs or losses due to the crime.
How can I protect these funds?
Each year, federal lawmakers must determine how much money they will make available to be spent on state victim compensation. This is part of the annual congressional budget process. RAINN tracks budgeting activities closely and works with our allies in Congress to advocate for these resources. To support this funding stream, visit RAINN’s Action Center.