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State office sees jump in aid to victims of domestic violence

SHARE State office sees jump in aid to victims of domestic violence

Victims of domestic violence represent the fastest-growing segment of crime victims seeking financial help through Utah's Office of Crime Victim Reparations.

"Domestic violence has shot up considerably," said Dan Davis, program director, noting that at least 19 percent of the claims filed through the office stem from family violence.In contrast, child sexual-abuse cases that at one point constituted as much as half of the organization's claims have dropped to 29 percent, Davis said.

Davis attributed the change to a heightened awareness among police, prosecutors, hospital employees and crisis centers of the organization's ability to help victims.

In one Ogden case, the organization paid a total of $1,575 for relocation and three months' rent assistance to a woman who had been beaten by her husband.

Since its formation in 1987, the office has awarded $34.4 million to victims through compensation and grants. This year alone, Davis predicts $3 million will be paid out to crime victims.

The bulk of money comes from people who are assessed fees by the court on everything from traffic violations to murder convictions.

The fund makes about $4 million a year through the surcharges.

Reparations also come from a percentage of prison inmate wages.

Davis said the federal government matches up to 4 percent of the money the fund pays out.

The organization receives a diverse range of claims, paying for counseling, burial expensesand compensating for lost earnings as a result of a crime.

"We're not going to resolve all the problems associated with violent crime, but this is certainly a step in the right direction," Davis said.

No criminal conviction is required, but the victim must live in Utah and a police report has to have been filed within seven days after the crime occurred.

Claims must be filed within one year of the crime, although Davis said in some cases, particularly child victims, an extension may be granted.

There is no income requirement, either.

"This is an excellent program in that it recognizes crime victims come from all walks of life," Davis said.