We were recently approached by a victim of domestic violence. She reported being in an abusive relationship for some thirteen years and felt unable to leave until her children had reached a certain age. At that point in time she approached the police and then sought an Intervention Order from the Heidelberg Magistrates Court which was granted. While at the Heidelberg Magistrates Court she reported being referred to a Victims Assistance and Counselling Program (VACP).
The victim recalled her story briefly indicating that she had incurred loss of wages, medical expenses, relocation expenses and improved security expenses. We asked if these expenses had been addressed by the VACP or if the VACP had assisted her in making a Crime Compensation application. At this point in time she appeared slightly confused and said that she had not had any re-imbursement of these expenses and that Crime Compensation was never mentioned to her. When asked what assistance the VACP had provided her she responded by indicating ‘not much’ and now appeared somewhat angry that she had not been informed of her Crime Compensation entitlements as a victim of domestic violence.
Unfortunately this is not an extraordinary scenario. In 2012 – 2013 there were more than 100,000 reported incidents of violent crimes in Victoria, of which domestic violence constituted a significant proportion. In the same period of time there have been approximately 5000 successful Crime Compensation applications. These statistics mean that only around 5% of potentially eligible victims of crime are aware of their State funded Crime Compensation entitlements. In other words up to 95,000 victims of violent crimes in Victoria during 2012 – 2013 did not make a Crime Compensation application and paying their own out of pocket expenses, such as loss of wages and medical expenses, themselves when they may have been entitled to be compensated.
Crime Compensation is akin to an insurance policy. The state government collects taxes and proportions a certain amount to fund Crime Compensation. If and when a Victorian citizen becomes the unfortunate victim of a violent crime then these monies are used to address the victim’s out of pocket expenses and to aid in recovery. A simple analogy would be motor vehicle insurance. We hope that we are never involved in a motor vehicle accident but if we are we call on our insurance policy to address costs. No one would say to their motor vehicle insurance company don’t worry about the costs incurred as a result of the accident as I will pay them myself. In the same manner a victim of a violent crime is entitled to have their expenses addressed as the victim has paid an ‘insurance premium’ for such unfortunate circumstances through their taxes.
The question then beckons why organizations such as the VACPs, which are overseen by the Victims Support Agency (VSA), do not inform victims of their Crime Compensation entitlements?
We would like to ask the Victorian Department of Justice why victims of violent crimes are not better informed of their Crime Compensation entitlements and why organizations such as the VSA, a state government department, is allowed to attempt to restrict private organizations like ourselves from making victims aware of their entitlements.